First launched in 1976 and going through multiple name changes, TBS (Turner Broadcasting Station) is the first and eponymous channel of Turner that has, for most of its existence, focused on reruns of popular comedies and a good deal of live sports. Today, it’s “basic cable’s reigning champion among young adults in primetime” with 58 million TV viewers fueled by reruns of The Big Bang Theory, their late-night show CONAN, and original programming like Cougar Town and American Dad! At their upfront event in May, TBS announced a new focus on original programming and producing more original comedies, late-night talk shows, and animated series while focusing on a young audience. The new logo was first seen in this promo for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and was officially introduced on October 31. The logo was designed by Omaha, NE-based Sean Heisler of Webster while all motion work has been created in-house at TBS.
Like the original content the network is intent on producing, the logo’s letterforms are custom, albeit, slightly quirky, creations. The geometric construction and non-traditonal balance and styling were intentional and purposeful to be consistent with the new brand. Additionally, there is no set color palette, and the logotype may be used with and without its “slashed rectangle” container. This versatility allows TBS to incorporate the logo in surprising, dynamic ways that mirror the brand’s bold, brash new image.
The “smile” logo, introduced in 2004 has lasted a remarkably long time. (The logo is so old I reviewed it on Speak Up). It was never any designer’s favorite logo but, to its merit, it made it this far. The polite smile and clunky wordmark are now making way for a bolder and more aggressive clunky wordmark. The shapes of the letters are all uncomfortable to look at and, other than having the same thickness, they could all be for different fonts. The “t” is too narrow, the “b” is too wide, and the “s” is too much like what it is you see, which is not really a nice thing. Sean, btw, assures me all these quirks were very much on purpose, including the way the bowl of the “b” sticks out from the stem.
As I’m sure the comments will demonstrate, there is a lot to dislike about the logo but the more I look at it and the more I replay the videos below, the more, dare I say, I like it. Although “like” is the wrong word. Let’s say I’ve come to appreciate its clunkiness as a boon to set the channel apart.
The on-air work is an exact replica of the original MTV logo approach which, by now, is so in the distant past that any new 18-year-old watching TBS would never know that such a thing happened already 20 years ago. The work also reminds of the early 2000s VH1 work that had a nasty logo with the same conceit of being re-skinnable in any way possible. So, the approach is far from original, but some of the stuff above is quite entertaining and the results are visually exciting. Also, the logo remains identifiable in every iteration regardless of how it’s animated or what its final rendering is. A more “normal” logo without the exaggerated angles and out-of-whack typography probably would have gotten lost at the end of every animation or it would have been in dissonance with the off-kilter attitude of all the on-air work. Overall, this identity clearly signals an attempt to capture a young, energetic audience — the kind that you shake your fist at and scream “You kids get off my lawn!”.
Thanks to Josh Rubenoff for the tip.