How the BBC’s Own Satire Predicted the New BBC Three Logo


BBC question

In professional typesetting circles, an exclamation mark was called a “gasper” or a “startler.” And both of those words begin to sum up the reaction to BBC Three’s new logo, which incorporates the exclamation mark. The debacle includes the deadpan (and tongue-in-cheek) statement from Nikki Carr, BBC Three’s head of marketing: “We’re cursed at the BBC when it comes to marketing.”

A year ago, citing budget shortfalls, BBC Three announced it would cease conventional broadcasting of the channel and move it online-only via BBC’s iPlayer.

An offer from private parties to keep the channel on the air in an ad-supported model was rebuffed. The online move (slated for Feb. 16th, 2015) led to a “Save BBC Three” group being formed, with the movement sparking a physical protest outside the BBC’s headquarters and more than 300,000 signatures on a petition to keep the channel on the air—to no avail.

Now, days ahead of BBC Three’s relaunch online, Carr and her team this week revealed the new logo for the new BBC Three — and it’s turned into a hot (pink) mess.

From a design perspective, BBC Three’s new logo is a conventional word mark, a brand that incorporates the text name of the brand itself. BBC Three’s twist is that the third bar in the Roman numeral three (i.e., III) is an exclamation point (II!), which has led to some confusion.

As Carr told her colleagues at BBC News, the mark’s design consists of three numerals because “The first is ‘make me think’… The second is ‘make me laugh’… The third, the exclamation mark, is ‘give me a voice’, which is what we will do for young people.”

The problem, as some people pointed out, is that the new logo can be read as BBC Two! Or maybe the problem is that some people take things too seriously.

It does not help BBC Three’s case that last year the BBC’s self-satirical series W1A included an episode titled “Rebranding the BBC,” which begins: “The thing with the BBC is, in branding terms, it’s really boring.”

The episode features Beeb branding guru Siobhan Sharpe—whose fictitious Perfect Curve consultancy also pushed an audio logo for the BBC’s London 2012 Olympics identity in the series Twenty Twelve—suggesting that the BBC add a question mark to its logo to add “instant virility.”

A later episode (“Losing the letters B, B and C”) shows the BBC rebrand team dumping the BBC letters altogether in favor of a set of three bars that look embarrassingly like the new BBC Three logo. It’s genuinely painful to watch (we can’t wait for series three this year).

BBC Three has since posted a hastily made video “REVEALED: The Process Behind Our New Logo” that winks at the W1A spoof.

The channel, to its credit, has been having a bit of a laugh at the kerfuffle on social media.

In another blatant appeal to the millennials it hopes will consume BBC Three online, Carr also explained to her colleagues at BBC News that its target audience will also help program the new BBC Three:

Carr said the BBC will make young people part of the decision making process at the channel and include them as content creators. In the next few weeks it is launching a collaboration with 50 young creative people. Content will range from short form films, blogs and animation, to picture-led stories and will be delivered daily via soon to be launched products.

Red (or pink) faces, aside, BBC Three is far better off with its latest logo compared with logos of the past.

BBC Three Logos

One of those past logos was a Helvetica disaster straight off a cereal box and the other (most recent) all lowercase logo that your mother thought looks so chic—“like that menu at the fancy Manhattan cupcake cafe!”

Aside from the armchair critics, at least one designer found a solution for the new logo: correct the lack of balance in the space between the three units in the top row and those in the row below.


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