One-Sided Story

With wearisome predictability, the UK’s national press have this morning administered a good kicking to BBC One’s new series of channel idents, unveiled yesterday. The idents, produced by Red Bee Media play on the circular shape of One’s initial letter – using a mixture of live action and effects, the shape is formed by bike riders, kite-flyers and even CGI hippos. But the press are more interested in the fact that they cost £1.2 million (that’s for all eight) and (gasp) some of them were even shot ABROAD…

With wearisome predictability, the UK’s national press have this morning administered a good kicking to BBC One’s new series of channel idents, unveiled yesterday. The idents, produced by Red Bee Media play on the circular shape of One’s initial letter – using a mixture of live action and effects, the shape is formed by bike riders, kite-flyers and even CGI hippos. But the press are more interested in the fact that they cost £1.2 million (that’s for all eight) and (gasp) some of them were even shot ABROAD…

Inevitably, the right wing Daily Mail leads the way with a piece which begins “To BBC Executives they are exciting symbols of the corporation’s new identity. But to many of its staff, whose jobs hang in the balance, these swimming hippos and bike riders represent nothing more than a waste of £1.2million”. As with all the papers, the Mail makes great play of the fact that the idents were revealed on the same day that the BBC announced the latest in a series of job cuts – not exactly great news management.

Not only were the idents costly but also, to the Mail’s horror, some of them involved FOREIGNERS, a fact which also outraged The Sun (headline: Hippo Potty). Its TV Biz column helpfully offered this advice on art direction from John Beyer of Mediawatch-uk: “If [the BBC] wants to film a campaign based on circles, it could go to the London Eye or Big Ben”. Thanks for that John. Incidentally, readers may have been forgiven for thinking that Beyer represents some kind of authority on the subject: what The Sun doesn’t inform us is that Mediawatch-uk is actually a right wing pressure group, originally founded by Mary Whitehouse as the National Viewers and Listeners’ Association.

Even The Guardian can’t resist linking the idents to the BBC’s cost-cutting. Its piece pulls out the £1.2m figure alongside the number 428 – the total number of job cuts announced so far by the Corporation. The Guardian does at least feature a boxed-out history of BBC idents and an attempt to explain their role in an ever more competitive TV landscape, but the gloom returns with a quote from an official at union Bectu to the effect that the idents’ budget is the equivalent of 30 staff.

BBC bashing is something of an obsession in the UK press, particularly on the right: match this with its contemptuous attitude toward graphic design and you have the perfect media (shit)storm.

For those actually interested in the work, here are some details that you may not have read in your daily paper:

According to Red Bee executive creative director Charlie Mawer, “We wanted to design idents that were simple enough to act as a strong branding device but rich and complex enough to reward repeat viewing.”

The idents feature a new logo and bespoke typeface created by Jason Smith at Fontsmith (who has also worked for Channel 4 and ITV). The idea is to show people doing, or animals, doing extraordinary things together, reflecting the channel’s mass appeal.

The full list is as follows:

Bikes (shown above): Shot at Shepperton Studios, three bikers perform in a “perfect circle of gravity defying riding”.

BBC one Children ident still

Ring a Roses: A group of children playing Ring a Roses send a perfect cloud of petals into the air to land around them in a circle. Filmed at Coton Manor, Northants.

Kites: A group of stunt kite flyers in the dunes at Ynyslas beach in Borth, Wales, make, obviously, a perfect circle.

BBC one Moon ident still

Moon: Fishermen piece together the (full) moon. Shot off the Kamenjak peninsula in Croatia.

BBC one Surfer ident still

Surfer: Four surfers come together to ride one perfect tube. Shot at Puerto Escondido, Mexico using 35mm cameras mounted on jet skis, the first time this technique has been used, we are told.

Windows: Residents of a block of flats use their opened windows to create a circle of flashing reflected sunlight. Filmed at Greenwich Millennium Village in London.
Football: 144 footballs are passed in a seamless circle. Shot at Haberdasher Estate, London N1.

Hippos: CGI swimming hippos, created by Framestore CFC create, you guessed it, a perfect circle.

The directors were: Howard Greenhalgh (Surfer, Football, Moon); Stuart Douglas (Bikes, Ring a Roses); Matthia Hoene (Windows, Kites) and Charlie Mawer and Mike McGee for Hippos. Designers: Grant Gilbert and Amy Doherty. Music: Imran Hanif.

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The new corporate typeface

While there are eight initial idents to launch the rebrand, Fontsmith worked closely with Red Bee to develop the new corporate typeface and new BBC one logo. The new typeface will be visible in between programming as screens announce following programming. Here are some examples:

Dr Who continuity for BBC rebrand
Six O'Clock news

and also the whole typeface in regular and bold:
BBC one regular bold type by Fontsmith

Jason Smith at Fontsmith told us that he consciously held back from making the font too geometric – in order to prevent it from looking hard or too cold. Instead, he explains, the impression is of “the circular with a slightly square edge and a small kick on the downstrokes. Visually, this gives the typeface the contemporary feel that was needed but also makes the font look that bit warmer because there is some humanity in it,” he explains.

Of course Smith hopes that the typeface will become synonymous with the BBC in an appropriately distinctive way: “When a promo comes on, or an advert is seen somewhere, there could be just that one word onscreen – but the audience will know it is BBC ONE.”

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