How do you go about creating a TV ident? Mark Wilson finds out from English & Pockett, which recently came up with four for Carlton Select

When Carlton Television bought SelecTV Cable earlier this year, it made news as the first ITV company to own an up-and-running cable or satellite channel. Consequently, it was vital that the corporate identity of the new channel, Carlton Select, reflected this acquisition. As Carlton Select’s managing director Janet Goldsmith explains: “We wanted our new look to reflect the contemporary feel of the channel and complement our programming range.”

English & Pockett was commissioned to design the channel’s on-air corporate identity, which also had to work as a strong branding device across all the channel’s promotional merchandise and 2-dimensional graphics. The commission was to prove a considerable challenge for the English & Pockett team, led by the company’s creative director Darrell Pockett, as all the design work had to be completed in less than eight weeks to meet the channel’s launch on May 1. Considering that the identities of Channel 4 and Anglia took the respective design companies a year to realise, the implementation of Carlton Select’s new identity was no mean feat for the designers.

According to Pockett, Carlton Select’s brief was vague: “They had no strong opinions about what they wanted the design to look like,” he says. “Their only stipulation was that the identity embodied the letters C and S, and portrayed the relationship between the two companies resulting in the launch of Carlton’s newly acquired cable channel.”

English & Pockett design director Rob Machin and Pockett used the C and S together so that when the letters were animated they evolved into each other and, according to Pockett, “fitted together in unison, in a yin yang sort of a way”. The team created four new idents – one of 14 seconds and three of eight seconds – and the logo animates, creating a ripple as it passes through the words Carlton Select. Designer Dominic Bridges was responsible for implementing the design across the channel’s range of stationery and promotional material.

The titles were shot on 35mm film and the sequences featured models made of a range of materials such as glass, antique wood, chrome, sequins, liquid, flames and a mosaic pattern to show the different models changing to reflect the diversity of programmes shown on the channel. “As the identity will be shown during commercial breaks and before and after every programme, it was vital to create a design device that didn’t bore the viewer and reflected the schedule content. When the logo is in flames, for example, it could be matched with an episode of the World at War to continue the theme. People get very bored with a one-off animation. But it also had to be under- rather than over-stated,” explains Machin.

“The logo is one of the most difficult items to design, as it has to work as such a strong stamp for the company,” says Pockett. “It is very tricky to be original in television graphic design as the logos are nearly always made out of the same materials and animated in similar ways. The rule to achieve an effective design is to create an icon that is quite basic and isn’t too illustrative. Take Anglia Television’s revolving statue of a silver knight on a horse from the Seventies, for example. It would never have worked if adapted on to flat graphics work. The key is to use a very simple mark which can essentially be adaptable to any medium,” he adds.

He also feels that television as a medium does not lend itself to subtle design. “Due to the nature of television and the line structure, it’s pretty much impossible to design an identity that is subtle or delicate,” he explains. “Television is the worst reproductive medium.”

However, the on-air identity did allow English & Pockett the space to take design liberties with the logo and adapt it to suit topical events, such as seasonal changes and newsworthy events.

The titles were shot at Cell Animation and involved constructing a simple rotating axis for the glass and chrome models, built by Pirate Models. The most painstaking part of the shoot for the team was creating light and dark environments, so that the model could be lit from behind these “tents”. This ensured that inappropriate shadows and reflections – of lights, cameras and crew, for example – were removed and ones appropriate to the actual on-air identity were applied on the shoot and added in post-production, which was also completed at Cell Animation.

For English & Pockett, which is currently celebrating ten years in business, television graphics provide the bulk of its growing workload of production and design work. “We are currently making a huge new business push into broadcasting throughout the world,” says Pockett. “It is a growing market because of all the cable and satellite opportunities springing up and the phenomenal amount of deregulation going on.

“We are currently working on a large interactive television programme for an American client which is fascinating and offers us, as designers, a whole new realm of opportunities. And as technology evolves, we are more able to push the creative boundaries further and make television design more sophisticated and subtle. Interactive television is a brand new medium for designers and we are learning as we go along,” concludes Pockett.

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