We’ve written about the hands-on nature of graphic design in the pre-digital age before. Still, we had no idea just how hands-on – and three-dimensional – things like company logos, or “idents”, once were.
TV idents are a great example. Back in the day, the logos that bookended a broadcast often started life as physical models that were then filmed. Television stations like France’s Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (RTF), the BBC and eventually even HBO used such models to create dynamic logos that had movement and depth.
The RTF’s logo, created in 1962, was famous for its stark white lines and shimmering effect, something that could only be achieved through a neat arrangement of string that hung elegantly around the RTF insignia.
The BBC has a history of using mechanical models, such as their longstanding globe indent, which used an actual rotating globe and a panoramic mirror, with the colourisation effect achieved by some serious adjustment to the contrast levels. Prior to that, the BBC’s moving ‘batwings’ logo was a moving model made of wire, brass and lights.
Perhaps the most ambitious of all was this HBO opening sequence, which comprised a miniature set of a small city. A camera then swept over the complex model before tilting into the sky to reveal the letters HBO – the making of which you can see here.
You’d be hard pressed to find any physical TV idents nowadays, but this collection – which came to us care of Colossal – nice reminder of the ingenuity that existed well before CGI and digital design tools.