Editor: The following post is a guest entry from JaegerSloan Inc., a new venture headed up by Doug Jaeger and Kristin Sloan.
For our first contribution to Motionographer we thought it might be interesting to reveal the driving forces behind an exciting new piece of work, while focusing on some of the more contextual details about the experience. Today we’re taking a look at the bold and controversial Comedy Central 2011 logo redesign by thelab, to understand some of the challenges and successes and meet some of the people behind the work.
We sat down with thelab partners Alicia Johnson and Hal Wolverton, the team who met in the 80’s to eventually form Johnson & Wolverton and who later worked at EuroRCG as global ECD’s. Our impression of thelab from our 2 hour immersion into their space, work, and team, is that it is a spirited skunk works, with teams of classically trained designers backed by technical skills and curiosity.
In our interview we discovered that the Comedy Central logo was not the result of a logo redesign assignment, but an invitation to solve some of Comedy Central’s core business challenges. In Alicia’s description of the brief, “They had a solid reputation with great shows, but the shows were not being attributed to the network and they were not getting as many young viewers as they wanted.”
Alicia and Hal were a bit giddy the entire interview. It seemed as though we were all laughing the entire time, which is what you would hope when discussing a brand like Comedy Central. They started the conversation by presenting their initial pitch, which was a hundred or so slide keynote presentation contextualizing how thelab approaches problems and how they would approach this one.
The most interesting part of this project is how they got to the solution. Alicia explained, “Comedy itself is super social . . . they were not behaving socially, they were a tv station that just talked to you, one person at a time. The old paradigms of viewing times, etc, are not how consumers interact today.” In a way they were able to look back in a media neutral way and make the decision. “We should start with digital, start with the digital presence and build around that.”
So the team at the Lab invented a branding device that they felt could live in any medium. Alicia explained “the idea of this packet” which would shorten the distance between the viewer and the channel by delivering a packet to the audience through digital media, leveraging social functionality to connect the right comedy to the right audience. The goal, Alicia said, is for the packet to “behave as an object that you could share, and the object would retain branding while being screen agnostic”. This lead to a discussion on how Comedy Central could become more visible outside of the television screen: on the street, in advertising, online, on mobile platforms, tablets and smart phones. Hal cited one of the biggest challenges, “How do we get our identity to travel along with these clips that end up on YouTube?”
The solution kept restating itself. As Alicia explained “Being screen agnostic was something that just we kept going back to them on.” thelab’s solution included pages of web, tablet and mobile design comps with new navigation models demonstrating how a viewer might find the packets of content they’re looking for and what was trending, tagged or even popular amongst friends. As this structure became clear, they needed a way for viewers to identify them.
In their pitch, thelab created the comedy mark as a branding device. The C is derived from a slide carousel of “packets” viewed from above, not unlike the Kodak Carousel Projector. This C becomes the playful center of a 3d explosion of screen caps and colors in a muted palette with elegant typography. When the action rests, the flat gothic round c, is met with a second C at the same line weight to form an incomplete circle, resulting in a c surrounded by a larger backward C. In its final representation, the mark looks not unlike the © symbol with a chunk cut out of the left side. The new symbol works in a similar spirit, effectively attributing and tagging every content packet as Comedy Central’s wherever it appears.
In the reel demonstrating the new mark, the system flexes to mark each comedic moment with the same assertiveness as a dart hitting a dart board to the upper right of each of the stations notable entertainers TOSH.0, John Stewart, and Steven Colbert as they complete each truncated humor nugget.
From the creative:
“We Should Explain, Our logo has changed. No longer do you see the big buildings and globe, that quite literally said, COMEDY CENTRAL on top of it. Please welcome the new mark. We affectionately call it the COMEDY MARK. It works WAY F*CKING better than that other one we had. Big building-y globe, you served us well, but we moved on.
Thanks, Comedy Central”
While some may find this mark to be too serious, boring, or too similar to other symbols, as it acts and behaves on every beautiful back-lit screen, it shows its unique personality. As it animates, it pukes, spins, and explodes with energy. It is frenetic. When it presents its full name-with the word central upside down and backwards-it tips its hat to slapstick heroes.
When we asked them what they wanted the takeaway of the work to be, Hal stated “The desired takeaway is that Comedy Central is not a television station, it’s a brand that connects me with comedy in all media. It surrounds me.” From Alicia, “It’s as easy for me to enjoy it as it is to share it, because I think you’ll dig it.”
Interview date: 12.14.2010
Interview by: Doug Jaeger/Kristin Sloan
Video by: JaegerSloan, Inc.