19 March 2009

Sci Fi Channel To Change Logo, Open Rift In Time And Space

1987.The Sci Fi Channel has served up to us SF fans a heaping helping of world-changing stuff over the years, from swell-done to shouldn't-a done, but regardless, it's a channel that's near and dear to most of our hearts–and not just for making Battlestar Galactica artistically relevant, elevating it from some dorky 70s "me-too" version of Star Wars for television.

Now they plan on messing with the very fabric of time and space itself. Over the next several months, culminating on 7th June, they plan on utterly remaking thier image and identity.

Good bye, Sci Fi ... hello, "Syfy". get a look for yourself:

Stunning. Well, I'm stunned, anyway.

Set logo on "stun".

Okay, I'm done with that witticism. Promise.

Such a strange redesign begs comments and questions. The New York Times's Stuart Elliott covers it quite aptly by casting light on several aspects of branding that no doubt went through the minds of the creative team who evolved this.

They're good questions to ask; how do we differentiate, how do we stand out, with our brand? How do we make ourselves like nobody else in this arena? And, most importantly, how do we come up with a brand that we can copyright? Stuart Elliott:

One big advantage of the name change, the executives say, is that Sci Fi is vague — so generic, in fact, that it could not be trademarked. Syfy, with its unusual spelling, can be, which is also why diapers are called Luvs, an online video Web site is called Joost and a toothpaste is called Gleem.

And that's also why Intel gave us the Pentium, instead of giving us the i686 (the processor names up until that time, for instance the 486, came from the part designation (80486, which couldn't be copyrighted as it I think referenced an industry-wide spec).

But what I'm thinking of is the throwing away of a quite-nicely done current-logo. The ringed-planet constructed by two sweeping arcs and a type which in its clean clear regularity suggests streamlined futurism is very approprate. The structure of the logo, with the ringed planet acknowledging the type and the type acknowledging the ringed planet is impeccable. It says what it needs to say.

Syfy says ... well, what, though? It's trademarkable, sure. But it means nothing outside of what history connects it to the entity it represents. Sci Fi executives in the article are quoted as saying that this doesn't "throw the baby out with the bathwater". I extremely disagree here. "Syfy" would look as at-home on a pack of water crackers at the European import food store as it would ... well anywhere actually. The tagline Imagine Greater would work just as well on ... well, anything that wants you to aspire to buy it.

The tough part about design punditry is that having an opinion on something not only compels you to say how you'd do it better but also how well you'd think it would do. To those questions, I have but two answers: 1: I would have left it alone and stuck to creating game-changing science-fiction media, like BSG, and 2: it's going to leave a lot of Sci Fi's consumers, many of whom I read already pretty p*ssed about what I hear is the inconsistent content quality, scratching their heads with a hearty WTF?

But you can't really tell until they use it a while. They may well be running this one up the flagpole to see who salutes. We'll see.

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