On Design: Room Design

Art and Literature, Culture, Update & News


“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain”

from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

More than a week ago, I wrote about designing book covers (Read here), and at the end of the article, I refereed to my room and promised to write and suggest some tips about designing your room, I got a few email asking for the article, bust watching Football kept me away, now,  the World Cup is over (I was cheering for Argentina, but it wasn’t to be), I got some hours of spare time, so here is how I planned and designed my room:

In Winter Time

In Winter Time

As I mentioned in the previous article; designing a book cover is not much different from designing your room,  or as a matter of fact; in designing anything that exist in nature, there are a few elements you have to consider; Space, Objects, Layout, Theme, Colors, and Time.

Having a deep passion for cinema, I wanted my room to become like an inside of a theater, the reason for that is because I use the room mostly to watch film and write, and in order for one to feel comfortable in an environment, one must reshape that environment to one’s liking and taste, only then can one become creative and feel comfortable.

One of the question that I’m always asked as to why I choose the color Red as the primarily color for the room? I chose is for the simple reason that it is my favorite color, and also; by its nature, Red is an active color, it attract the eye, move and animate one, but to balance the Red, the second color that I have used it Black, almost every object that I choose to decorate the room has a tone of black to it; from the DVD/Book Shelves, to the wood on the door, tables, furniture and even the frame of the posters on the wall, Black is the secondary color.

I like to think that I have divided the room into Seven different parts, each function independently from other in term of its suggestive layout, rather an abstract notion to explain, but I will try my best to point out the reason I divided the room into Seven parts:



1. Passion for Cinema: When you walk into the room, the first think you encounter is a collection of Film Posters on the wall (Read about my selection of Posters here), there are a total of 38 Film Posters, they are my favorite films from my favorite directors, I have designed some of the posters myself, others I have collected, some were given as a gift by friends (thanks Ruben), and I have printed most of them. The frame are made of wood, all in the same style; black. In a way, one side of the room is almost like a small wall on a museum to be looked at.



“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
― from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

Tolstoy standout about the rest

Tolstoy standout about the rest

2. DVD and Book Collection: On the other side of the wall, hang floating shelves, therefore taking very little space, for now; space are filling up, which mean in the future, I might have to add more shelves at the bottom of it. So far; it hold more than 720 DVD cases (total of 3330 DVDs in them), and more than 200 book. Although I primarily collect DVDs from Criterion, Master of Cinema, and other known publishing label, I also have large quantity of Film that I brought back from the States with only the disk and no cases, a reason that I decided to display the DVDs by directors and countries, for example; I have the complete works of Hitchcocks both on DVDs and Blu-rays, for the blu-rays they are in their own cases, but for the DVDs, I have combined many film into one case, therefore saving space, same is true for Soviet cinema; I managed to display one hundreds years of Soviet films into at total of 96 DVDs cases, there are total of 645 DVDs in those 96 cases.


Saul Bass: Vertigo in Design

Art and Literature, Film Review

I wrote the following essay for my Graphic Design class at Watkins. 

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

Saul Bass, the man who designed some of my favorite titles for films, was born on May 8, 1920 in New York City, he studied at the Art Student’s League in Manhattan, and he began his time in Hollywood doing print work for films ads, until he collaborated with Otto Preminger for the title designs of Carmen Jones (1954).

The Man with the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955)

His fame came later when he designed the title sequence for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Before Saul Bass, title and graphic designers for films were little known. All by himself, Bass revolutionized the way we think of title design for a film. As Stanly Kubrick once said, “The first shot of a film should grasp the audience”, but for Bass, it was not the first shot but the title design for the film that had to grasp the audience and create a mood for what follows next. Take the example of Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), the first film to openly deal with the addiction to drugs, the title designs is series of simple white lines that come into frame from all direction while the names of the talents are displayed, reflecting the needle and the social pressure that Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is under, at the end of the title a twisted arm finally appear with crooked lines as if reaching out, asking for help from us the audience.

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

Bass soon began collaboration with no other than the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Creating some of the most memorable designs, employing simple kinetic typography with vivid background images, with lyrical soundtracks  in such films as North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho. If Bass had only done these three works, he would have still be regarded as one of the greatest title designers for films.

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

A while back, a friend asked me what was my favorite title designs for a film? I told him right away, Saul Bass’s design of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). The title sets the audience  for the film, to take a dive into the unconscious,  if one only watch the opening title of Vertigo, I’m sure one would get the  general theme for the film; the complexity of human memory and recollection of the past. I must have watched that opening title at least 10 times after first discovering the film (the main reason is not only Bass’ title, but the music by Bernard Hermann). I could probably recount by memory all the elements that made up the title: A Close-up of face of a women, only half her face as the camera move in to a close-up of her lips and the name of James Stewart comes up, then the camera tilt-up to reveal her sad eyes, as she moves her eyes to gaze sideways, the name Kim Novak show up on screen; the names and titles comes on screen one after another, in a simple fashion with a tilt or a pan of the camera, while the music of Hermann plays on the background. Then follows a serious of graphic designs of shadows, lines that comes in and out of the frame, different in size and color, it’s a knockout title design for perhaps one of the greatest film ever to have been made.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Stanley Kramer, 1963)

Another one of my favorite of Bass design is the opening animation for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), a wonderful and childish serious of designs with a central theme, that of a the Globe being abused by all the characters in the film, yet each characters have only a few second to find away to destroy it, only for the Globe to re-emerge and crushes those who tried to conquers it, a satire that fit the  description for the film. A man’s attempt to conquer what is what is unattainable and that is; time. For the earth’s rotation keeps time beyond man’s reach.

Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Later in his career, Bass collaborated with Martin Scorsese, creating some of his best work in the early digital age. He used the new technology to its simplest form, refusing the over the top 3D designs that flourished in the 80s after the mass marketing of Star Wars, the use of sound effects, bright colors and CGI imagery. Bass went beyond all that; he reached his perfection, a perfection of simplicity. The man who once revolutionized title designing for films, at the end of his career took a simpler attempt at the form that he reached to perfections. Simplicity is perhaps the greatest thing one could achieve, and that what Bass achieved when he made the title for Goodfellas (1990), there are no glamor to the title, simple white fonts over black title card, with the sound of a cars passing by heard over the title. There is still movement with in the frame, as the names of the talents come into the frame from right and left rapidly, only to be replaced by another name, and finally the title of the film appears in Red, in bloody red, a reflection of the film’s obsessions with violence.

Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)

The simplicity of Goodfellas wasn’t the end of Bass, he left the stage with a style, with the explosive designs for Casino (1995), I remember watching the opening of Casino on a big screen once, even today I could fell the sensation of it, with Robert DeNiro floating in the air from the impact of the car explosion, in the background the orange fires turn into different colors and shapes, with J.S. Bach’s Matthäuspassion, while DeNiro passes from one frame into another in the mid-air, sensational opening.

West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961)

During his career, Bass designed memorable title different form each others, fresh, complex, and simple at the same time. Titles for such classic films as: Stanly Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) creating a historic title the depict the decline and fall of the Roman Empire by the use of historical figures and statues that are long gone, on top of a simple red background. He crated a another memorable historical title designs for The Cardinal (1963), the bureaucracy within the Church by reflecting the placement of the wardrobes, the standing of members within the Church, all the way to the Pope himself. Watching the opening title for The Cardinal is like watching a fashion show designed in the Vatican.  The mood is difference for title of West Side Story (1961), a musical that is a thriller at the same time. Just like the film, Bass created a thrilling titles with vivid colors, the words are in conflict within each other, fighting for space on the screen. Bass’s work include other notable films as variable as, Ocean Eleven (1960), Walk on the Wild Side (1962), In Harm’s Way (1965), Seconds (1966), and Big (1988).

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Today’s title designing for films owes much to Saul Bass, thanks to him, title designing is essential to Cinema today as any other element in making a film, for the result at the end owe as much to  individual creativeness as to the medium that is used. Who could have thought that in a cinematic medium, a title designer could be remembered today. But we remember Saul Bass.

Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954)