Logo of the BBC
The blocks, the current logo of the BBC.
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The BBC logo has been a brand identity for the corporation and its work since the 1960s in a variety of designs. Until the introduction of a logo in the 1960s, the corporation had relied on its coat of arms for official documentation and correspondence, although this crest rarely appeared onscreen. With the increased role of television for the BBC in the 1960s, particularly after the foundation of ITV, the corporation used its logo to increase viewer familiarity and to standardise their image and content. The logo has since been redesigned a number of times, most recently, in 1997, with the BBC blocks, a logo designed to work across media.
Before the logo
Before the BBC introduced the BBC logo itself, in the form of the slanted boxes, the BBC used a variety of different symbols with which to represent themselves. In printed media and corporation correspondence, they used their coat of arms, while on screen, they used a different logo type. Originally, they used a stylised BBC text on early equipment, not unlike the caption that accompanied the BBC One COW globe. This logo was rarely seen on screen, with captions containing the words "BBC Television Service" along with matching clock. Following that, a logo type was made called 'The bat wings'. It was made of various elements; the eye shape in the centre of the logo rotated and represented television itself; the large lightning bolts along the side represent broadcasting. Many of these elements also form part of the coat of arms.
The first incarnation of the BBC blocks logo appeared in the 1950s. It consisted of square boxes with slanted letters, not unlike the first slanted logo seen in the 1960s.
In the 1960s, the BBC logo consisted of the familiar slanted boxes with italicised bold lettering. This was introduced soon after the introduction of ITV in 1955. This type of logo would go on captions at the end of productions as well as on cameras and other equipment used by the BBC. They became important when popular BBC programmes and clips from the BBC archives were being sold to be aired on other networks and channels.
1970s and 1980s
In 1971, a new softer logo was made, rounding off the boxes and making the spaces between the boxes larger. This logo was used on BBC merchandise, as well as the BBC One idents and the BBC Two clock. More now than ever, merchandise was being branded with the logo, as more productions were being sold via the BBC's American identity, Lionheart Television. Also, records and videos were now starting to be produced and a corporate identity was getting more and more essential to ensuring that the audience knew it was authentic and that the quality programmes they were watching could be attributed to the BBC.
In 1988, the BBC produced yet another new logo. Since the last one was made, a consumer brand was becoming part of nearly every TV station and corporation at the time (and, at ITV, had been so for many years). The BBC needed a strong and unified identity, and a change of said identity was key. Michael Peters was hired to design this all inclusive BBC identity for the corporation. They modified the then-current logo by sharpening up the parallelogram edges again and set them to an angle of 17 degrees. They also sharpened up the text to make it match the clarity of the logo itself. The typeface used was Helvetica. Also, under-logo lines were added to the logo for the first time. These lines were coloured blue, red, green to reflect the flags of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland respectively (an "English-bias" has always been a criticism of the BBC), as well as the three phosphors of colour television. These appeared on the BBC national-region identities from the identities' debut in 1988 and its gradual television debut over the period 1989-1991.
This strategy of the colours shown in the logo was previously seen on the BBC Two ident of the time, as well as on most of the BBC2 idents of previous times. This logo went on to be used extensively, with a wide variety of merchandise being produced with it. The rebrands of both BBC One and BBC Two in 1991 were also based on the then-current BBC corporate identity, when these two channels were given a total corporate look, unlike previous ways of branding the channels.
In the mid-1990s, when employed to rebrand BBC One, Martin Lambie-Nairn suggested that he looked into the current logo choice and see what he could do, given that, the BBC at the time was also looking into the BBC brand as a whole. What he noticed, was that the BBC had a system that meant that every service or department had a different logo scheme. It had a BBC logo and the name with character. Lambie-Nairn decided to address this when he took on the project, as with all these logos, the core brand itself was severely weakened. It was also appropriate to look at the way the BBC was branded, as the BBC was about to take off in digital television and the internet, among other different ventures. After seeing a number of problems with the current logo, he decided that a new logo was necessary. The logo was technically unsuitable on-screen. When shrunk, it lost the lines underneath and the counters (the sections in the Bs) and also, when in colour on a colour photo, it again disappeared or parts vanished. Also, on a TV or computer, diagonals are difficult to work with as the logos pixelate, and anti-aliasing is required to make the logo work. The previous logo also followed the idea of the slanted boxes, and related the BBC back to the very first logo in the 1950s and 1960s, which was not what the corporation wanted at that time. Technically, the logo never looked comfortable next to the brand and straight letters. Finally, it was expensive to print as stationery would always have four-colour letterheads, and alongside other BBC brands could mean anything up to ten-colour letterheads and stationery.
Lambie-Nairn's solution is the BBC logo that has been used on-screen since 4 October 1997. By straightening up the boxes and letters, it removed all the problems associated with diagonals and those associated with disappearing lines. This kept the boxes' shape, so that it would still be familiar with what people know about the BBC. The typeface used is Gill Sans, made by Eric Gill. It was chosen because, it was elegant, robust and has a timeless appeal: the typeface had been created 60 years before and so avoided the typeface looking outdated at a later date. This typeface also eliminated the disappearing counters issue, as the counters of the Bs were much larger. Appropriately, some of Gill's statues adorn the exterior of Broadcasting House. The logo was also designed so that anything could be added after the BBC logo, be it department, corporate, brand, TV, radio, etc. Also, by using this system, everything looked like it came from the same organisation, and it was also easy to add new logos. This system also only used black and white letterheads, meaning a big cost saving to the BBC and the licence fee payer.
The only visible issue with the system, was that the logo for the BBC television and radio brands did not reflect their genre or appeal to the tastes of their target audiences. Lambie-Nairn proposed to show this as personality in the idents themselves, and evidence of this can be seen in the idents for BBC One made just after the logo was introduced. The BBC One balloons were made using the new logo, with the personality device in the balloons. The BBC Two idents, the 2s remained the same but with the new logo added underneath.
Internally, the logo is known as the BBC blocks. Currently, this is the longest-used logo by the BBC. Should it still be in use by 2016, it would be the longest-used logo on screen, overtaking the 1971-1988 BBC logo.
- BBC corporate logo at TV ARK.
- The BBC logo story at BBC Online.
- Branding guidelines and logos at BBC Online.