Last year, exactly around this time, when we were thinking about what brand to spoof on April Fools MTV was the runner-up, but only because we thought no one would ever believe that the MTV logo would change. Ever. Now that the time of change is finally here — almost 29 years after MTV and its logo, debuted on August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m., to that unmistakable guitar riff — well, not much has really changed, other than what we all already knew. MTV is not about music anymore, and its new logo dispenses with the hindering description of “Music Television.”
“If you watch the channel, you’ve seen that it’s definitely going in a new direction,” said Exarhos. “We really wanted to see the logo featured in a new way, and this was really meant to be able to house all the great things that are happening at MTV at any given time.”
“I’ve been at MTV a long time, and as it was reinvented over the years and maintained sort of a fluid nature, we never touched our logo, which is sort of ironic,” Exarhos said. “It’s a fantastic, iconic logo, but it wasn’t working for us in a way that we needed it to anymore. It needed to express more about what MTV is today, not what it was in 1981.”
“From a truly design perspective, we didn’t look at losing ‘music television’ for any other reason than from a functionality standpoint.”
— Tina Exarhos, executive vice president of marketing and multiplatform creative projects for The Daily News
Created by MTV’s in-house design staff, the revised logo, and apologies if I’m just pointing out the obvious, has cleaned up the “TV” lettering by removing some of the bumps it originally had and smoothing its curves, it has also widened the white lines that give it its dimensionality and, most daringly, has simply chopped off the end of its legs giving it an odd, stumpy feel (perhaps a nod to MTV’s top star at the moment, Snookie). For those that didn’t grow up on MTV and Frosted Flakes, this change isn’t significant as the logo and its endless permutations, hold no nostalgic value; in fact, I bet the more streamlined and less fuzzy approach is welcome. And as new MTV viewers come along, the simplified logo serves as more of a branding icon rather than the cult badge it used to be. But, of course, I can’t help but judge as what it was and, in its new form, the MTV logo looks like an old friend who just got unflattering plastic surgery, one tuck and one pull too many that have left a memory of what used to be there.
The other aspect of the new logo is that, instead of its chameleon personality, now it is literally an empty vessel for the stars of MTV, who populate the logo to give it its substance — perhaps an oxymoron. This is the oldest trick in the book for flexible identities and it fails to feel contemporary or cutting-edge. Watching MTV for a few minutes last night, I have to admit that the logo does not look too bad on screen, sitting nicely in its corner. The one or two logo animations that I saw were acceptable but short of inspiring, something you could count when you never knew what to expect next from MTV idents.
So, yes, MTV has changed, but so have those of us that turned to MTV before YouTube for the latest music video, and it’s probably best that we all just go our separate ways.