“Each card has its own idea or motif, reflecting the genre of science fiction but also the Sci Fi Channel itself,” says db’s Simon Dixon. “Some of them are quite esoteric and the idea is that the front side reflects the channel visually and the reverse contains creative statements; things people can use in a brainstorm or when they’re working day to day. It’s a little bit like Brian Eno’s project, Oblique Strategies. His series of ‘creative thoughts’ – black and white cards that provide inspiration – helped spark the original idea.”
Keen to visualise new ways of interpreting science fiction (emphasising its escapist qualities rather than its nerdish ones ) and to steer away from the controlling nature of a brand guidelines book, the image cards (120mm x 76mm) will come packaged in a box and become, what Aporva Baxi calls, “a simple but precious object”.
“Branding gets such a bad rap,” adds Dixon, “as people don’t like brand guidelines – they’re seen as a sell-out or something restrictive. So this is a snapshot not a prescriptive measure. They’re hand-held; there’s a need for them to be tactile and interactive. Also the images are often incongruous – you’re not exactly sure why something’s odd. There are open-ended jokes, for example, like the image with the one-legged spaceman.”
Baxi refers to the Sci Fi Channel’s new brand positioning as being driven by a desire to create “awe”. “It’s a big ask,” he says, “but we’re helping them to clarify that. The guys at Sci Fi will use these internally, they’ll give them out to their partners and creative teams to help them get a handle on the Sci Fi world. So it’s not about a particular aesthetic, it’s not a call to action, it’s just a means of motivating that.”
dixonbaxi worked with a range of illustrators and photographers on the project: from the abstract landscape photography of Mark King (who shot 200 polystyrene balls floating along a river), to Jason Tozer’s beautiful image of a black pyramid form. Echoing the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey the shape was, in fact, created by melting a wax cube on a hot steel plate.
“We’d worked with Jason before,” says Dixon, “and he’s very graphic but has a lot of emotion in his work. The pyramid image, while quite cold and distant, has something compelling about it.” “We had all these cubes,” continues Baxi, “and it looked like a miniature set from 2001 – a kind of lunar aesthetic where you’re not sure of scale, or what the object is. It represents the unknown – and that’s, ultimately, what’s different about Sci Fi.”