Life imitates art in logo rebrand

Spurred on by the £30 million it was going to save by taking its “youth-oriented” offering Channel 3 off air and online, the BBC decided that what it needed to do was splash out a large and undisclosed wodge of cash on a new logo.

BBC3 has been a victim of the need to cut costs – but why the new logo? Launching a new logo for a successful brand is rarely necessary which changing the logo for a failing brand is usually the last (and losing) throw of the dice.

There are classically three ways of defining a logo or brand:

  • Typographically: Ford, Coca-Cola
  • Literally: Apple
  • Figuratively: Mercedes or Nike.

What the Beeb has done is commission a logo that is partly a bit of all three of these – but none of them properly. We have the letters ‘BBC’ for a typographic element, a literal element that comes out looking like a Roman numeral two, with an exclamation mark, and/or depending on how you look at it, an abstract aspect made up of four (not three) rectangles.

“What’s most striking”, explains the Beeb’s head of marketing Nikki Carr (with no hint of irony): “ is the fact that it doesn’t say three.” Which may be true, but it doesn’t need to say “Two!” either. Logos, especially new ones, can’t really be expected to say anything. What they need to do is embody an idea or the promise of an experience. The value of the logo only becomes evident when the brand experience and the logo are singing off the hymn sheet.  In any event, time, which BBC3 probably hasn’t got, as it is shuffled off to an online limbo that is the equivalent of the hospital bed by the door with a sign that says “Do Not Resuscitate” hanging on it.

In a move that was beyond parody, members of the public were quick to point out that the logo bears a striking resemblance to a spoof BBC logo that featured last year in the Beeb’s comedy satire W1A. In the episode, a trendy creative explains the plan to remove the letters BBC and replace them with – three vertical bars. See here.

With life imitating art, Nikki Carr explains that the logo is “designed for the digital world rather than being something analogue shoehorned into it.” While I understand all of the words in that statement I have no idea what she is talking about – and I’m not alone. What is particularly digital about the logo?

The work is the product of creative agency Red Bee, which reportedly trousered £380,000 for the last BBC3 rebrand and an associated marketing campaign back in 2008. The BBC is staying tight lipped about the cost of the new design. At any price it’s a piece of irrelevant nonsense.The inspiration for the new Beeb logo is not known but Red Bee’s own logo (right) may offer a clue.

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