Broadcaster branding: our work defining an online visual world for journalist Owen Jones
Some projects are slow burners, others quick to catch light. Our work for journalist and broadcaster Owen Jones is definitely in the latter category. It turns out that speed drove creativity to such an extent that midway through I had to propose we paused. It was necessary to catch our breath and made sure we hadn’t completely run away with the project and created way too much stuff. It turns out we had. But, in this case, that was a (very) good thing. Upon refection now, when it comes to broadcaster branding, the wider the remit the better even if the ideas rather than the material are in place. A consistent sweep of work across media looks better and better the more ‘stuff’, presented well, you add to the mix. Suffice to say, the project has been incredibly satisfying and looks terrific. It’s a great example of how good design and the immediacy of social media can work hand in hand.
Out of left field
In October we were contacted by a long-time client who was keen to know if we would be interested in working with well-known Guardian journalist and broadcaster Owen Jones. The project was to rethink how Owen’s long-running YouTube channel was going to work in the future, and planning a series of new video projects including a Sunday politics show, in-depth one-on-one interviews and other feature length current affairs-based films in the future.
Whilst Owen and his team would create the films themselves, all of these ideas needed a single visual concept which could tie them together. This covered title cards for video itself, YouTube banners and a series of guidelines for how it would be presented on social media. I am never sure about creating an overly businesslike look for an individual, so instinct suggested this project and its news-driven backbone needed a very specific and almost jumpily energetic feel.
It struck me that this was a case of what I’ve coined as ‘broadcaster branding’, which could work really well if devised in a really singular manner. The key was to capture something of both Owen himself and his personality-led approach while embracing the often deeply serious, sobering even, nature of what he was discussing.
Our branding design for The Owen Jones Show
The overall 'grid - image - colour' visual concept for the project
Waving the red flag
Owen’s work is profoundly political. So, finding a colour set which a party or movement hasn’t completely co-opted is essentially impossible. So as we began work, it was decided pretty quickly that it might be better to think of a combination of tones. The result is a gutsy palette of warm red, sharp pink, dusty green and monochrome tones that worked distinctively and specifically together or in sequence as part of a series.
But this colour conversation ended up being just part of the creative process as it became clear we always needed to make everything work with static imagery alongside video. The crux of the project was to build a design concept that both held imagery from diverse sources and works smartly when used over film. It was suddenly a lot to think about.
So we took a step back and began by thinking about a highly flexible blend of colour, imagery and type. The job had became a task of mixing these things on an ongoing basis, week in, week out, to ensure they would work together rather than clashing. Ultimately the goal was to ensure that everything that Owen puts out would be recognisable and specific.
The end result was that these static images, often in black and white, would be a part of the palette and creative approach. We tinted some and cropped others within a new grid we’d drawn up. This set of images, type and tiles formed a layered, framing mechanism or system, which could be easily varied every time it was applied.
The best part of this was that it could be used not only promote the YouTube programmes but on a masthead for all his social media channels.
And thus began the mission creep…
One of dozens of YouTube title cards that distinctively brand Owen's films
Applying the visual concept across all social channels
The third way
It’s one thing to design flat graphics for social media headers or the title cards for programmes, they inevitably can only go so far. What Owen was making was live and constantly shifting. The ideas we were working on had real legs.
As I was reviewing all the work we’d done, I couldn’t help feeling these ideas had so much potential to move. To explore this idea, I got in touch with our longtime collaborator Carlo Teofilo to see what he thought. Carlo is based in Turin and between him and his brother Riccardo (who worked with me for seven years) we’d done a fair amount of work over the summer on other projects. Carlo came back with a few thoughts – primarily that he had an idea to use the graphics and imagery to devise a title sequence for Owen’s Sunday politics show.
The tiled, graphic grid that we’d worked up as the framing for the full sweep of broadcaster branding turned out to be ideal for animation. Used together, the bricks, imagery and typography we’d devised for the channel make a strong, convincing opening graphic for every show.
I’m so pleased with the end result which uses the branding concept, blends both and turns it into something else entirely, taking the whole project to another level.
The project has reached a fantastic next stage in early 2021 with the establishment of a website for Owen. I couldn’t help feeling that he needed to devise a ‘single point of truth’ where all his social media accounts, most recently published book, Guardian journalism and the fledgling Owen Jones Podcast were hosted together. So I pitched the idea and to my delight, Owen went for it.
The site is straightforward but smart. It combines all the design we’ve worked on for Owen to date, as well as a set of bookmarks for the podcast and a complete index of recent videos. This is particularly handy for being able to share in a clean, consistent way. Together these pages build the idea of a library of content that can be sourced from one place.
The Owen Jones Podcast required a little design job of its own. Mindful of the busy clutter of podcast visuals, we were keen to devise an icon that was consistent with everything else but stood out. We used a new image from a shoot Owen did with Penguin Books where he looks to the left, singularly appropriate.
The end result – and indeed this staging post in the project – captures everything that’s special about what we’ve done and the result of trust, well thought through ideas and creative freedom.
The podcast page of Owen's new website
An incredible moment: seeing the podcast enter Spotify's trending charts in early February 2021
“Richard and his team produced incredible work that transformed my social channels.
“They worked to a very last minute schedule and delivered a result I honestly could not have been happier with.”
Brilliant broadcaster branding
We’ve been thrilled to work with Owen on this project which acts as a really smart case study of broadcaster branding.
If this is something you need, why not get in touch to discuss a wide range of different approaches? We can work on designs featuring anything from banners to animations, depending on your brief and budget.
Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email us direct.