Saul Bass: Why Man Creates

You’ve probably already seen Saul Bass’ 1968 “Why Man Creates”, but it’s one of those little gems that deserves annual viewing. Sadly, only a five-minute excerpt is available online. You’ll have to shell out a $125 USD to get the entire DVD series. Ouch.

I was moved to share “Why Man Creates” after seeing this post on Mark Webster’s Motion Design blog and receiving an email from reader Oliver Martinovic. Mark applauds Saul’s simple but effective design; Oliver sees “Why Man Creates” as a precursor to visual essays.

It’s the combination of these two strengths—simplicity and narrative—that make Saul Bass’ work so timeless. It’s not the kind of work that leaves you awestruck and breathless. It’s the kind of work that crawls under your skin and sticks with you for years afterwards, often becoming a part of your own design aesthetic in subtle, subconscious ways.

The narrative playfulness in the opening credits for It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, for instance, doesn’t rely on particle effects or slick 3D camera moves to reel us in. Instead, it operates on the principal of “just enough” animation—which ends up being just right. (The sound design, on the other hand, is a bit over the top.)

I don’t mean to suggest that particle effects and effective motion design are mutually exclusive. I’m simply saying it’s refreshing to see ideas in such a raw, unadorned form.

Thanks for the tip, Oliver!

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



Great post, Justin.

Ellen K

I have been trying to find a used copy of this on DVD for use in my high school art classes. I saw it years ago as an undergrad, and for my advanced classes, it would be a wonderful way to spur them into new directions. Unfortunately, Pyramid isn’t one of our districts suppliers. So that means I have to shell out the $125. I should have bought it five years ago when it was only $100. It is a gem.


I registered for this site just to let you guys know that you CAN get it for less than that! $125 is the “educational/institutional” price. The consumer, private-use-only price is $49 through Pyramid’s sister site, $49 is still a lot for a DVD, but it’s less than half the price of the other, which is good if it’s just for personal use. I bought a copy a few years ago for $39 so the price has gone up since then.

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