Launched in 1992 by Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, the Cartoon Network was a godsend to, well, cartoon lovers with 24-hour cartoon programming, mostly re-runs. In the past few years, with original series and its hipster- and geek-attracting Adult Swim block in the wee hours of the night, Cartoon Network (CN) has become one of the most attractive and genuine channels on television. From its humble beginnings, CN is now broadcast in 166 countries. But its identity has been a little wobbly in the last two years or so with an initial switch from the well-known checkerboard logo to a short-lived, perspective acronym that, I’m guessing, didn’t fair too well as it just got shelved earlier this year when CN started to run a new on-air identity in May, designed by animation powerhouse Brand New School in collaboration with the talented in-house team at CN. This week a new range of on-air identity applications started to roll out.
The network chose to embrace its brand visual heritage of the black and white checkerboard by imbuing it with new meaning, and the artists and producers of BNS were able to bring this idea to life in a fresh, compelling way using dimension, color and movement. All the new design elements began appearing in late May, and the new on-air IDs premiered on the network this week.
“Our brand expansion represents our commitment to delivering a breadth of content that our audience cannot find anywhere else,” said Senior Vice President of Creative Direction, Michael Ouweleen. “The checkerboard is in our DNA and is not only reflected in the subtle redesign of the logo but also provides a through line that connects and helps frame our diverse slate of programming from animation to live-action. The art direction and creative acumen of the Brand New School and their ability to breathe new into the iconic was invaluable and helped us achieve our goal.”
— Press Release
When I first saw the perspective logo submitted as a tip I didn’t post it because, even at that time, I felt like it was maybe just a “phase.” There didn’t seem to be longevity attached to it. What I didn’t like about it is that it screamed “Cartoons!” whereas the old and new ones are just identifiers for the cartoons themselves, they don’t have to act like cartoons. So it’s very nice to see CN pull back and go back to what made the original logo more successful. There are no magic revelations in the new logo. It’s the old “C” and “N” pulled out of the original, blown up and put side to side. Simple.
The new identity is surprisingly basic in its visual elements: CMYK colors, dots, crosses, squares, a grid. Yet the applications are playfully complex and versatile. Giving CN a broad range of possible executions without feeling too repetitive.
And when it comes to the visual pyrotechnics of on-air animation… good luck getting bored by it.
“Because we’d created such a gridded and structured designs for the overall approach, it became imperative that the movement of these pieces felt snappy, fast-paced, and above all, playful and full of life,” said Calvert. “Our animators developed a language that’s rooted in familiar physical interactions, but caricatured and amplified into something incredibly captivating and energetic.”
— Press Release