Launched in 1991, Comedy Central began quite modestly if not downright unpopularly with only a bevy of sitcom reruns and an abundance of stand-up comedy sessions. Almost 20 years later, Comedy Central is one of the most popular channels thanks to, of course, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and South Park — not to mention the always hilarious Roasts and to a certain degree the antics of Tosh.0. Yesterday, Comedy Central unveiled a drastically different new identity, designed by New York-based thelab that will begin playing on air in January 2011.
The quick reactions yesterday after the logo was unveiled have been mostly negative. Surprise, surprise, huh? The two basic complaints are that a) it’s boring and b) it looks like the copyright symbol. Both complaints are typical knee-jerk reactions that are very undeserved for a channel that is very smart about its programming and positioning. So, let’s argue. The old logo was certainly not “boring.” It had pow and it had wow. We had grown accustomed to it. But when you think about the place Comedy Central occupies in culture and media, it’s more akin to CNN, ESPN, or any of the major networks. The old logo simply can not be used as an endorsing mark for what the channel represents — the logo was too cartoonish. Like showing up to work at a Fortune 100 company in a Hawaiian shirt. The new logo is simple — not boring, a big difference — it is easier to reproduce across multiple media and it still has a small wink of humor in the “Central” being flipped upside down.
In its simplicity, the two “C”s form what some find an offensive copyright mark. Well, that’s pretty smart if you ask me. Because it’s obvious they are co-opting it and making it work in their favor. In the video and the little character logos directly above the text, you can see them using the “CC” icon exactly like a copyright symbol, placing it to the top right of all their characters, from John Stewart to Doctor Zoidberg. While the copyright symbol demarcates as “hands off,” Comedy Central’s logo demarcates as “this is funny shit.” Comedy is about taking it the familiar and twisting it, and that’s exactly what this logo is doing.
The animation reel also shows that the simplicity of the logo can have some of the pow and the wow that the old logo inherently had, and I would also say that this is the first iPad-inspired logo package, with some of the animations clearly mimicking the swiping, flipping effect of going through media files. This identity can’t be dismissed so easily as boring or stupid… then again, some people just don’t have a sense of humor.
The obligatory fake logo Twitter account can be found @ComedyCentralC. (Not sure about the taste level of the 9/11 joke).