Although the advent of broadcast television in 1936 promised a new medium for visual creativity in design terms, it wasn’t until the fifties that broadcasting companies began to think seriously about the possibilities. Indeed when the BBC set up their service in 1936, design for the screen was still very much in an embryonic period, its gestation held amid the art World. The Second World War had also put broadcast on hold and it wasn’t until 1946 that the box was turned on again with a swift demand from households for interesting and entertaining content.
In 1954, the BBC recruited its first graphic designer, John Sewell and a department was set up under his management. This was of course a considerable move for a television company at the time. Little can be found on John Sewell’s work for the BBC, at least for the moment nothing leads to more than a paragraph in most instances. He is clearly noted though for the 1950’s BBC screen graphics and was also a budding amateur film maker.
After this first initiative by the BBC, two people were to have a profound and long standing impact on TV broadcast design : Bernard Lodge and Martin Lambie-Nairn. Bernard Lodge was the title sequence creator behind the classic BBC science fiction series ‘Doctor Who’. The famous time travelling Doctor defied time and space in his adventures into other Worlds and it appears that it was these very dimensions that Bernard Lodge wanted to explore and express in the opening titles. In 1963, the series went on air and Lodge’s unmistakable feed back ‘growl’ effect, along with Ron Grainer’s chilling electronic composition, made for a brilliantly effective opener which has engraved every child’s memory ever since. Bernard Lodge went on to create further titles for the series and in 1973 eventually changed the ‘howl’ effect with the slit-scan technique which had first been used in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Most TV graphics prior to Doctor Who were static channel identities or simple animated pres (presentation screens) for certain programs. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that TV channels began to incorporate moving graphics as part of their brand identity albeit with rather simplified results. This all changed though with the arrival of a new channel in 1982 which brought with it to the forefront the designer Martin Lambie-Nairn. Martin Lambie-Nairn had already his years of experience with the BBC and LWT (London Weekend Television), however it was with his creation of Channel Four’s 3D animated logo that TV identities were to really take off and spark a real cause for experiment with movement and form as a means for branding on the box. Today, the graphic presentation of a channel as well as it’s content has become an increasingly fertile field for motion graphics with a wide range of innovative ideas.