Few designers understood Fred/Alan’s approach to television network logos as well as our first non-Fred, non-Alan creative director, Noel Frankel.
Our point of view started to form after Frank Olinsky of Manhattan Design brought in the first iteration of the last presentation on the MTV logo. He thought that every usage of the logo (for shows, posters, ads, etcetera) should have a different illustrative approach. We then pushed that idea further and came up with the thought that there could be different logo variations working right next to each other in one piece. In a world where print designers were hired to come up with a trademark, and then motion graphic designers were brought in to “make it move,” Fred/Alan felt that television had become the primary platform for design, so the marks needed to take this fact into account. Build motion into the initial composition, don’t add it afterwards. Our feeling was that you could freeze any frame of our moving logos and use it as a print graphic. Tom Corey and Scott Nash at Corey, McPherson, Nash picked up on this as soon as we started working together, and embedded it into the Nickelodeon and Lifetime logos they did for us. Besides, we felt that a corporate logo would have hundreds of people messing with it anyway, so if we could come up with a way that each designer who worked with it over time could “own” their own designs, the usage of it would be exponentially more exciting.
Noel brought a level of conceptual and executional sophistication to the process that peaked with HA! A bit of background is in order.
In 1989, HBO announced The Comedy Channel as a basic cable offering that was meant to compete formatically and demographically with MTV. Having learned from Ted Turner’s Cable Music Channel that the best defense is a strong offense, MTV Networks quickly announced it’s own comedy network. Given our deep relationship as the original branders-in-chiefs for the company —and the incredible importance of brand establishment at this stage in cable television’s history— Fred/Alan was brought in immediately.*
Naming was the first challenge. Nickelodeon was named before there was even a company (or we would have come up with a better name), and naming MTV and VH-1 were completely driven by Bob Pittman's focused leadership. So, for MTV Network's comedy network the best creative minds in a highly creative company generated 400 names, no one could make a decision, so they asked us to come up with a name. Never ones to waste our time with a client who wouldn't make up their minds, we decided the better part of valor would be to pick one from their list and sell it hard. HA!** was on the list, we loved it, and MTVN paid us a fortune to spend weeks convincing them a name on their own list was best. (So goes the game in corporate America.)
Noel took it from there. He came up with an approach that allowed anyone who laughed to potentially be part of the network identity. A shouted “HA!” could emanate from anyone’s mouth, photographic or illustrative, and that would keep it fresh and allow for hundreds of fun network IDs.
Time was tight and the network needed to be on air by April 1, 1990 (get it?), a schedule twice as quick as the launch of MTV in 1981. Fred/Alan relied on producers we’d been working with over the past decade to produce the network ID packages, and they all jumped aboard and did some great work.
For those of you following our IDs for various networks during the 80s, most of these 10 second films won’t surprise. They were all good, but pay particular attention to the ones Drew Takahashi directed for his company (Colossal) Pictures (the X spots at the beginning of the compilation above). Always looking to innovate, Drew moved us away from the traditional 2D animation his company had done for us in the past and towards his passion of exploiting the then unique combination of video and computers. His pieces take the fun of Noel’s design and mashes them up with a number of television conventions from the vacuum tube days. Via early MacIntosh computers.
HA! TV Comedy Network
Network identity IDs
Logo design: Noel Frankel
Production: Drew Takahashi/(Colossal) Pictures SF, Alex Weil/Charlex NY, Marv Newland/International Rocketship Vancouver BC
* No, HA! doesn’t exist anymore. Neither does the Comedy Channel. After two years of slugging it out with each other, they merged into Comedy Central (named by Fred/Alan’s Bill Burnett) as of April 1, 1991.
** The one hiccup in the clearance for the name was that Jim Henson had trademarked Ha! (executed in a Bodoni bold) for his company Henson Associates. Gerry Laybourne from Nickelodeon negotiated with Jim to make it work out.0 comments Tagged: 1990, Corey McPherson Nash, HA!, MTV Networks, Manhattan Design, Network IDs, branding, cable, logo, television, Comedy Central,.
MTV’s network identity wasn’t a Fred/Alan project, but it might as well have been, since Fred and Alan began their professional television collaboration there.
Fred Seibert began working as virtually the first employee of MTV: Music Television in May 1980 (under programming head Bob Pittman). He quickly recruited his radio colleague Alan Goodman to help lead the strategic efforts to create a network promotional strategy. Pittman first raised the idea of animated IDs as the equivalent of radio jingles; Fred and Alan upped the ante by thinking of them as the video generation’s ‘album covers,’ the visual touchstones of their cultural life.
Frank Olinsky was Fred’s childhood friend. His tiny design firm, Manhattan Design, was chosen over giant international to create the iconic trademark. And in quick succession, we enlisted virtually unknown independent animators to create the network identifications. Colossal Pictures in San Francisco, Broadcast Arts in Washington DC, and Buzzco in New York were the first creative teams.
Within days of the network launch on August 1, 1981, the rapidly morphing, indelible logo was a fixture of the popular culture, and a revolution in media branding had begun its run.
The true creative breakthrough came when we stared at the dozens of Manhattan Design’s color take-outs on their amazing logo; we had to figure out the standard, fixed logo we thought was de rigeur for a ‘famous’ trademark. Frank Olinsky felt differently and thought every show on MTV should have its own logo, and supplied his takes on what they could be. The problem was that MTV: Music Television wasn’t going to have any shows, just a continuous wheel of hundreds and thousands of music videos in a row.
After weeks of delirium filled sessions of staring at all the cool designs they’d provided us we realized the solution would be to use all of them. Right, we could use all of the logos, and more, all the time in every piece of animation and promotion. Using them all at once would provide a frentic pace and color hysteria that we thought would be a perfect metaphor for pop music.
Guess we were lucky enough to be right.0 comments Tagged: Bob Pittman, Broadcast Arts, Buzzco, Colossal Pictures, Frank Olinsky, MTV, MTV IDs, Manhattan Design, Network IDs, TV, animation, branding, MTV Networks,.