The Adastral 

1 January 2004 tbs.pm/3388

An in-depth look at the Rediffusion adastral

The star symbol of Associated-Rediffusion, renamed “the Adastral” after Adastral House, the former RAF building housing the company, is probably the most famous ITV logo of all. It has actually entered the language of design as a symbol to denote “TV advert”, and is still used in documentaries to signify any archived commercial clip.

Very few trademarks live on after their parent companies have ceased to exist but this symbol, used on the ‘break bumpers’ of London weekday ITV in its first thirteen years, has resisted all attempts to bury it. It was a symbol that became utterly synonymous with UK commercial television.

Indeed, it is probable that the London weekday ITV viewers of the fifties and sixties thought that this symbol was national, and seen by viewers everywhere, between each advert. It became the standard punctuation mark of product promotion in this country, even appearing in cinemas and newspapers when the subject at hand was “TV ads”.

It was not geometrically an ordinary star. The sixteen ‘prongs’ were each inclined to the right of the perpendicular, giving the logo a sense of motion even when it was still. Even though the term ‘star’ has been used over the years, the design implications were of ‘energy’ from a sun, and that in some mysterious way the device represented the very act of ‘rediffusion’ when used as verb “to rediffuse”.

In today’s more cynical world this sounds like another attempt to “read too much meaning in” but a trade mark like this needs to be seen in the context of its era. Television was new, and commercial television newer still, when this logo was first used. In an era of state authority and an age of deference, the implied meaning and mysterious nature of almost fascistic company symbols was largely taken for granted.

This sounds far fetched today, when television is no longer awe inspiring – but back in the fifties and sixties, the iconic role of network symbols was thought essential to the corporate identity needs of television companies.

What makes this symbol a classic?

This was the first ITV symbol to move continuously while being seen, although this came after some years of use in static form.

The design suggests authority. The silent rotation conveys purpose. The suggestion that the star was actually ‘diffusing’ (whatever that was supposed to mean) though palpable nonsense today, suggested to the minds of the unsophisticated viewers of the fifties and sixties that some mysterious force was at work bringing television to them.

Surveys had showed that most viewers had no idea what the word “rediffusion” actually meant – a state of affairs that was considered ideal at the time for the requirements of promoting a corporate identity. This symbol thus came to define Rediffusion, in a marriage of company name and logo, in a unified way that no other company managed.

The ident in use

Associated Rediffusion tells you the timeAssociated Rediffusion Presents

Station clock ‘Mitch’ with a rotating adastral, and an ARTV front cap from the 1950s, with an adastral that was largely static.

Rediffusion FrontcapRediffusion Weather

It’s the late 1960s, and time for a swinging Rediffusion London programme, and London’s weather

Rediffusion London welcomes you to Wembley

If you were interested, guided tours of Rediffusion’s Wembley studios were available, and tourists were given this brochure explaining all.

The studios became London Weekend’s in 1968, were abandoned in the late 1980s, and are now home to Fountain Television, and independent production company. The ARTV foundation stone is still by the entrance.

Rediffusion London presents Television House

An enhanced photograph of Television House, Kingsway, used in publicity by Rediffusion London. The backlit adastral was never this bright, but it looks good anyway.

Associated Rediffusion presents Television House

And, taken by a Transdiffusion child in 1963 is the ARTV frontage, complete with mechanical rotating adastral on the front. Giving London the best of all Television indeed.

This article originally appeared in Ident.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Kif Bowden-Smith Contact More by me

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