Why Channel 4 has positioned all of its channels under one brand

The team behind the recent rebrand explains how the channel has adapted to the changing nature of TV viewing.

At a time when people are getting their TV programming from an ever-growing number of channels and sources, Channel 4’s creative team has spoken out about the importance of unifying all its channels under a single brand family.

The broadcaster recently launched new branding by the in-house team, 4Creative, led by Alice Tonge, for its portfolio of channels including More4, Film4, 4Music, 4Seven and E4.

Each identity now incorporates the Lambie-Nairn Channel 4 logo more prominently to emphasize that they are all part of the same company.

Matt Berry, Group Business Director at 4 Creative, says when the new range of digital channels was launched in the noughties, it was decided that each would be given an individual logo, to reflect the their “distinctive personalities”, audience and content.

“This worked really well, and they were known and loved,” he says. But times have changed.

“We are now in an era where there are so many more channels and more choice for viewers. Recent research suggests that there’s greater benefit in creating a clearer sense of unity at this stage, beyond simply using the number 4 to unite our family of brands.

“With this network rebrand we’ve updated the logo designs so that they are all rooted in the Channel 4 masterbrand, creating greater brand unity across the network, while working hard to maintain the individual brand personalities of each channel that everyone knows and loves.”

Incorporating the 4 logo more clearly aims to make it more obvious to viewers who are choosing what to watch, that the channel is part of the Channel 4 “masterbrand”, which in turn aims to transfer all of the “positive associations” that go with it, Berry says.

The redesign also helps the brand to be instantly recognisable across a range of platforms, whether this is online streaming, on terrestrial TV in a film4 film in the cinema, which Berry says helps it to “stand up to streaming only services”.

The Channel 4 logo that was originally designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn in 1982 now sits at the centre of each channel’s visual identity in various different ways.

Tim Fellowes, Design Director at 4Creative says: “Rooting them in the Lambie-Nairn logo gives us a branded house but also we’ve worked hard to maintain the strong individual brand personalities of each channel, ensuring the logos are expressed very differently on each channel.”

4 Music, for example, says “Music” in a neon pink glow, combining the letter M with the 4. 4Seven presents the 4 in a simple, clear white, with a small turquoise 7 connected to it.

“The ‘E’ in the 4 has now taken on a life of its own as a mischievous, rebellious character, constantly trying to break free and rebel from its surroundings,” Fellowes says. More4, on the other hand, leans towards a more “sophisticated” look, he adds.

With quite distinct branding across the range of sub-brands, Fellowes admits it was challenging to bring them all together around the Channel 4 logo, but they were pleased with the outcome.

“Designing something that looks simple is always hard,” he says.

The logos will appear in a range of different ways, such as digital on screen graphics, idents and promo endboards. Animations have been created for each channel, which see the logo appear on to the screen in a variety of different ways.

The project also involves a “brand makeover” for E4, a channel that has traditionally attracted a younger audience, which includes 19 new idents.

Will Clark, creative director at 4Creative, says: “For the past 17 years E4 has been the emblem of a place where young people could go and get away from the real world.

“Unifying the brand around the Channel 4 logo naturally risked making E4 a bit more corporate but this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The new brand identity for E4 was designed to be “less structured” than the other channels, Clark says.

A series of designers, filmmakers and creatives from across the country were enlisted to create the diverse selection of idents for the brand, in a bid to keep it “entertaining” and “distinctive”.

Keen to stay away from anything “formulaic”, the resulting idents feature everything from two cartoon purple wildcats bearing the E4 logo rolling around in a passionate embrace, to an E4 “space station” floating on to the screen.

“It’s amazing having such a varied palette of idents to choose from to introduce all of the different shows across E4,” Clark says.

Fellowes adds that rebranding E4 was the “most fun” part of the project as it offered a “limitless scope for creativity”.

There are no current plans to change the Channel 4 on air branding.

All images courtesy of Channel 4.

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