Launched in 1995, History — it officially dropped the Channel from History Channel in 2008 — is a television channel that offers series and specials that “connect viewers with history in an informative, immersive and entertaining manner”. Originally showing documentary and historical fiction series, History moved into reality television (like every other channel did in the 2000s), and now is emerging as yet another cable channel with impressive scripted dramas like Vikings and Six, while maintaining an entertaining dose of reality TV like Pawn Stars and Swamp People. Last month, History introduced a new identity and on-air package designed by London, UK-based DixonBaxi.
Moving beyond just TV content to create a broader definition of the brand we refined the brand hierarchy, strategic and visual relationship between them and helped to create thematic strands to frame content across all of their platforms. This led to a new look and feel. One that is timeless and confident, immersive and refined. Modern and graphic photography with emotive, strong typography define the look. As well as a nuanced and expressive tone of voice. In motion, it comes to life through movement inspired by the cadence of the spoken word. A complete brand expression from print to digital, on-air to advertising.
We will start with the identity aspect and how it applies on print and advertising. There is nothing to compare this against in terms of an old identity but we’ll assume (100% correctly) that it was different from this. The main components are Hoefler & Co.’s Tungsten (in all its flavors, from Compressed to Narrow to Normal), the color red, and a red line. Along with cool talent and archival photography, these elements get deployed through a flexible system that allows for some variety but looks perfectly cohesive as a whole. When it uses the Compressed type is when it’s at its most interesting and differentiating from other channels but I also like the overlaid approach of the billboard (directly above). The simplicity of the layouts help the golden History logo (which remains unchanged) to stand out nicely.
On air, the typography comes alive through a thoughtful approach that derives motion from the cadence in speech of important historical figures, allowing the type to appear and behave slowly and smoothly as if the Dalai Lama were speaking, or appear and behave fast and impactful as if Muhammad Ali were speaking. In the end, people watching at home will just see white and red type flashing on screen and not see the direct relationships to the concept, which is fine because the white and red type flashing on screen flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee. The thin red line serves literally as the unifying thread across the on-air package… it comes from the top, the bottom, the sides, and it forms into a holder for each show’s logo, all in an elegant manner that helps define the hierarchy on the screen. (The red line also helps brand the social media output of the channel… see their Instagram account for effect or Facebook photos where you can clearly see when they started using the identity.)
We retained the existing H logo as it has strong brand equity but liberated the brand around it to completely reframe what it stands for.
It was important to make the H icon the hero and give it new life. We created a series of short idents that reinterpret it as a reflection of infinite stories. The facets are mirrored and therefore reflect different perspectives of the same scene - a metaphorical expression of history told from different points of view. With layered and cinematic sound design by ZELIG.
DixonBaxi provided text
Another element of the project is the transformation of the “H” logo — which is the kind of logo that a client tells you it has to stay as is and back at the office you look at it and go “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” — into a reflective device that makes creative use of the logo’s faceted structure and maps all kinds of cool things like fire and shattering glass unto it as it moves and rotates. Awesome, dude.
Overall, this is a great package although, in a way, it doesn’t seem very specific for a channel called History and I don’t mean that it should look old and dusty but there is a slight sense that this could easily be applied to AMC or FX or even CNN but then again there is a giant H with fire in it, so I’m good.