Martin Lambie-Nairn will go down in media history as the inventor of modern television branding.
The original Channel 4 ident made his name and reputation. It gave a strong visual identity and personality to a channel which would otherwise have lacked one.
He took the fact that the channel was, by definition, an eclectic and unpredictable collection of programmes from different suppliers aimed at different groups of the audience and made that a positive.
But his work for the BBC during the nineties and noughties was no less remarkable. The 1991 BBC TV package as a whole was ingenious.
The ‘2’ idents revolutionised the way the channel was seen.
The “virtual world” on BBC One may have been less successful in that respect – not helped by the fact the channel was in the doldrums in the early 90s. But the ident itself offered a beautiful and contemporary take on the traditional BBC One symbol.
Along with the actual idents were very simple elements which tied the two BBC channels together – the simple astons for trailers, the positioning of the BBC logo and the “Stereo” and “888” text on the idents.
They all showed that BBC One and BBC Two were part of the same family but also had distinct personalities. Less can be more.
Simplicity was also the beauty of the 1997 corporate rebrand.
At the same time, he struck genius with the BBC One balloon.
The 1999 BBC News rebrand was also revolutionary. A distinct look for BBC News which also had nods to BBC One and brought the nations and regions into line.
Arguably some of the later work was not so good. The 2001 BBC Two look was tame after what came before but reflected a channel which was given a more focussed remit for a multichannel age.
On the other hand, while some disliked the BBC One dancers of 2002 merely because the theme of the globe had been ditched, many of the actual idents were things of beauty.
Today though BBC branding is a mess. An inconsistent look across the channel portfolio is bad enough. But worse is the inattention given to maintaining the brand and the logo across platforms – no other major or distinguished organisation or business would accept this so why does the BBC?
There would be no greater tribute to Martin Lambie-Nairn than to study his work and learn from it.
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