Why Does Man Create?

WITHOUT a doubt,”Why Man Creates” was my single favorite school film when I was growing up. At once both thought provoking and accessible for young minds, it left an indelible mark on a legion of viewers – including me. It won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject for 1968 and was an educational staple in public school art programs throughout the 7o’s and 80’s and beyond (back when schools used to have art programs).

Why Man Creates from Paracelso Zeppelin on Vimeo

I recall having seen this countless times over the years. From elementary through high school, it was a huge influence on me both in my decision to originally pursue a career in graphic design and in fostering a life-long interest in that very topic: indeed, why does man create?

This short film was directed by legendary graphic artist Saul Bass, a giant in his industry, who influenced generations of American artists and film makers with his extraordinary body of work in print and film. Logos, print ads, title designs, story boards, movie posters – Bass either directly produced or directly influenced the work of thousands of projects and creative works including some of my favorite films: The Seven Year Itch (1955), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), West Side Story (1961), In Harm’s Way (1965), Grand Prix (1966) – the remarkable list goes on and on all the way to Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), when he was commissioned to produce a movie poster (alas, that was never released).

At the time of his death in 1996 at age 75,  Saul left behind a massive body of work. The Saul Bass collection of moving images at the Academy of Film Archive includes a staggering 2,700 items!

“Design is thinking made visible” – Saul Bass

Each time I see “Why Man Creates” I’m immediately transported to my childhood and the first stirrings of conscious thought about the world around me. Why does man create? Why does the act of bringing something out from inside me both exhaust and exhilarate? Why does it bring me closer to touching something perhaps unknowable? What is it that connects me with mankind and our peculiar struggle with the world around us?

What is it that makes me what I am?

I hope you had the chance to see “Why Man Creates” when you were a child. I hope it influenced you like it did me. But whether it’s the first time or the tenth time, please enjoy this timeless classic.

Do you recognize any of these Saul Bass designs?


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