Saul Bass forever changed cinema.
Saul Bass designed corporate identities. He created movie posters. In both, his signature style was minimalism and clarity. Consider the iconic AT&T bell logo (1969), or the Magnificent Seven poster below (1960). Clean. Concise. But he is best remembered by his reimagining of the movie title sequence. Originally, the titles were how the film provided credits. And because of this, people naturally ignored them, using the time for a concession run.
Saul Bass saw it differently: “The audience involvement with the film should begin with the first frame. Use titles in a new way to create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.” Take my favorite of his title sequences: Grand Prix (1966). The engine revs. The cars come into view. The engineers and mechanics movements are isolated, amplified, repeated, glorified. Everything about those first few minutes pumps me up. I frankly can’t recall anything else about the film. But I never forgot that intro.
Of course, my reaction was a bit of a problem for studios. “There was a backlash against inventiveness in credit design, first from the industry and then from at least one well-known critic.” Jan-Christopher Horak writes in Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design. Quoting Variety in 1957, “An offbeat credit runoff, while pleasing to the patrons, does an injustice to the talent since the audience’s attention is diverted from the names.”
Let’s put Saul Bass’s story aside for a moment and turn towards designing and architecting cyber security capabilities. In the final phase, when planning the implementation, how are we treating the critical beginning of the project?
Most kick-off with the equivalent of running credits while stakeholders are getting popcorn. A 2018 study by the Project Management Institute (PMI) into project failures reflects this status quo. Projects failed due to vision (29%), poor communication (29%), and unsurprisingly, inadequate support from stakeholders and sponsors (26%). We read off the checklist and they check-out.
“In a sense,” says Art of the Title, “all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film are a legacy of the Basses’ work.” It’s short form storytelling. It’s an entire theme of a movie boiled down to simple ideas well visualized. An opening title sequence frames the movie and creates excitement for what’s to come. If we want our implementation to be successful, this is what our kick-off meeting must deliver.
Start strong. Start with style. Plan the kick-off meetings like Saul Bass planning a title sequence. The project will be our blockbuster. Start it like one.
This article is part of a series on designing cyber security capabilities. To see other articles in the series, including a full list of design principles, click here.