Media: Familiarity with design kills off shock of the new

It’s always a good idea to try to avoid rushing into judgement about new television programmes, newspaper redesigns or logos.

It’s always a good idea to try to avoid rushing into judgement

about new television programmes, newspaper redesigns or logos.

After all, it was Michael Grade, in the old days when he knew something

about television, who declared BBC soap Eldorado an obvious hit. With

television programmes and horses, there is always room for an honest


But with logos and redesigns there is no such room for ambiguity. First

judgements are usually negative and usually wrong. The unsought change

to the small visual furniture of everyday life is deeply disturbing to

all those over the age of 23. Some of us can still remember the shock of

The Guardian redesign which put all those funny little content boxes at

the top of the front page. It was difficult to get used to, until

everyone copied them and they became seriously passe. The Observer

redesign, though which one I can’t remember, was so threatening that the

only solution for a time was to give the paper a wide berth. Now it just

looks like a rather boring newspaper again.

It was quite disgraceful that Channel 4 should have got rid of that

nice, exploding, colourful, traditional logo. But to replace something

so clever with four minimalistic Olympic rings which didn’t even connect

was nothing short of an outrage, and almost certainly an expensive


Now, admit it. They don’t look so bad. Cool even.

What Andrew Marr and assorted amateur designers at The Independent have

done is more problematical. It goes beyond design and looks and

addresses difficult issues, such as what is the function of a broadsheet

newspaper in the days of multi-channel choice? Is the newspaper the

right word for it anymore, given that most news is first delivered

electronically these days? Marr and chums have responded to that shift

of function and have, quite rationally, produced something quite new: a

feature paper, or magpaper.

This may be too rational, too radical a change. Readers may still pine

for completely illogical, out-of-date things, such as lots and lots of

news stories on the front page. Time and the ABCs will tell.

The biggest threat to familiarity in recent weeks has come at the


Naturally, it being the BBC, the changes are the biggest, most

all-encompassing and most expensive. Mercifully, they couldn’t do too

much to muck around with the radio and they had the good sense to keep

the orange balloon away from BBC2, at least for the time being.

In fact, I’ve come to terms quite quickly with the orange balloon and

its geographical range. Orange in all its forms is a useful marketing

device in Northern Ireland, as mobile telephone company Orange, about to

launch in the province, will find out.

However, the square, intrusive, traditional letters displayed at every

half-excuse still seem unpleasant and stick in the craw almost as much

as the pounds 5m or so of licence fee payers’ money they have absorbed.


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