DixonBaxi on creating the Premier League’s new on-air branding

Branding agency DixonBaxi has created the on-air identity for the Premier League, designing show titles, infographics and a motion graphics system inspired by the movement of the game and DesignStudio’s earlier rebrand. Aporva Baxi talks us through the process

The Premier League launched a new logo and visual identity back in February following its decision to drop title sponsorship. The comprehensive new Premier League branding, created by Design Studio (see our post on the project here), features a simplified lion icon, a rounded sans typeface, a colour palette of clashing brights and graphic zig-zag patterns.

DixonBaxi was responsible for bringing these elements to life on air and has created a slick graphic identity and title sequences for each of the Premier League’s 11 TV shows.

A custom motion graphics system is inspired by footballing passes and plays – coloured blocks, tables and score cards rise, fall and slide across the screen at varying speeds, referencing short passes, long balls, corners and dribbles:

Show titles combine live action with photography, type and animation, giving each programme a distinct look and feel. Football Today’s title sequence features quotes from players and managers in bold and condensed type while Net Busters, which rounds up the weekend’s goals, uses CG animations referencing balls and nets. Each sequence ends with a cropped lion graphic and the show’s title in the new Premier League typeface, designed by DesignStudio and Monotype.

DixonBaxi also worked with MassiveMusic to create a soundtrack for the Premier League and a new walk-on anthem to be played at the beginning of each match.

It’s a dynamic system and one that makes clever use of existing assets created by DesignStudio while adding distinctive brand elements designed by DixonBaxi purely for broadcast. The end result feels slick, contemporary and very different to graphic systems employed by other sports broadcasters. The branding is the latest in a series of sporting projects for DixonBaxi – it recently created a typographic system for BT Sport and on-air branding for Eurosport.

A key part of the initial brand identity project for DesignStudio was to create a brand that worked across broadcast and digital.

DixonBaxi won the pitch for the broadcast project back in February. At the time, only the logo, colours and typeface had been released into the public domain, along with a brand strategy devised with Robin Brand Consultants. DesignStudio shared the full brand identity with DixonBaxi including art direction principles for various applications.

“The strategy was based around this idea of ‘we all make it’ and ‘play to inspire’. The other aspect was that they wanted to reflect grassroots football and everyone that is part of the game as much as the players themselves,” explains DixonBaxi co-founder and ECD Aporva Baxi. “We said, OK, that’s great but we need to build a brand out of it.”

Match day graphics

“We essentially tried to extrapolate, from the work DesignStudio had done,  a really exciting, quite challenging and brave graphic broadcast brand that had essentially been ‘de-corporatised’ [with the loss of title sponsorship]. We were all keen to challenge the conventions of sports graphics and I think one of the reasons we won the pitch was because we were essentially out to change the game,” says Baxi.

“We wanted it to have really quality craft in the design of it and to make it feel like it was capturing the human side of the game and the energy around what is a multi-billion dollar franchise.”

The field of play system gives the brand a distinct style of movement for tables, charts and AR graphics. The link with footballing passes and play is subtle and not something the average viewer would spot but, like the ending to show titles, creates a consistency that unites the different sequences.

“The motion theory has become very much a part of how we approach a moving brand – the movement itself has to feel like a brand element,” says Baxi. “There’s a definite Premier League way in bringing this information [on screen], and a little bounce to things.”

Baxi says the agency created hundreds of assets for the project, working closely with the Premier League’s broadcast partner IMG. It also worked with DesignStudio to ensure the on-air identity was in line with the latter’s work on the overall strategy for the brand going forward. “I think they felt enthused by the work and hopefully it’s [further] inspired the whole process,” says Baxi.

One of the biggest challenges when working on the project was using the Premier League’s new colour palette, says Baxi. Transparent blocks stop match day graphics from feeling too garish and dark purple, while white and grey provide contrast in tables and stats. The agency also had to consider how colours would work alongside team colours and red and yellow to indicate bookings and sending offs.

“It was quite a challenge to find the right balance – it was very easy to tip over into something quite crude or ugly,” says Baxi. “A really interesting part in the process was when we introduced more white [to tone down colours]. It immediately lost the brand spirit of it, so we said ‘we have to find a way to make all of the colours work’.” Building on the colour system supplied by DesignStudio, Baxi says, “We found some choice combinations and have created some [on-air] rules around what goes with what. There are tonnes of pages of work that show all the iterations we went through to get to this one and make something that hopefully feels quite simple.”

Another challenge was working out how to use the Premier League lion. DesignStudio had supplied exploratory work on the use of the lion in broadcast which was created as inspiration for future partners. “Right away we thought, we’re going to play with it in lots of different ways and I think that helped [DesignStudio] consider what kind of stretch they would like to give the brand,” says Baxi.

Promo guidelines

“When we started cutting it up it felt quite dynamic and we wanted it to feel integrated into the story rather than something that was just stuck on,” he explains. The lion is used sparingly but sits above the score clock during matches and appears as a small static icon in idents and promos.

“One of the most talked about elements is the score clock – it’s where the team names are, the colours, the time, all of that – so we spent a lot of time working out how and if we should use the lion in that. The solution is that it’s almost tucked behind [the score clock] … but even seemingly inconsequential things like that are a big source of debate – ‘are we hiding the lion? Does it feel part of it?'” adds Baxi.

The soundtrack to show titles and idents was created with MassiveMusic, who enlisted various composers from around the world. The track can be broken up into segments to create a different feel for different types of content. “Some arrangements have more swagger, others are more heroic and celebratory,” adds Baxi. With walk-on music, Baxi says the aim was to create something that had a human element and a “weight to it”.

“There’s a vocal quality to it and real instrumentation,” he adds. “It needed to make you feel like you just want to get up and go. To feel, right ‘I’m ready for this,'” he adds.

UPDATE: this story has been updated with additional background information on the role of DesignStudio in the Premier League rebrand and its collaboration with DixonBaxi on this project

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