Channel 4 in-house team 4creative and Pentagram have launched a new masterbrand for the broadcaster, uniting its digital, social and linear channels as All 4 becomes Channel 4.
Pentagram partner and creative director Luke Powell, who led the Pentagram team with Jody Hudson-Powell, explains that the publicly owned and commercially funded broadcaster had been exploring the “why” and “what” of the brand transformation when the studio won a pitch for the project.
“A lot of the content of the brief was practical” and looked to the “changing landscape” for content, moving from existing on linear TV channels, to being consumed on-demand and on different platforms, Powell explains.
“With that change in the landscape, it became doubly important that people know and recognise that they are viewing a 4 piece of content, as much off platform as when it’s on platform”, he says.
Channel 4 also wanted to maintain “the creative spirit inherent to Channel 4”, says 4creative creative director Lynsey Atkin. “Channel 4 has always been proud to be the agitator within TV. That hasn’t been lost and it’s very much seen as still being a core part of 4”, Powell adds says. Balancing the need for brand recognition and a single system to help people “find the content they want”, he says, “in no way whatsoever did they want to lose that rebellious nature, which sits at the core of what they do”. The brand retains a strapline which predated this latest project, of “Altogether Different”.
There was also an awareness “that they had this fantastic heritage” to capitalise on in terms of design, Powell explains. “It was more about readying that history for the future”, he says.
This included bringing back together the blocks of the Lambie-Nairn’s 1982 logo after eight years apart from a previous rebrand – and Powell notes that this itself was a popular and “super 4-like, hyper-creative breaking” of the brand – as well as expanding the Channel 4 typeface originally designed by Neville Brody, which “had become as much the fabric of the current brand as the 4 itself had”, he says.
The logo has been redrawn by Pentagram, “optically changed to work better in a digital context and when it’s reproduced at very small sizes”, Powel says. The Channel 4 typeface, meanwhile, has been expanded to a greater range of weights and with extended and condensed variations “enabling hero show brands to have their own voices, but still be intrinsically connected to Channel 4”, Powell adds.
Powell explains that a number of “pillars” were established concerning elements such as colour, motion, sound and iconography. The masterbrand has been created so that for every usage, “you can always have two or three of these elements”, Powell says, but need not “shoehorn in” an element if less fitting.
Motion principles needed to “create unification across all these different platforms which all have different needs”, Powell says. Under the idea of “4 is a traveller”, the 4 logo moves between different content worlds, within “defined but flexible parameters”.
For the colour palette, a “vibrant green” was chosen as the core brand colour after a “lengthy process” Powell says. It is used for the 4 to anchor the brand across different colour gradients designed to represent the diversity of Channel 4 content.
New iconography comes from a language of “4mojis” with a “rebellious character”. These have been created in part to “take the digital space seriously”, Powell says, while helping to aid navigation and offer an extra element of connection across content – used perhaps to show what is on next, or to give content warnings on social media, he explains.
4creative and Pentagram also worked with Found for motion design, Stink Studios for digital, while an audio identity was created by Factory and SIREN, in a “very collaborative” and successful process, Powell says.
The branding has gone live across Channel 4, marketing and social media, and is being rolled out across video-on-demand and the Channel 4 app. Later in the summer the broadcaster will unveil a series of new idents, and while individual Channel 4 brands such as E4 have not yet been altered, the framework has been designed to accommodate any future brand evolution.