I realize you have all been gnarling, clawing, hissing, and otherwise growling to discuss the new Animal Planet logo — and that’s exactly the kind of inner urge that the channel wants to bring out in their viewers. Or better yet, in their own words: The new programming on Animal Planet will tap into the instincts that drive us all — fear, hunger, pleasure, nurture — with compelling stories that resonate with what it means to be human. And what better way to unveil this new approach than with — dun, dun, duuuun — the fierce Puppy Bowl! This past Sunday, to coincide with one of the biggest TV-watching days, Animal Planet launched a new identity that goes beyond a simple identity change, as it attempts to shed its family-friendly image for a more intense experience. I was hoping to get some additional imagery for this launch to be able to provide a better picture of the new identity — and I really wanted to see if this logo had any legs beyond the logo — yet my efforts went unfulfilled, as some e-mails went unanswered and, to my surprise, there was no rollout of a new identity during Animal Planet’s programming. So we will have to settle for the logo.
The new logo was designed by Dunning Eley Jones, a London-based design firm with plenty of experience in TV branding, is somewhat confusing. Well, no, make that very confusing. The typography feels to be Tobias Frere-Jones’ Knockout and its hundred weights, yet there is something oddly uneven about it that makes me think it’s a knock-off that has been scaled horizontally a tad too strongly. Regardless of what typeface it is or isn’t, the logo is a weird jumble of ideas. I am guessing that the varying widths of each letter represent the different animals, that the sideways M could be an animal in a different position (I would gander sleeping or ready to fornicate), or maybe it’s a bat, and that the overall composition is meant to feel alive and unexpected. Unfortunately it feels mechanical, constricted and, well, dead. For an identity that strives to “bring out the raw, visceral emotion in the animal kingdom” this simply does not cut it. I could see this identity having a hundred variations where the letters take on different weights, colors and textures, and that could even “breathe” on screen with the letters expanding and contracting, yet there is nothing to this logo. Or, at least not yet.
[Above] Images from Monkeys & Apes 2 / [Below] Image for Dexter. © Jill Greenberg
The one thing that this new launch has going in its favor, is photography by Jill Greenberg, who can add a sense of suspended, realistic surrealism to any character (how’s that for a description?!). You can see some of those photographs in the video below, and we can only wait until the print campaign hits the streets to see it further in action. I am torn by this approach though: On one hand, I always find that things placed in opposite contexts — in this case it’s chimps, lemurs and lions with a studio backdrop — make for interesting visuals; but on the other I can’t cope with the urge to humanize animals or, worse, to use them as celebrities with perfect lighting and awesome grooming. But I refrain on further comment until I can see the print campaign AND any sort of motion graphics.
The video above, which I had hoped contained the magic key to this identity, further cements the logo as a static monolith with no life in it. Luckily, Animal Planet can count on those rascally meerkats.