Clients increasingly have to consider the impact of their brand properties across a range of media platforms, so it makes economic sense to invest in animation at the early stages of any identity project. Anna Richardson talks to leading practitioners about the benefits of keeping things moving

From British Gas’ flickering pilot light to a swirling BT, animated logos are ubiquitous, adding a three-second spark at the end of an ad.

But animating a brand identity goes beyond the spinning logo. ’It’s not about animating logos. That’s almost missing the point,’ says Liz Dunning, director of Dunning Penney Jones. ’It’s about animated identities – to capture any opportunity, whether it’s moving or still, to communicate what the brand is all about.’

’More and more of our life ends up on screen – whether on TV or the iPad. It makes sense for a brand to have a dynamic presence,’ says Jon Humphreys of The Neighbourhood. ’It’s often about using the logo as a starting point, but less about a three-second dissolve – it goes beyond that.’

The Neighbourhood recently worked on an animated brand film for Cable & Wireless Communications, for example, which formed part of the brand language created by Elmwood to represent the company’s history and future.

Broadcasters have been doing it for a while, with Lambie-Nairn’s work for Channel 4 and the BBC blazing a new trail in animated channel idents. ’Broadcasters are at the heart of [the growth of animated identities], because their branding moves 24/7 – the most effective branding for any broadcaster is about animation,’ says Dunning.

Red Bee Media is taking this animated approach to channel branding to another level in its new identity for Belgian broadcaster Ketnet. ’While a lot of our work is moving, it isn’t just about moving logos. In [Ketnet’s] case it’s allowing people to be involved in the brand,’ says Ian Wormleighton, Red Bee Media creative director.

The Ketnet idents, which launch later this month, mix and match different animated worlds to give the broadcaster hundreds of possible permutations. As viewers can send in their own drawings to be incorporated in the animations, the eventual possibilities are infinite.

The channel wanted to develop an identity that could be constantly refreshed, Wormleighton explains. ’It’s the first job we’ve done where we removed the idea of a traditional TV ident,’ he says. ’The permutations are huge and it’s got flexibility.’

Branding is becoming increasingly important for broadcasters, believes Wormleighton. ’A channel’s personality could traditionally be communicated through the content it broadcasts, but now that the same content is found on lots of different outlets, that’s becoming more difficult,’ he says.

Working on the new identity for the British Film Institute, Johnson Banks thought of movement and animation from the start. ’You have to think from the first moment of how this would work on-screen,’ says Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks, who adds that moving elements have ’become part of everything we do’. The consultancy’s new Ravensbourne college identity features an animated logo by Ravensbourne student James Taylor, and its work for the Pew Centre included animation to portray that organisation as a whole composed of many parts.

But it’s not just the obvious brands, such as broadcasters and film institutes, that are after moving identities. Design consultancy Kemistry, although traditionally broadcast-based, has increasingly been working for off-screen brands, according to managing director Omar Honigh. ’They do want moving logos or animations as part of the project. [It’s linked] to the desire to be seen as plural and have different sides to them,’ he says. ’Animations can be playful, catch your eye, and work on lots of different platforms. If you can inject personality in your logo, that lifts business.’

A multi-platform, moving world is the starting point for all of Moving Brands’ projects. ’If you design a brand and haven’t thought about how it works on-screen, you haven’t done your job,’ says Moving Brands founder James Bull. ’I tell students that the letterhead, the logo and the business card should be the last things they think about. Companies use Power Point and e-mail, and send movies to each other – that’s where brands need to work.’

Moving Brands designs creative explorations and executions that include animation, sound and interactive elements for all their clients, whether they’re telecoms companies such as Swisscom or more traditional clients, such as Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons. ’Once you’ve got those elements, you can repurpose them for print,’ explains Bull. ’If you do it that way round it’s easy – and clients don’t then have to spend £30 000 on the last three seconds of an ad, because the branding consultancy has already worked that out.’

Not all branding consultancies have this unfailing and all-encompassing approach to animating brands. Even though Dunning stressed the importance of creating animated brand identities, she points out, ’What drives the needs or effectiveness of a company’s branding is the ability of the media in which it lives to communicate whatever are its brand values. Not everything is digital yet, and it may never be. It’s important that branding works effectively, whether it’s moving or not.’

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