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pullable and versatile.
Where they got the M in the MTV and other epic quests for corporate identity.
By Jean Bergantini Grino
The original 'MTV logo started our asa poorl~' executed Polaroid shot of a hand holding a tomato. Despite Us casual charm •.it never saw the light of day. Creating a networkvchannel or corporate identity is both a subtle and ruthless thing. When we look at the changes undergone by the lOs of l-mo.. Nickelodeon, SbowHOIe and The Entertainment Channel, whim dearly works in tune with the all-important corporate message, This is why the MTV: Music Television story Is a good place to start, It tells how breaking all
the rules can make Ion a superb marketing game. The graphic artists at Manhattan Design were hired in May of 1980 by Fred Seibert WASEes vice president of creative services. Their ta k was to give an image to Warn r s planned rock and pop basic cable channel. ieibert not only liked the newly-formed group's work, he had grown up with its founder, Frank Oltnsky, in Huntington. Long Island. "We went to elementary school together." elbert explains. "I've known Frank since was four years old: More important. Seibert say, , We had listened together to the Beach Boys and the Bea tles when they first carne out." elbert, fresh out of programming radio tatlons, was in charge of creating un Identity ror what was then called The Music Channel. He was looking for something which captured his own youthful rapture with contemporary music. He was also looking to work cheap. The Polaroid sent by Manhattan Design was meant to represent a rough approxfmation of a hand embracing a musical note. Improvised on the spot. the photo shows a dimly lit arm thru t out with a ripe tomato in hand. A pencil represents the "note's stem and includes Q paper nag taped fa the eraser. The drawing which resulted was nevertheless a hit.
0 0 0
"I loved it," Seibert says. "It was something that could move. It was alive .. It represented real feeling for music." There was one small problem. Seibert wanted the logo to incorporate the words "The Music Channel." "It was a real business issue. People have got to remember who and what you are." Seibert asked Manhattan Design to unify the words and logo and the result was an 1.1 nq ua lified di sa ster, "It \II<!S awful," Seibert notes. unabashedly. Alan Goodman, formerly with COS. had now joined the MTV "Music Channel" design team and together he. Seibert and Manhauan Design (Including Pat Gorman and Pall), Rogoff), all went back to the drawing board, They began playing around with just the letters MTV and created mounds of discarded permutations, One day .. Seibert recalls picking up a crumpled page from (he pile of rejects, "You don't want that," be was told, "The t's too fat." Seibert replied, "This is it." So i be rt Cal lis th c ma ss ive M "cia ssic," I he srna lie r "t v," daring .. In the first draft. the tv was sprayed on grafflristyle. but Seibert wanted to avoid thai and [he drips Were dropped, The design crew. however. continued to fool around with the outrageous coverings for that stately M. building it OUI of red bricks. wooden strips, zebra stripes. polka dots-even the yellow-and-black of a Checker Cab, . .
A life of its own
THE MUSIC CHANNEL
The hand with the apple was a hit, but incorporating the MlV name was an "unqualified disaster." It was the "stately (\1" that won out. In the end.
"A good I D must have shape .. size and simplicity," Seibert says "but it also must stand out from the .10 other channels competing for attention," As Alan Goodman sees ir. the M, dressed in all its costumes, "has movement even as it sits there. It alreadv has action because something is always being donero it," In September, Seibert took his presentation of "Music Channel," now called "MTV: Music Television," to tile Warner higher-ups, including Bob Pittman .. John Lack and Jack Schneider. FIe decided to show all the variations. "Which one are you going 10 usc?" they asked ... All of them. and more." Seibert replied. II was a decision he didn't make lightly. Everyone sa id we must be nuts." Seibert reca lis. although he's quick to add thaI most approved the basic MTV look, In fact. Seibert frankly admits that. the man with Ibe most reservations a bout letting the logo continually change was himself, "The idea went aga insi everything I've ever known. For weeks after. I kept munering 'should it change'!' ' 'shouldn 't it?' But my gut feeling was to make it move." Seibert's judgment paid off', The MTV: Music Television logo and on-air look has been nominated by both the Clio Awards and the New York Art Director's Club for design excellence, (In December of 1981. MTV was namedone of thc"Products of the Year" by Fortune magazine). Actually. the logo and on-air look have taken on a life of their own, V-iewers routi nely send in thei r versions of MTV. including elaborate renditions on their envelopes, The print and on-air MTV spots arc a collaboration. They are all produced in-house by Goodman, \...hile the animation is clone on the outside. most often by 8u7.7. Potarnkin's Perpetual Motion company or Drew Takahashi. and Gary Guiirrcz of Colossal Pictures in San Francisco, Potarnkin is responsible for "Logo on the Moon .... which has become MTV's top-of-the-hour signature ID,. It's an animated montage of NASA's first lunar landing with a rapidly changing MTV logo in place of the United States nag the astronauts staked to the
moon's surface. Potarnkin calls it "the iconographic message of our age." Colossal is responsible for many of the daring ministories, like "Raiders of the Lost M," the channel identification that begins with a race through an Egyptian temple with several dramatic exploits occurring before the treasured MTV is found;"M Factory." an assembly line spot with massive iron Ms being forged into being: and "MT Rooms" which takes place in a desolate motel. A set of falling televisions beaming the MTV logo is called ,. etwork' while the silvery, foil-like M is called simply "Electric Wet." One on-air promo is the result or a joke. Designers at Colossal were working overtime trying to come up with a new MTV twist and were getting nowhere. Strictly in fun. and clearly after heaps of cold burgers and cokes had been consumed. the animators created a gag promo which shows the MTV logo being created out of twisted french fries and flying ketchup. It was senr 10 Seibert and Goodman who put il onthe air, as is. Perhaps spurred by such zany creations, Seibert says a new animation in the works has the logo formed out of slices of ham. cheese. bacon and lettuce. It's called "Club M." (Also in keeping with MTV's outrageous touch is its new print ad campaign devised by LPG/Pan which cham pions the MTV viewers as "ca ble brats." The decisi 0 n 10 con tin u e sue h va ri a I ions brea k severy design rna ... xim known, although MTV's highly-defined audience helps .... Since the company has fairly homogeneous listeners," Drew Takahashi of Colossal Pictures commented, "it allowed us to do things that would offend other kinds of sensibilities. And we had complainrsabout how MTV looked. There's noescaping the fact thai it's both bold and ugly, But you've got [0 call attention to the fact that you're watching MTV.·'
Viewers send in their interpretations of MlV. When the .Nickelodeon logo was reduced it wasn t .apparent the man was looking insides Nickelodeon machine. The design was abandoned in favor of a more flexible one. with "personal.ity." The original HBO logo was deemed confusing: theB looked too much Ulee an E.
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Ptoqressioe ye.t dignified
Generally. corporate symbols require a rock or Gibraltar look, While music trends and sound. are ever changing and thus make MTV"s dizzy transformation legitimate, the big three television networks .. and the big ca ble pay services, seek someth j ng solid .. readily ldcruillable, and never. hardly ever, changing. With a lot of the same series and sit-coms coming and going. net works Ii ke to present themselves as permanent fixtures with the home audience. Consider Ihis pa ragraph from the 1976 NBC Identification Manual. printed when its now-Iamous' '. related" logo was introduced. "The NBC symbol creates a strong. dynamic, progressive yet dignified identity." affiliates and others were told .. "It is an abstract that docs not relate to any physical object. yet has a recognizable. memorable silhouette." NBC bluntly wa rned t ha t 110 words, letters or "distracting graphic elements" could appeal' with. ncar or on the new logo, since "added elements confuse the viewer .... 'Be spent a small [ortune to COme up with that crisp N~related shape, but the University or Nebraska came up with an idenricat " .. at the same lime, created for a pinance.v'Dignified" [Dswere obviously in the wind. "People had a good time chuckling over that." says Howard Burkat, vice president of advertising and promotion for The Entertainment Channel. He was at .. Be at [hal time and participated in its logo design. "The similarity was blown way out or proportion," Burkat fee!s."Sponlaneous creation happens all the rime, But it caused a lack of support for the design within the
~ickelodeonw • NICICEIDDEONTM
THE YOUNG PEOPLE'S CHANNEL
Showtime has had one mCfior design change since its creation. The current version incorporates the image and look ora television screen.
The new logo was designed by George McGinni of The Image Factory and was designed, according to Showtirnc's ad ertising vice president Sue Denison, "to express movement and energy (hence the italic typeface) and communicate the feeling of television (hence the transmission line in the lettering and on the et), It i also a 1ight logo iha t can fit sma II spaces." According to Denison, the logo is effective in black and white and color. is easily reproduced 011 anything from newsprint (0 high quality paper. is "cosily memorized and- last, but not lea t-impactful."
Fat and funny
The Movie Channel has always had the same moviereel star from its beginning. the work of Lubalin/ Peckolink. The -ntertainmcnt Channel, on the other hand, is currently undergoing its second design change and the network hasn't even been launched yet. The first logo design. a group of circular-shaped leiters with a double bar spreading out from' The" is the work of .W. A cr. According [Q Burkat, "The idea was to create a how business look, a marquee look. But it's not ery satisfying for ideo. And. frankly. I find it fat and funny. It doe n'r fit with what we're saying:" Getting a logo t.o "speak." to communicate JUSt what the company wants. is an often magical thing. Sometimes the right image leaps out from a trash bin (like MT ) or . ornetirnes several permurarions must be evolved before satisfaction is achieved. Bur kat is on that road right now. although he did provide CllbleVisioll Plus with what he calls' an interim version" of the new TEe look. "The lcuers (typeface) are called 'Frizz Quadrara' and they were designed here in ew York. It's not one hundred percent perfect. We're still 'I orking on the design, but 1 said let's go out now with something that'S an improvement. Something elegant and attractive." When asked just what he' aiming for. Burkat replied, 'the mo I attractive encapsulation of everything the company stands for. but done in a way that' not glitzy or ponderous." Burkat agreed that the original stripe in The -ntertainment Channel's first logo "did give it a showbusiness flavor, but it didn't do enough." Right now, he sees his current working model as "not logo-y enough, maybe with too much print." It will. most likely. be altered. One thing Burkat won't have to worry a bout i abbreviations. TEC works nicely. as does TMC, HBO and MAX. Bravo and Showtirne have problems, e. pecially in tho e TV Guide listings which reduce all cable to three letters. "At first," Tony Cox gleefully points out, "Showtime was listed as SHT and we referred to il as 'shi I.' 'ow. it's listed as S H 0." Accord ing to Cox, Time Inc. trademarked MAX for Cinemax just so it
compan ." When Fred Sil crman came in as president of the network, he resurrected the old NBC peacock. modernized its forms. and simply smacked it in the middle of that N-related form. ,. ow it's neither fish nor Iowl," Burkat ays with a chuckle.
Beyond blue movies
Burkat is something of an authority on network logos. After lea ing NBC. he moved on to help create the Home Box Office look and had some interesting insights on how it was changed. In the beginning, HBO had a more compact design, with the 0 pushed into the B. "It \ as done quickly by someone who had more experience in print," Burkat says, "and it looked good mostly in print. It didn't read a well in a video medium." Home Box Office was reluctant to change it, Burkat explains. and they kept it for nearly six years. "But a lot of people thought it said HEO, and we started to think of a change." Moving ever so carefully, Time Inc. pent a year. according to H BO executi e vice pre idem Tony Cox. "10 find something snappier. classier, and ended up moving the "0" an eighth of an inch." Actually, what changed mo t about the H BO logo were the words underneath it. When Home Box Office debuted, few people knew about cable and those who did were leery of it. Time lnc., aware of no image problem. incorporated this reassuring message under the three letters: "Home Box Office From Time! Life." 'Cable was thought of as just blue movies then," Burkut explains. "So Time Inc. said 'let' PUI "Tirncj Life" in there and gel some respectability.' You11 note that they mentioned their well-known products. n t the company. That was status for this orphan child, cable." owadays, H BO often has no mes age under the letters. "We' e establi hed a meaning for H BO:' Cox says. "People can't tell you what the letters CBS stand for, but they know what it's about. We have no plans for any further change." Showtime has had one major design change since it creation, going from heavily shadowed block leiters to a slanting, flat typeface which now incorporates a TV set.
Shouxime's new logo was designed
express movement and energy and communicate the feeling of television. '
The Entertainment Channel in transition: from "show-business" to some.thing more "elegant." Still not 100 percent perfect.
could be ea ily abbreviated. Nickelodeon also has many letter to its name, but it logo history involves a saga not so much about how it read or sounded (which was a plu ) but what it meant. Nickelodeon started as part of the Columbus. Ohio. QUBE program in April 1979. At first. Nickelodeon WIIS pari of the Pinwheel show a nd was introduced wi th a mime in white face who appeared and did tricks. " obody remembers why we called it Nickelodeon," ic~~I?deon. vp Cy S:hneider expl~i~s. But. as a way of clarifying things for viewers. the original Nickelodeon logo had a Chaplin-esque character looking into an actual Nickelodeon machine which rested on the broad back of the N's stylized curlicue. "The only problem with that." Schneider sa s "is when the logo was reduced. you couldn't tell \vh~t the man was staring into. He was just bent over the N." Schneider, formerly with Ogilvy & Mather and a man with experience marketing children's products. set out to do his own research study on Nickelodeon, an inherited name and an inherited [D when he joined WASEC in Sept. 1980. "We seriou Iy thought about changing the name. especially when the program became its own channel. We realized we needed something more sophisticated. But \\:hat we ~ound out was that even though most of our viewer didn't know what a Nickelodeon is. they liked the sound of the word and identified with the mime. Some even thought his name was Nick Olodeon." Schneider thought about keeping the Nickelodeon person but the politics of the time entered into the
versatile, flexible. It was from those changeable aspect of the type that, working with Bob Klein of Klein & that the magic silver ball wa born. "The ball has a history," Schneider comments enthusiastically. "It can play games. travel in space. bounce around. become a cable satellite or a spinning nickel. It has no age or race, but it can exist anywhere. anytime." The new Klein-created ickelodeon on-air promo which takes that silver ball and puts it through many paces has also been nominated for several design awards. "It has personality." ehneider adds. Bob Klein has been involved with many station ID , along with work he did for CBS and Group W. He is aL 0 the man who helped create Group W' "Gi e u L minute. we'll give you the world," for WI S, its allnews radio station. "Our basic concern is we have to get our clients to under land that they need more than just a 'new look.' Logo design also involves not just packaging. but promotion and marketing. To do that. a client must know not. just when the outside package looks like. but what will be put in ide that package. They must know what they are before they can differentiate themscl es." Klein is unhappy with the recent network trend towards glitter and sparkle in the on-air promos. ( ate how many incorporate that sparkle which bounces off the gleaming call leuers.) "I'rn depressed by what I call a as Vegas look." Klein says. "lhi~ tendency of mi taking glitter for class. You end up w!thout personality. You want a relationship to yoyr audience. for them to see you as a living, breathing
"We try to appeal to a broad range of experience," he \ ent on. "and we thought why a ickelodeon man and no! a ickelodeon woman. And why white face and not black or orange. It's then, working with a designer who prefers to be kept nameless. that we abandoned the old ickelodeon script. the mime and the \ hole on-air look."
To aid in Nickelodeon's ever-growing rush of movement .. Klein put the logo through 35 different multiple exposure. "The technique we're using today all came out of film's pecial effect. specifically 200/. The be t 10. nrc d . ne on film, although Sony's high definition televi ion might change that." Klein. in looking 0 er the cable industry's entertainment services logos, sees the industry has done a creditable job. "The problems are on the local cable system Jev;I," ~e says. "Major MSOs havegot to develop a look which give. sub cribers a chance to identify one from the other. Right now, all these various programming service are like so many packages in a va I supermarket." Klein thinks the market needs. logo as well as its merchandise. COl}lpmers will play the bi.ggest role in making the cable industry logos take to life. While computers are u ed to HIke an image al~eady on film and change it th.rough re-exposllr~. Kle,ln talks about computers that will generate graphic designs directly on the film. "You can program the computer to do certain things with the camera." Klein says, 'and you can go home to bed." Once again. the medium becomes the corporate message.
Dash not splash
The new Nickelodeon and chneider describes type face is called "Hairy it as pushable, pullable, Fat"
The most attractive encapsulation of everything the company stands lor, but done in a way that's not glitzy or ponderous. '
Howard Burke: The Entertainment Channel
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