Launched as ABC Family in 2001 when Walt Disney purchased Fox Family Channel and Fox Family Worldwide, the newly renamed Freeform is a cable and satellite television channel focusing on teens and women ages 18-34 where it has experienced the most success. Its programming includes sitcom and drama series reruns but it’s its original programming that has gained the most attention with shows like Pretty Little Liars, Kevin from Work, and the new Shadowhunters, which are not necessarily family-family friendly for a 30-year-old parent to watch with his/her 7-year-old little person and is one of the reasons the channel changed its name. Also so that the cool kids didn’t feel like they were watching an uncool kid channel where the whole family sits and watches something wholesome and lame like Seventh Heaven. In their FAQs, Freeform put it best, “We’re changing our name to be a better fit for our shows and social platforms, which are more targeted to young adults than families.” ABC Family announced the name change in October and yesterday was the official launch. The name was created by Sausalito, CA-based Lexicon Branding.
No design credit given. The logo and motion pieces shown in this post were designed in-house.
Who Freeform is is the TV home for “Becomers.”
That’s a demographic category coined by the network last year.
“It’s a life stage,” Ascheim said. “It’s that place between childhood and adulthood. Proverbially we say between your first kiss and your first kid. Kind of starts in high school, goes till, I don’t know, when you’re 20 or something, maybe 30.”
Becomers “really are in formation kind of freely,” Ascheim said, so the name Freeform “seems to speak to our target in a really specific and wonderful way.”
“It also elicits this moment in our media heritage,” Ascheim added. “It’s a time when we’re all experiencing content coming in every package, shape, size, format, and on any screen. It oozes from place to place and form to form. And Freeform seems to promise that we will be able to deliver on that expectation that our young audience in particular is having.
“Lastly, Freeform evokes a mood, a sense of spontaneity, creativity. It’s a place where the parties are better. It’s a place I know that I would like to spend a lot of time, and I’m sure our audience is going to want to spend a lot of time, too.”
Not much point in talking about the old logo; it was the ABC logo with Family appended to it. Yay. The old name, however, was very loaded and it really limited the perception of the channel. For better or for worse, when you are in those teenage years, the word “family” is not the most attractive of ideas and I bet that there was a large a number of potential viewers out there who shunned ABC Family because of its name even when other kids were talking about its shows. Dropping the name is a move that makes a lot of sense. Changing to Freeform… sure, why not? It’s not the coolest of names and maybe it tries to latch on to cooler things that are freeform or freestyle but it does seem to capture a slightly rebellious attitude.
The channel is taking the free-forming a little too seriously with their logo, which is atrocious in either its stacked or horizontal form. The letterforms are unappealing, malformed, and inconsistent. The forced rhythm they are trying to instill in it by bouncing the letters around and changing their height is not very successful. Worst of all, the “F” is poking the “R” for no particular reason. There are good and bad ways to do “anarchic” design and this is the bad way. Luckily, on air, the logo changes every half second and the motion graphics are remarkably entertaining.
Taking things one step beyond the MTV (and recent TBS) approach, Freeform doesn’t just modify its logo endlessly, it changes it completely and renders the word Freeform in any damn way they like. This part of the project is very effective and successful, as the pacing and overtly annoying and expressive graphics feel exciting, energetic, and, well, free-form. The anthem-type video is particularly cool and well done and, if there are ever any print applications, that style of drawing over existing footage or photos would look great. Overall, the channel nails the attitude on the air and will likely gain it the missing audience it wants but that logo needs to go to reform school.