BBC brand refresh – 1981 style

In September 1981 the BBC One globe was modified – the electronic colour was changed and the logo was modified. They were subtle changes which most viewers would scarcely notice.

They were not the equivalent of a modern rebrand nor part of a bigger event – the new globe in 1969 celebrated the launch of colour while the revamp in 1985 coincided with big schedule changes including the launch of Wogan and EastEnders. It would seem to have simply been a little bit of freshening up which also meant the striped BBC One logo seen up to then on slides and some trails gained more prominence.

But a clip on YouTube reveals a little about the launch. Junctions into the morning weather and Grandstand used the unmodified globe and clock. As the existing models were simply modified, it seems the changes were made while Grandstand was on the air.

VIDEO: BBC One continuity links. Announcer: John Trevor. TX DATE: 5th September 1981. SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel – TV Nostalgi. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

It can be presumed the modified globe appeared before a repeat of the American series Kung Fu at 5.10pm and the clock appeared before the news at 6pm. It might have seemed better to modern eyes to introduce the new symbol before The Generation Game at 6.15pm but this was probably impractical.

Whatever, the launch was botched. The contrast was low and the colour was flat.

Was this because of lighting problems? Did the electronic colour synthesiser which gave the globe its colour go wonky? Or did someone simply not properly test out how the revamp would actually look on screen?

By Monday the background was, again, bright blue while the continents and clock were green. Things stayed like that until 1985.

The clock however didn’t look right – the new logo was much smaller than it was on the globe. Indeed less than three months later a new electronic clock was introduced. Surely the original plan was for the new clock to be ready in time for the changes to the globe? If not, why not delay a minor revamp?

Also intriguingly, BBC Scotland had to cover at least some morning junctions because of an opt. Did BBC Scotland also make its modifications during Grandstand? Possibly involving getting staff in specially? Or could the new look have inadvertently appeared first in Scotland?

All trivial things from a long time ago. In those days far less thought went into tweaking graphics than today. We will probably never find out the whole story but what a fun discovery.

REQUEST: if you have any inside knowledge/recollections of how the branding changes were implemented on network, and/or in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we’d be delighted to hear from you.



PICTURED: BBC One clock. TX DATE/TIME: 14th September 1981, 12.30pm. SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel - Treffynnon19. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

Posted by Andrew Nairn

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