Saul Bass is best known for his amazing title sequences (The Man With A Golden Arm, North By Northwest), film posters (Vertigo, The Shining), and corporate logos (AT&T, United Airlines). Compared to his best known works, this short 1968 film, Why Man Creates, is relatively obscure, but it’s one of Bass’s most playful and thought provoking works.
Why Man Creates is a lucidly titled film. Divided into eight parts, it explores the process, results, and social and philosophical implications of creativity. Divided into eight segments (The Edifice, Fooling Around, The Process, Judgment, A Parable, Digression, The Search, and The Mark), each one feels both totally unique and yet distinctly Bassian. “The Edifice,” for example, is the entire history of human creativity from the lever to the industrial revolution in three minutes, done in a Rocky and Bullwinkle-style animation style. A later segment, “A Parable,” features a bouncing ping pong ball which eventually bounces all the way into space.
Created in 1968, Why Man Creates has a curious sci-fi connection: it was co-written by screenwriter and playwright, Mayo Simon, who is probably best known for writing Futureworld, the sequel to Michael Crichton’s Westworld. Years before star Wars and THX-1138, a young George Lucas also served as a second-unit director on the project. But there’s nothing sci-fi about the concept, a paean to the power of creativity, and the importance of creating, in which Bass himself explains his creative process: “Where do ideas come from? From looking at one thing, and seeing another. From fooling around, from playing with possibilities, from speculating, from changing, pushing, pulling, transforming, and if you’re lucky, you come up with something worth saving, using, and building on. That’s where the game stops and the work begins.”