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Anatomy of a Parody

We all know Saul Bass’ influence spreads far and wide. But how far is just plain weird? One of his most famous designs was done for Anatomy of a murder, directed in 1959 by Otto Preminger. Yesterday I was flipping through Macworld and found this (hilarious) advertisement. A month ago I ran into this parody by Corey Holms (excellent work by the way.)

Not sure what the point is, just wanted to share a little designer humor.

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ARCHIVE ID 1363 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Feb.11.2003 BY Armin
Tom’s comment is:

Several years ago at the AIGA conference in Seattle, I had the unbelievable priviledge to sit next to Mr. & Mrs. Bass during the opening ceremony of the conference. We had about 10 minutes to chat and I remember asking him about what he thought of the posters for Spike Lee's new movie at the time, Clockers


A serious scowl came over his face and he told me that he was in the middle of legal action against Spike Lee for stealing his work!

So I wonder if Copy Craft or Corey Holms received permission from the Bass estate to blatantly use his work?

On Feb.11.2003 at 10:00 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I forgot about Clockers! I saw that movie when I wasn't a designer yet, that's probably why I couldn't relate it to this.

>So I wonder if Copy Craft or Corey Holms received permission from the Bass estate to blatantly use his work?

I'm not trying to incriminate anybody here. I believe Corey's poster was just a concept that was rejected. And Copy Craft's... c'mon, it's so poorly done it's just plain funny!

On Feb.11.2003 at 10:06 AM
Tom’s comment is:

> I'm not trying to incriminate anybody here.

Me either. just thought it was an interesting story. I remember thinking when I asked him about it, that I thought he either did it himself or was maybe honored that it reprised his work. He definitely did not see it that way.

> c'mon, it's so poorly done it's just plain funny!

But they are using it to make money.

On Feb.11.2003 at 01:11 PM
a.’s comment is:

So... when is homage and when is ripoff?

On Feb.11.2003 at 01:16 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>just thought it was an interesting story

it was a great story : )

>But they are using it to make money.

My guess is that their business doesn't depend on this particular ad. It's obvious that it's a "tribute" of sorts and that Bass is turning in his grave but they don't know any better. As opposed to spike lee, where there were many similarities about the project: it's a movie, it's a poster, etc. Spikey should have known better, and I'm sure Bass had his reasons for suing.

>So... when is homage and when is ripoff?

I think is obvious the majority of the time. In this case they would all fall under homage. Ripoff's are taking an original idea and repurposing it without much thought to a different project, while hoping that nobody takes notice.

Have you ever seen a designer get "inspiration" with an open design, and bookmarked, annual right next to the computer while he/she designs a piece? that's a ripoff.

On Feb.11.2003 at 01:42 PM
Jon’s comment is:

>So... when is homage and when is ripoff?

This all depends on the audience, I believe. Paula Scher ran smack into this one with her Swatch/Herbert Matter homage. If your audience can reasonably be expected to know the original, then the subsequent piece could be seen as homage, and not direct plagiarism. If I recall correctly, not only did Scher have permission from Matter's wife, she put a line of copy on the posters themselves acknowledging the source.

Parody does enjoy some legal protection, and the Death To Smoochy example, and Clockers maybe, would probably fall under this, especially because they exist in the same forum - movies - that the original did.

On Feb.11.2003 at 02:21 PM
Corey’s comment is:

In defence of my work, and to possibly shed a little light into my motives regarding the "Death To Smoochy" poster -

A typical poster presentation for a movie that is considered "A list" (which this one was because of the cast), is typically around 36 - 40 posters to be delivered to the client. Within that presentation it is our charge to explore many solutions and as broadly as possible. Within that brief we were charged to explore as many forms of comedy as possible. One of the 30 odd posters in the presentation (and the ONLY one) was a parody, that was of course mine. I thought that it was extremely funny to compare something as farcical as the idea of a childrens talk show host with a bounty on his head to the classical "Anatomy of a Murder".

It was meant to bring a smile to someone's face - nothing more. I certainly was not trying to cover my tracks with this design and would argue that it requires knowledge of the source to be funny, without that knowledge, the poster is meaningless.

Although I did get paid money to produce this poster, I got paid my salary; and my company got paid our usual fee for a presentation. We, nor did I, make any more money by including the poster in the presentation than if it had been left out.

It was rejected by the client.

On Feb.13.2003 at 02:26 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>In defence of my work,

I don't think anyone was attacking your work, I believe everybody here got it and took it as a parody. A well done parody.

>It was meant to bring a smile to someone's face

It brought one to mine!

On Feb.13.2003 at 02:33 PM
jon’s comment is:

the "Death To Smoochy" poster

Did it make the client smile?

On Feb.13.2003 at 02:48 PM
Corey’s comment is:

The client did smile, and in fact laughed out loud. I never expected it to be bought, but the fact that people enjoy it makes me happy!

Thanks for the kind words.

On Feb.13.2003 at 03:22 PM