CRAFT: The man who made TV sponsorship idents sexy - PROFILE/Martin Lambie-Nairn has changed far more than TV logos, Belinda Archer says

By BELINDA ARCHER,, Friday, 13 June 1997 12:00AM

Think of an offbeat TV station ident, and you can bet your state-of-the-art technology it was created by Martin Lambie-Nairn, the recipient of this year’s D&AD president’s award.

Think of an offbeat TV station ident, and you can bet your

state-of-the-art technology it was created by Martin Lambie-Nairn, the

recipient of this year’s D&AD president’s award.

From BBC2’s Bafta award-winning series of fluffy, jumping,

paint-spattered three-dimensional 2s, to Bravo’s retro feel to Norway’s

TV Norge on-screen looks, Lambie-Nairn was there. He won the Queen’s

Award for Export Achievement in 1995, as well as the Royal Television

Society Judges’ Award - the poshest in the annual RTS Craft and Design

Awards - for 30 years of creativity - in the same year.

Having been a president of D&AD, from 1990-1991, he is particularly

pleased with his latest accolade. ’The skills in advertising, design and

TV should overlap. I have been trying to fuse the advertising

disciplines of strategic planning and brand understanding with design

and TV. This is a recognition of that,’ he says.

Lambie-Nairn, 52, trained in graphic design at the Canterbury College of

Art before taking up his first position, in 1965, as an assistant

designer at the BBC.

He launched Robinson Lambie-Nairn, his first company, in 1976, after a

string of well-placed posts, as an art director for Terence Conran at

Conran Associates, a senior designer at ITN, overseeing the changeover

to colour, and a designer at LWT.

In 1981 Lambie-Nairn conceived and financed the start-up of the

satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, after the idea came to him ’over


He set up Lambie-Nairn and Company in 1990, acting as creative director

and designing specifically for TV. It has been renamed Lambie-Nairn and

now styles itself a branding specialist.

Lambie-Nairn hit upon what was to prove a profitable niche after

witnessing a presentation made by a BMP DDB planner to Anglia

Television, which had brought him in to help with a logo rethink. ’We

were being asked to think of just TV logos, and decisions were based on,

say, whether the client liked pink, and it was an unsatisfactory way of

working because it was totally subjective. Then I sat in on this

presentation, which was fascinating, because it was strategic and

involved changing the entire identity. We realised then that we had to

embrace planning into the way we worked,’ he recalls.

Lambie-Nairn developed a product that was about planning, strategy,

design and results, rather than tweaking logos and ignoring other

branding mechanisms.

Mike Dempsey, the D&AD president who nominated him for the latest award,

says: ’Martin changed the face of TV idents because he takes a long time

before considering an identity. He wants total understanding of the

corporation and does a lot of groundwork. He is importing the

infrastructure of advertising into the world of design, by doing lots of

work on the project before thinking of the creative idea.’

Lambie-Nairn’s first ident was for Channel 4. He admits it was a ’basic

design job’, but it worked because it was unified, it worked on and off

screen - and it moved. The whole process has become more sophisticated

and harmonised, however, with Lambie-Nairn and his team offering an

all-embracing branding proposition.

This proposition has unnerved adland somewhat - particularly after his

company was hired by the satellite TV channel, EBN, to create an ad

campaign last year.

’People got nervous about that, but we are very happy to work with

agencies. I do not believe that to manage a TV brand more tightly and

concisely, it should be handled under one roof - I’m just saying it

should be managed properly, so that any expressions of the brand do not

get fragmented,’ he insists.

TV branding forms only part of what Lambie-Nairn does. He now has three

companies - Tutssels, a graphic design house, Lambie-Nairn, the brand

identity company, and LND, a commercials production company which

specialises in live action, comedy and visual effects.

Lambie-Nairn has directed a number of commercials, including the Hamlet

send-up of the Channel 4 logo from Collett Dickenson Pearce, which won a

Lion d’Or at Cannes in 1985.

Lambie-Nairn welcomes the change his work has brought about in the TV

industry. ’The discipline started to happen with the launch of Channel

5, because what was on screen was also on the poster sites,’ he


He did pitch for the Channel 5 launch, but was beaten to it. But would

he have chosen the Spice Girls? ’God no. I wouldn’t have known who they

were. I would have thought they were from Sri Lanka,’ he jokes.

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