Brand new times at the BBC

Design consultant Bruce Dunlop assesses the effectiveness of the BBC‘s latest rebranding exercise

Keep it simple stupid, or the KISS principal, is probably what the BBC told design company Lambie Nairn or, more likely, the strategy LM went to the BBC with for its rebranding job. Simplicity is generally a great standard for TV design; a simple thought, well executed, gets results.

Stripped back to the bone and evolving from the previous style, the BBC is obviously being very careful in protecting the jewel in its crown. What is most important in a rebrand of this nature is not to alienate an already loyal audience – nobody knows that better than us in the ‘re’design business.

When viewers are comfortable with the presentation of a programme it is easy to ask ‘Why… why change it… it’s good, I like it”, but TV can’t stand still, and the viewers, as well as the BBC News teams, recognise that if someone is spending money to keep a programme current, they obviously care about it. This has a positive effect; it’s like painting your front room. It just makes you feel better.

Apart from the fact that the main news opener has too many cuts and appears ‘too busy”, the rest of the standard elements – the globe, the circles and the maps – have simply been rearranged. They lack some of the sophistication of the original design, but this rebrand is definitely ‘on-brand”, it looks smart on the white background and fits the circular BBC master branding brilliantly.

The apparent simplicity of the set is deceiving. Its multifunctional video wall has great depth and it avoids every newsroom’s nightmare – Chroma Key ( the blue screen technique used to superimpose images behind presenters). Similarly, the simplified graphics package could appear ‘downmarket”, but the clever usage of simple tools achieves better results than the wild use of technology for technology’s sake.

‘What’s so clever about the new rearranged style?”Why does it cost so much?’are questions that may well be raised by the corporation, but it is money well spent. Knowing the amount of detail and time that goes into keeping everyone in every region happy, and knowing how disastrous it can be if they get it wrong, this rebrand does the trick for the money.

This should, however, be the end of the evolutionary period and, without throwing the brand out with the bath water, bold new steps should be taken in two or three years’ time, which really push the boundaries.

Bruce Dunlop is creative director of Bruce Dunlop Associates, which designed and rebranded for ITV, Granada Productions and Five

Adrian Monck, former managing editor of Five News, asks if the BBC rebrand is money well spent

The £550,000 question – do you need to rebrand your customer-facing side when you reorganise your back office?

Peter Horrocks’ first major move, since his elevation to BBC newsroom supremo, has been to hand over half a million quid in consulting cash to Martin Lambie-Nairn. But without getting dizzy from poring over spreadsheets or watching idents, you can see why he might think that in the long run this will save the Beeb some money.

Graphics have long been a bête noir in TV news. They’re expensive, slow and resource intensive. They’re a bottleneck that clogs up newsroom workflows. When stories change suddenly they have to be junked.

Here’s the advantage of a look that enables cheaper, simpler graphics to be knocked up during an edit, or prepped by a producer.

Welcome to PowerPoint. Roll that out across all the Beeb’s audio-visual news content and you can see how you might start saving money.

But setting aside the potentially cost-saving aesthetics, what else is this rebrand for? It isn’t about the general public. When it comes to branding, ITV News is still labelled ITN. I worked for Channel 5, five, Five, and everything bar Chanel No.5 without the public giving much of a damn about the ‘brand”.

So who else then? The renaming is also a powerful defensive play against the only constituencies the BBC has to take really seriously: Government and regulators.

Branding something as news is the nearest you can get to stamping ‘public service’on it, and if there is an untouchable core to the BBC then uniting news under one name is at least a form of protection – especially for marginal parts of the empire. The more costs are shared and budget boundaries blurred the harder it is to cut services without affecting everyone.

Still, Horrocks is being asked to make five per cent cuts year on year. And the Lambie-Nairn branding won’t cut much ice in radio…

Adrian Monck is head of journalism at City University

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