BBC sanguine on claim that TV news rebrand causes fits

The relaunch of the BBC News branding last week, designed by Lambie-Nairn, was bound to attract some negative comment, as these things always do, but few predicted it would end up with the national press running ill-founded stories about its potential for provoking epilepsy.

The designs – which include red-and-white ‘animated world’ screen graphics, studio sets for national and local newsdesks and offices, and a new graphic identity – went live on Monday with little fanfare. The aim is to highlight that its news operations are a coherent, unified venture.

Lambie-Nairn collaborated with the BBC’s in-house creatives, led by newsroom senior designer Paula Thompson, to produce a look the BBC describes as ‘clear, unfussy, direct and straightforward’. The consultancy is part of the corporation’s design roster.

Newsroom head Peter Horrocks said the reason behind this £550 000 BBC News rebrand is that, ‘in a competitive environment, news content – especially when accessed via aggregation sites – is sometimes hard to identify’. The red colour scheme designed originally by the in-house team remains, but Lambie-Nairn has brightened it. The BBC asked audience members what they associate with its news and, Horrocks says, ‘the characteristics that emerged included the globe and the colour red’. He adds the new designs have ‘taken those well-established attributes and emphasised them’.

The BBC says the change is about ‘evolution rather than revolution’. It is keeping the core assets of the BBC News brand, the logo, the typeface, the red and the use of the globe. There are new title sequences on main bulletins, regional news programming, BBC World, and an updated look for the website. BBC News 24 has been renamed BBC News and BBC World becomes BBC World News.

Lambie-Nairn declined to comment on the changes because of contractual agreements with the BBC, as did Jago Design, which worked on the set design. Horrocks invited the public to make on-line comments about the work and so far 170 opinions have been posted on the website. Reports in last week’s newspapers even highlighted that unhappy bloggers had compared the changes to the controversial Wolff Olins London 2012 Olympics logo which attracted a public outcry when it was unveiled (DW 5 June 2007). These focused on comments which said that the new swirling globe was ‘nauseating’ and could prompt epileptic fits. However this appears to be simply incorrect. Epilepsy charity Epilepsy Action says it has contacted the BBC to check that the footage complies with Ofcom’s safety guidelines, to ensure that there will not be a risk to people with photo-sensitive epilepsy. The BBC has confirmed that the footage complies with the guidelines and has passed all the required tests, which include the Harding test for flashing images.

‘There has been a relatively low-key response with very few complaints to the BBC,’ says a BBC spokeswoman, who adds only a small number of comments refer to dizziness or nausea. Dunning Eley Jones creative director and former Lambie-Nairn creative director Brian Eley says, ‘I would take the criticisms with a pinch of salt.’

He adds, ‘Whenever a rebrand occurs it always comes in for flack, but I know the checks Lambie-Nairn will have put these designs through and, knowing the company to be talented and responsible, I have no concerns about the testing.’

Although the website comments were solicited, the spokeswoman says, ‘Blogs are not representative of audience opinion’ and adds preliminary audience research results suggest ‘the majority are largely positive about the changes’. The BBC says it is monitoring feedback and on 23 April it had received only five complaints.

When it changed its weather maps in 2005 the new look ‘precipitated thousands of complaints’, so the response to these designs appears low-key in comparison. The BBC did alter its maps after the public outcry but it is unlikely any changes will be made to the news identity.

Design at the BBC

• Lambie-Nairn created the identities for BBC World, the 24-hour international news and information channel (DW 31 March 2000), Radio 1 (DW 8 December 2000) and BBC regional current affairs programme Inside Out (DW 15 August 2002)

• BBC children’s news programme Newsround was rebranded by Saatchi & Saatchi Design and Tilt Design (DW 31 January 2002)

• BBC in-house news graphics team worked with set design specialist Simon Jago to revamp News 24 (DW 18 September 2003)

• Jago Design was appointed to overhaul set design on Newsnight, Working Lunch and Newsround (DW 10 November 2005)

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