08 September 2014

[logo] Goodby KGW NewsChannel 8, Hello, KGW8

A few weeks into the new graphics change over at 15th and SW Jefferson, and here are a couple of thoughts about that.

Portland's KGW-TV is one of the senior members of the broadcasting world; that it should get by on only three letters in its call-sign should tell you that – the system was rationalized a bit sometime during the 1930s/40s to only allow four-letter callsigns, and the three-letter ones were grandfathered in. KGW, to be specific, has broadcasted in one form or another since 1922.

During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, KGW seemed to change looks more often than any other station locally, at least as far as I can remember. In 1995, however, it went to the coinage Northwest NewsChannel 8, and then in 1996 firmed up the look: A wide one, with the word Northwest reversed out of a red stripe, NewsChannel in condensed bold italicized, and a comparatively-dainty 8 in a blue box of its own.

Myself, I found the coinage rather awkward to say, and a bit confusing actually; to me, a News Channel is one that has news on all the time, or most of the time, kind of like CNN was before you couldn't watch it without pulling a face while you raced to change the channel to something that wouldn't melt your head. It also subsumed the individual station identity, which I felt should always include the call-sign. But it worked for KGW, and it (or some version - in 2008, a version of the NewsChannel 8 logo mostly based on the FF DIN font once again highlighting the call-sign debuted, of which I approved) served stalwart duty as KGW's identity for nearly 20 years.

Reently, Belo, the company which owned KGW (and its Seattle sisters, KING and KIRO) underwent a major rearrangement, dividing its print media from its broadcast media into two separate companies. Subsequently, the broadcast media side was purchased by Gannett (the same company that publishes both USA Today and, locally, the Statesman-Journal down Salem way). And the changes rang.

This is was KGW's NewsChannel 8's logo:

… and this is KGW 8's logo now:

KGW's new logo look approaches design by pretty much eschewing design. It's a simple, stark thing now, the only thing brought forward being the the unique detail of the bevelled end of the G's cross-bar, which I've tried to use to identify the font this was constructed out of with, so far, no success (the closest WhatTheFont seems to come to is the 205 foundry's Maax Bold) (Update here: It's my understanding now that the font used here is Gotham, and KGW's graphic design king Jeff Patterson did that tweaking). It wins on the uncomplicated level, proving that sometimes next-to-no design is actually pretty successful design.

Another thing that this design does do fairly well is mesh with the station's new graphics. Gannett's USA Today original design brought us sections with color-coding, and KGW's new on-air graphic approach follows this logic too. Reading what I could get and following what I could on-line reveals that Gannett has a sort of empire style and all the broadcast properties carry this forward, including KGW's new website design, which is clear, clean, fairly tight, and works a great deal like USA Today's website does. The fonts on the website, according to the WhatFont bookmarklet I have installed in my Opera browser, indicate 2 fonts used overall: A version of Futura developed especially for USA Today's use called Futura Today, used for the menu headers across the top of the page, and Arial, which seems to be used for pretty much everything else.

And it all clicks pretty well together, proving that if you use it just right, Arial can be an asset rather than looking like the font you used because you didn't feel like going with anything other than the default.

The lower-thirds of the KGW news on-air presentation have been thoroughly revamped. They're harder-working now: the story being reported on occupies the large upper portion of the strip, with a colored line along the top indicating the 'department' the story falls into. Along the skinnier portion of the new chyron, the next three stories coming up are announced, with a similar colored bar immediately to each story's left noting their department:

The color along the top of SUPERHEROES SURPRISE BURN VICTIM here is purple, denoting a Feature story; the three upcoming stories have blue bars, denoting Local stories. They have a congruence with the USA Today scheme (they use the same colors for Weather and for Money, for example). While each report is running, if location or person ID information becomes necessary to display, the large title moves down and the necessary information appears in a smaller point-size in gray superior to the large title.

That's not all, of course. As these YouTube clips will show, the same approach is now being used by KGW's sisters. KING-5 in Seattle's looks like this (and gives a snappy example of how the new chyron works):

… and this is what NWCN's (Northwest Cable News) opening looks like now …

I've watched the KGW deploying of same, and I actually like it a great deal. Teasing stories is a tactic the programs use to keep you tuned in, and I understand this, but there's teasing and there's aggravating. Seeing exactly what they have coming up is a Good Thing™ and I very much approve.

Even though KGW is essentially using Gannett empire style, which is a sort of thing I usually dread, I find myself having to admit that, if it's a uniform thing, at least it does its job well. It's hard to be concise and informative, and on that level, at least, it's a success. 

No comments: