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The BBC Logo Gallery

Created  Sa 20-Dec-97
Revised  Mo 3-Apr-06

A look back at the changing on-screen look of BBC Television. This gallery of idents charts the history of Britain's oldest television company.

Special thanks to Roddy Buxton for supplying many of the images at the beginning, without which this page would not have been created.

Thanks also to Darren Meldrum for supplying additional information on the early logos; to Jeremy Rogers and Gareth Randall for the lowdown on the BBC kangaroos; and to those kind enough to supply stills and video.

The screenshots shown contain graphics that are copyright of the BBC.

 

1936 - The BBC are first to broadcast regular high-definition TV

In 1936 the BBC became the world's first broadcaster of a regular high-definition television service. In the beginning, the gaps between the programmes would be filled with tuning signals (also known as test cards) or on-screen announcers.

The first attempt at proper branding came in 1953 when Abram Games was commissioned to design the BBC's on-screen identity. He was famous at the time for designing the logo for The Festival of Britain of 1951.

His Television Symbol, shown right, was a brass model whose centre circles could rotate. For BBC Scotland the spot in the middle was replaced by a lion. There were also other regional variations as well as a matching clock.

This new "bat wings" logo replaced the BBC coat of arms on screen, and would be seen before programmes such as Quatermass II.

BBC Bat Wings logo (17K)

Screenshot provided by Jeremy Rogers

BBC tv UK Map logo (7K)

1962 saw the first example of the BBC lettering in boxes. Initially the letters were slanted with the boxes upright. Later, this would evolve into the familiar BBC corporate logo, with slanted boxes.

This map ident was seen before programmes such as That Was The Week That Was.

Perhaps a map of the British Isles was not thought grand enough to represent the BBC, because soon the ident gave way to a 3D map of the world. Shown below is the clock that accompanied this first spinning globe. Notice the boxes now slope with the letters, as they would for many years to come!

BBC tv early clock (3K)
BBC Globe 2 (5K)

The first globe lasted only a few months. Above is the second incarnation.

1964 - BBC 2 begins

BBC 1 watch-strap logo (5K) BBC 2 first logo (6K)

In September 1955, BBC Television had a new, commercial rival when ITV launched. Both stations were broadcasting in the VHF band using 405 lines for the pictures. When in April 1964, the BBC began a second channel, it was broadcast using a new standard. This time the pictures were transmitted in the UHF band and contained 625 lines. For viewers, this meant that to watch BBC 2, a new dual-standard TV set was required.

The mascot of the station, as far as I recall, was a zebra, hence the stripy effects in the logo. But the station launch was advertised by a pair of animated kangaroos. "Hullabaloo" represented BBC 1, as it would now be known, and in her pouch was her new baby, "Custard", representing BBC 2. Hullabaloo was so-called because BBC 1 was about song and dance. After hours of fruitless brainstorming, so the story goes, a BBC bigwig decided the baby kangaroo should be called Custard since custard goes with everything!

BBC 1 - Another globe (3K)

Screenshot by Sean Hughes

BBC 2 clock (3K)

 

1967 - First broadcasts in colour

BBC 1's first colour ident (11K) BBC 2's first colour ident (3K)

Screenshot by Sean Hughes

BBC1 globe from the early 70s (8K)

The first colour pictures in the UK were broadcast by BBC 2 in 1967 when it covered Wimbledon. Colour broadcasts officially began on BBC 1 and ITV on November 15th, 1969, when they joined BBC 2 by launching a service in 625-lines on UHF. (Colour was never available on the old VHF system, which continued running until the 1980s.) To receive colour, once again a new television set was required. To encourage viewers to get one, TV stations heavily promoted their use of colour by adding a reference to it on their idents.

Take the two idents above, change the colours and the typeface and you end up with this set from 1972.

BBC 2 COLOUR clock (4K)
A shot of the BBC 1 clock taken in 1973 (4K) The BBC 2 spinning cube model  (6K)

The BBC 1 COLOUR globe was frequently seen in Monty Python's Flying Circus, which featured spoof continuity announcements.

The Seventies

BBC 1 Mid-70s Globe (8K)

By the mid-70s, the slanted BBC corporate logo was all but forgotten, save for an appearance on the BBC 2 clock.

BBC 2 kept the same colour scheme but got a new symbol made up horizontal stripes. The revolving cube was replaced by a cylinder device, which made the white stripes rotate one way and the light blue stripes rotate the other, before meeting back up again to form the number 2.

Mid-70s BBC 2 Clock (3K)
Mid-70s BBC 1 Clock (4K) BBC 2 Cylinder Ident (8K)

On BBC 1 there was another change of colours. The typeface of the lettering also changed to Futura Bold. The new globe appeared sometime after Christmas 1974.

   

Tell the time using a reconstruction of the BBC 1 network clock.

Java (2K)

This reconstruction requires a Java-enabled browser. (If your proxy server prevents this from working, there's also a version you can download.)

Flash (2K)

There are far better reconstructions of BBC clocks in The Flash Files - part two. All you need to view them is a Flash plug-in. (Most browsers already include this.) There are also some BBC clock screensavers available in The Flash Files - part four. All of these Flash idents were created by Dave Jeffery.

View the "2" in action as the stripes revolve around the cylinder.

Play Now (4s)

Play Now. (Requires RealPlayer 8 or later) (4s)

Download (20 130 bytes)

Playback jerky? Download first in Real Media 8 format. (20 130 bytes)

MPEG

No RealPlayer or want higher resolution? Download in MPEG format. (608 438 bytes)

How they did it

Before the introduction of computer-generated graphics, the BBC clocks and idents were mechanical models filmed by a black and white camera. The colour was then added electronically, substituting for black, white and grey, making it extremely easy to change the colours for each new look.

The contraption shown on the right, comprising a camera, a light and a curved wall of shelves housing each of the models, allowed the operator in presentation to switch between different captions. It was affectionately known as "Noddy" because the camera would move up and down on a pivot in order to point to the right ident.

You can see apology captions scattered around the picture and the BBC Schools and Colleges 60-second countdown clock just above the centre of the picture. The BBC 1 globe is to its left.

"Noddy" (12K)

Screenshot by Gareth Randall

 

Christmas

BBC 1 Christmas 1975 (9K)

During the Christmas period, the BBC traditionally shows special festive idents.

This one appeared before the world television premiere of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on Christmas Day, 1975. Notice the stripy BBC 1 lettering.

The Eighties

BBC 2 twin-stripe ident (5K)

By the 1980s, the "futuristic" stripy lettering, which had been experimented with on programme slides and other captions, had been adopted on the idents for both channels.

The BBC 2 ident changed first, and was quite a departure from previous incarnations in that it didn't exist on film, nor was it a model housed in the Noddy room. Instead, the symbol, designed by Oliver Elmes, was played out from a solid-state device, created by BBC engineers. Not only could this produce a still image, but it could also show two moving sequences, animated by the BBC Computer Graphic Workshop. Each animation lasted four seconds. The first began with a black screen onto which the stripes and the number were magically drawn from left to right by an invisible hand. The second showed the symbol disappearing, again from left to right, as if the pen was filled with black ink.

The BBC 2 logo was seen in spoof continuity announcements in Not the 9 O'Clock News and The Young Ones.

The last BBC 2 mechanical clock (3K) The first BBC 2 electronic clock (3K)

The BBC 1 globe and the clocks for both stations still existed as mechanical models. But after the success of the solid state 2, the clocks were also soon to become digital entities, leading to some subtle design changes.

The ring in the middle of the clock face was replaced by a solid dot, the hour markers were also changed and on BBC 2 the logo beneath the clock would finally have all the different shades seen in the main ident.

The last BBC 1 mechanical clock (4K) The first BBC 1 electronic clock (3K)
The last mechanical BBC 1 globe (8K) BBC 60 Years Globe (5K)

The BBC 1 globe was modified for a couple of special events in the 80s.

In 1982, the BBC celebrated 60 years of broadcasting, with a week of commemorative programmes. This 60 BBC Years globe was used to introduce them.

In 1984, because of a technician's dispute on the commercial channels, the BBC had exclusive coverage of the Olympic Games. These days, the International Olympic Committee, like all brand owners, gets very upset if its 5-ring symbol is modified like this.

BBC 1 1984 LA Olympics Ident (10K)
 

Goodbye mechanical globe...

One of the last mechanical globes spent its retirement years in the foyer of BBC Research & Development, which is based at Kingswood Warren in Surrey. Visitors could press the button and watch the world go by for a minute. Sadly the model was removed a few years ago when Auntie redecorated.

The last mechanical BBC 1 globe after retirement (9K)

...hello Computer Originated World (and hello to you, Two)

A new globe for BBC 1, Feb 85. (9K)

In 1985 the globe went virtual, as a new computer generated identity for BBC 1 was introduced. It first appeared at 7pm on Monday, February 18th, when Wogan began his new thrice-weekly chat show. Twenty-four hours later, the new globe would be introducing a brand new soap opera called EastEnders.

Find out more about the virtual globe on the BBC 1 1985 page also in this section.

   
BBC TWO launched Easter 86 (4K)

It wasn't until Easter 1986 that BBC 2 got its new logo. This was designed by BBC Senior Designer, Alan Jeapes, who also, incidentally, designed the opening title sequence for EastEnders.

For the first time the digit "2" was dropped in favour of spelling out the number. The ident could be animated to show the letters emerging from the white background, or to show the letters disappearing into the background (which was often seen at closedown). When there were subtitles on Ceefax, the hard-of-hearing ear symbol was added between the first two letters.

See the letters disappear into the background as the announcer introduces the last ever Moonlighting.

Play Now (5s)

Play Now. (Requires RealPlayer 8 or later) (5s)

Download (19 924 bytes)

Playback jerky? Download first in Real Media 8 format. (19 924 bytes)

The corporate logo gets a make-over

In 1988, the BBC decided that if it was to compete effectively with its commercial rivals, it would need a strong corporate image to make its products stand out in the market place. A new corporate logo was commissioned to be used on its stationery, videos, books and even paper cups. The new image, designed by Michael Peters, looks back to the old, traditional BBC logo, but is updated by underlining the slanted boxes. An animated ident was produced with a jingle, which was used for BBC promotional films (e.g. to tell us how good value our licence fee is), BBC videos and exported programmes.

 
The BBC Corporate Logo designed by Michael Peters (3K)

The three colours are those of the phosphors on a colour television (the primary colours of light, also used in the BBC "TWO" logo). There were also national variants. BBC Scotland had its underlines all in blue; BBC Northern Ireland used three green underlines; BBC  Wales used all red. (In peculiarly British fashion there is no BBC England.)

The Nineties

In the 1990s, Martin Lambie-Nairn's design company took over responsibility for the BBC's idents. Lambie-Nairn had earlier successfully created the idents for the launch of Channel 4 and had also worked on branding the BBC's 9 O'Clock News.

A new look for both BBC 1 and BBC 2 was unveiled on Saturday, February 16th, 1991. A new logo for the Open University was seen first, with the new BBC 1 ident being launched by Philip Schofield and Sarah Greene before that morning's Going Live!.

This ident was loosely based on the traditional globe and was designed by Daniel Barber. The solid-state devices that had generated the twin-stripe 2 and the COW were decommissioned, as the new globe was played out from modified laserdisc players.

On BBC 2, there were a whole load of different idents, all featuring the escapades of a large "2". It was this set of idents that, it is said, have proven the worth of strong branding. Within six months of the new package going on air, the perception of BBC 2 had changed from that of a formal, stuffy channel and the audience had increased, even though the programmes themselves had largely remained the same.

Although each channel had a different style, Lambie-Nairn brought back a consistency to the idents - both featured the BBC corporate logo underneath a large numeral, clearly identifying the channels as well as the broadcaster.

1991 BBC 1 globe (4K)

Screenshot provided by Sean Hughes

 

1991 BBC 2 'blade' ident (3K)

The corporate logo gets another make-over

The BBC Corporate Logo designed by Lambie-Nairn (3K)

After only six years, the BBC decided another re-launch was necessary. This time not only would Lambie-Nairn tackle the two BBC channels, but also the BBC's corporate logo. The old one, the Beeb said, was no longer up to the job. Apparently, it just didn't "work on screen". To make it work, the coloured lines underneath the three lozenges were banished, the sides were straightened from their 17.5-degree slant, and the typeface was changed to Gill Sans. Oddly, Lambie-Nairn reportedly claimed the 1988 logo hadn't been modern enough. Yet after its make-over, the new, simpler logo is very reminiscent of the BBC's first from 1932. And the new typeface, based on that used on the London Underground and other London Transport, was invented in the 1920s.

The cost of the new look was reported by some sources to be over 5m spread over three years, which covered everything from the designing of the idents to having new letter-heads printed.

When the change was first rumoured back in August 1997, Gerald Kaufman, the chairman of the National Heritage Select Committee said, "It seems to me there could be a more useful way of spending licence-payers' money. This confirms that while the BBC is funded by the tax-payer and theoretically accountable, in fact it does exactly what it wants to."

British Ballooning Club?

The first on-screen sighting of the new corporate logo came with new idents for BBC 1 and 2 launched on Saturday, 4th October, 1997. Viewers were also to discover that the channels had also been renamed to "BBC One" and "BBC Two".

Up, up and away for BBC One in 1997 (4K) The 2 stayed more or less the same in 1997 (3K)

Screenshots above provided by Martin Deutsch

The popular "2" idents were simply adapted by replacing the old corporate logo with the new one and by conforming to the new naming scheme. New comedic adventures of the channel's star performer continued to be made.

But the biggest change was on the main channel. The globe had become a balloon seen flying over, initially, ten different locations in the UK, including Snowdon, the Forth Rail Bridge and Canary Wharf. The films apparently cost 500 000 to make.

In 1999 I spoke to Brian Eley at Lambie-Nairn for Channel 4's Right to Reply and asked about the thinking behind the balloon. He explained that the idea was that BBC 1 was bringing a world of entertainment to every nation. "And it's about pride in a national institution. And after a few imaginative leaps, it takes you to a hot air balloon taken to every part of the United Kingdom."

The balloons were cleverly parodied in the opening titles of The Ben Elton Show.

BBC One Balloon in widescreen (10K) BBC Two 'paint' ident in widescreen (4K)

Screenshots above provided by James Cridland

The balloon idents were filmed in widescreen and were first shown to the public in this format on October 1st, 1998 when Sky Digital launched. BBC Two's existing idents were also re-jigged for widescreen use.

After their introduction, the idents were tweaked a little. First, the "888" caption was changed to read "Subtitles" (because digital subtitles aren't accessed via page 888 of teletext). Secondly, the web address of BBCi, www.bbc.co.uk, was added above the station name. At the same time, new idents on similar themes were commissioned for both channels, including in 2000, for example, an Olympic Games balloon ident for BBC One.

The End of Time and the End of the World

The current BBC Two look was launched on Monday, November 19th, 2001. The antics of a large "2" continue, but now it is always coloured white and appears in a yellow setting. A purple box containing the station name appears in the bottom right of the screen on the idents and in trailers. For the first time, there is no matching BBC Two clock.

The latest idents for BBC One were launched on Good Friday, March 29th, 2002. As well as banishing the clock and the BBC web site address, channel controller Lorraine Heggessey also ditched the globe motif after decades of use. In its place are films of various people dancing or performing whilst wearing red. A red box containing the station name appears in the bottom left-hand corner.

The box in the corner idea can also be seen in the idents and trails for BBC Three, a digital channel that replaced BBC Choice on Saturday, February 9th, 2003.

All three packages were designed by Lambie-Nairn.

 

Other pages in the TV Logos section...

Other Related Web Sites

>> The BBC's official web site, bbc.co.uk, has a selection of films of old idents in its Cult / Classic TV / Test Cards section.

>> Find out more about Lambie-Nairn at the company's web site.

Right to Reply logo

Right to Reply : Branding

In November 1999, I got to make a film for Channel 4's Right to Reply about television channels and their brand images. I spoke to Brian Eley, Creative Director at Lambie-Nairn, who explained the thinking behind the new BBC One balloon idents. Click on the link above for a transcript of the item with screenshots as well as video to download for those with RealVideo and MPEG players.

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