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for completely illogical, out-of-date things, such as lots and lots of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