Design consultants have become a stock-in-trade target for a whole
generation of diary columnists and satirical journalists. You know - the
sorts of designers who charge seven-figure sums for making the waves in
the ICI logo less wavy or replacing italics with roman type in the BBC
This sort of thing is held up as the ultimate example of ’spot the
difference’ pretentious corporate twaddle - at best, supreme folly; at
worst, tax-dodge jobs for the boys with coloured pencils.
And the superstitious cult of the station ident is surely in just about
the same league. Blame Channel 4. Until the station’s exploding and
readily reassembled multi-coloured numeral arrived, idents were a rather
dull necessity, merely a reminder that you were on the right channel for
the programme you wanted to watch.
There was the tatty BBC1 globe and the two-striped two of BBC2. Best of
the ITV efforts was the LWT logo that seemed to be squeezed out of a
Signal toothpaste tube. The worst had to be Anglia’s rotating statuette
of a mounted knight in shining armour.
With the advent of Channel 5, the ident was promoted to the front line
of the marketing effort. We were talking integration here - the station
ident idea formed the graphic foundation of advertising and promotional
Since then, the BBC’s globe has been filled with hot air to become a
balloon. And we’ve had a plague of animated BBC2 twos, from the cute to
the clever via the cryptic. It was only a matter of time before ITV
decided to get with it.
The results were unveiled last week by ITV’s marketing director, John
Hardie. Out goes the old logo (’too corporate’) to be replaced by a new
approach majoring on a heart graphic that will position ITV as
’television from the heart’. This, network bosses say, will make ITV
more consumer-friendly. Are they kidding? Are idents really that
important? And can they contribute to sophisticated marketing
strategies? Can they carry emotional values?
Yes, of course, insists Doug Hamilton, the creative director of Wolff
Olins, the outfit responsible for Channel 5’s colour bar ident. He
states: ’It’s a shorthand way of understanding what a channel is all
about. It’s got to have emotional value or it’s a waste of money.’
Sarah Davies, the commercial director of Lambie-Nairn (responsible for
BBC2’s twos) agrees, but she insists it’s not the whole story. ’ITV uses
two-and-half hours of its airtime promoting itself each week. Not even
Procter & Gamble could afford that. So it’s a big exercise and there has
to be a strategy to use it properly. It must also dovetail with how the
channel is exposed across all media. But an ident can make a huge
difference to the way a channel is perceived. And that can make people
more willing to trial it.’
Davies claims that the current series of BBC2 idents, which were
introduced in 1991, are a prime example. Within six months of their
introduction, the perceptions of BBC2 had changed from ’middle class,
snobbish and high brow’ to ’sophisticated, witty and stylish’ - and that
was largely down to the idents because there was no major scheduling
changes in that period.
So it can be important. But what about the ITV heart? And the blue and
yellow typography? Does it cut the mustard? Davies says it’s too early
to tell - let’s wait and see how it fits within the whole marketing
Hamilton, however, has no such qualms: ’I can’t believe this. ITV has
such a fabulous history and culture to draw on. This is so
It’s vacuous, dreadful, simply rubbish. It’s old fashioned. What on
earth are they doing? Some of the stuff out there is excellent. When you
see the Fox ident or VH1’s you know exactly what you’re going to get.
This is a very competitive world and if ITV sticks with this it will get