Martin Lambie-Nairn 1945–2020 

28 December 2020 tbs.pm/72395

The graphic designer and branding guru Martin Lambie-Nairn has died at 75.

His work was often controversial – the hobby of collecting idents always comes with an inbuilt conservatism that likes what came before better than what is on air now – but it has always been of a consistent high quality.

Perhaps this is because he repeatedly argued that consistency was the most important part of ‘branding’, no matter what the medium but especially in television.

 

 

If you set some ground rules, and then stick to them, you end up with a ‘look and feel’ that inspires loyalty. Do this across an entire broadcaster’s output, as he did most spectacularly with the ‘balloon’ and ‘character 2’ identities across BBCtv – especially in the logic that pervaded the difference between what was seen on air (BBC ONE, BBC RADIO) and what was a mere department (BBC Resources, BBC Broadcast) and the subtle but comforting difference between a promo (subdued version of the logo with a permanent BBC ONE or BBC TWO at the bottom) and an ident (shots of the logo, followed by a fade in of the BBC ONE or BBC TWO – so very subtle a difference) – then you have done the audience a service.

 

 

Courtesy of TV Live

 

No, really. Because it’s helpful to us viewers to be guided subtly between a promo and an ident. It’s useful to notice the difference even subconsciously. And if an identity for a channel or a broadcaster is being helpful in guiding us from programme to promo to announcement to programme… well, you can argue that most won’t notice and indignantly demand that the differences be jarring. But why?

His pure graphic design work, short of an entire identity, was also powerful. Enough that we remember each one today. Enough that Channel 4 wanted to ditch their blocks logo several times over their lives, but always came back to it: the association between Channel 4 and its 4 has always been so strong, to the point that their last rebranding effort imposed the 4 blocks on all their spin-off channels, because that was the right thing to do.

 

Cathy McGowan

Artwork by Martin Lambie-Nairn for ‘Fusion’ magazine, celebrating the end of Ready, Steady, Go! in 1966.

 

Whether you’re conservative about on-screen identities or radical about them, whether you notice consistency or don’t notice inconsistency, you will always have noticed a Martin Lambie-Nairn design.

And no longer. He’s gone. We’re poorer without him.

 

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Tuesday 21 September 2021