As we first reported back in February, the BBC has been reviewing the design and usage of its masterbrand logo – the world-famous BBC blocks.
The scope of the branding review goes well beyond the main BBC logo however. Channel and service brands are also being updated, including big hitters such as BBC News, BBC Sport and BBC One.
External agencies have been involved in many of the projects, some of which are already complete.
So, what does the new BBC logo look like? Well, somewhat bizarrely, it’s been on display for all to see since late last year on the BBC Select website.
The designers have changed the font used for the lettering. The current logo uses Gill Sans. The updated logo uses smaller lettering, in the BBC Reith font. The gaps between the blocks have also been widened.
We’ve included a comparison of the new and existing logos below. Hardly a radical change by any stretch. But does the new logo merely look like a poor imitation of the existing one?
This new blocks logo doesn’t appear to be solving any obvious problem. It will be seen as change for change’s sake. It just looks like a badly executed mock-up of the current logo.
That said, the agency responsible for producing the updated logo will undoubtedly have produced many slides explaining why this change is necessary and why it will succeed where the current logo has failed. I doubt the arguments would convince most people.
In 1997, there was a reasonably solid business case for the redesign of the masterbrand, implemented by Martin Lambie-Nairn. You can read more about that in our February article.
Any time the BBC spends money on something like this, the reaction in the press is usually (predictably) intensely negative. Unlike 1997, though, I’m struggling to think of a justifiable defence for the rollout of this new logo.
The new blocks lack the class, gravitas and timeless quality of the current logo. And because of its close resemblance to the current logo, comparisons will always be made – generally unfavourable one would think.
When the BBC is under pressure to cut costs, and various departments have been making people redundant in recent years, it’ll be difficult to explain away an expense like this, for such an inconsequential change. Masterbrand updates are not cheap.
The BBC will claim that it’s updating sub-brand logos at the same time as rolling out the new masterbrand – and try to convince us that they’re actually saving money by “doubling up” like this. The reality though is that many of the logos aren’t that old. Even some big brands such as BBC News and BBC Sport were updated not that long ago.
They really do hand it to their critics on a plate sometimes.
Following the recent £30m cut in the total spend for the proposed building upgrade for BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast, director-general Tim Davie said that he’d much rather be spending money on programmes than buildings.
Presumably though he has no issue with spending a lot of money implementing an inferior masterbrand logo? The results of which we’ll be stuck with for many years.
In an attempt to downplay the cost of this (which I’m sure will never be revealed) the BBC will say that the new logo won’t be rolled out everywhere right away. It will be phased in, when items such as building signage are due for replacement.
They’ll tell us that merchandise sporting the existing logo won’t be binned – they’ll still be used and the switch to the new logo will only take place when stocks need replenished.
In fairness, this is a sensible approach and hard to argue with.
After almost 25 years of service, updating the masterbrand is not actually that unreasonable. And the BBC is approaching its 100th anniversary – a good excuse for a brand refresh.
But this change just seems so underwhelming – certainly no revolution and not much of an evolution either. And that’s my main objection. We’re moving backwards here, not forwards.
And it’s possible to make the Reith font look much better within the BBC blocks, as various online mockers have proven. But that doesn’t get us away from the similarity with the current logo.
If you’re going to update the masterbrand, be more bold than this. Don’t “tinker” with the Martin Lambie-Nairn design. You won’t better that.
And when will we see the first signs of the new look, on-air and online I hear you ask? Well, some initial changes are thought to be planned for the autumn.
And why have we heard nothing about such a large initiative? It’s fairly standard practice for projects like this to be kept out of the public domain until closer to launch – for a variety of reasons. Though with more and more groups within the BBC becoming involved, I’m sure we’ll see more hints like this:
Watch this space indeed!
PICTURED: BBC Select logo. COPYRIGHT: BBC.