Little arrows 

24 May 2004


We are at a point in time where individuality has given way to the corporate, with little regard for the differences that add variety. So it is with ITV1, which was previously known as just plain old ITV.

If you were to go back further in time, you would be entranced by each ITV contractor’s trademark, some of which reflected an area’s sense of history, but mostly reflected the parent company’s involvement in some way. Compare Anglia’s knight with the ABC triangle, or Scottish Television’s rampant lion with the A-R adastral.

My fascination has always been with the Granada arrow, not just because it is the local ITV station for me either. It is almost iconic in some way, and follows the original rule that a symbol has to mean something – although one could argue that there is absolutely no ambiguity in the Granada logo at all. Confused? Please read on.

In the beginning, there was no arrow at all. In 1934, the theatre and cinema interests of brothers Sidney and Cecil Bernstein, based in London, were incorporated into a new company called Granada – a name typical of the 1930s, with exotic overtones. Over the next twenty years, Granada became a major player in entertainment, and was determined to keep their lead at whatever cost. The development of television did not go unnoticed by the Bernsteins, who attempted to get licences to show televised sporting fixtures in their cinemas, and were refused by the Postmaster General.

But when commercial television became a reality, Granada applied for the franchise for the North of England area, on the rather odd premise that if the weather was bad, people would stay in and watch television.

CC41 Utility Granada

There had to be an on-screen logo to reflect this in some way. An arrow, with a compass pivot, pointed at the letter “N” of the word “GRANADA”, and implied that the company name was paramount, as well as being Northern. It looks now to be very much a product of the Richard Hamilton/”This Is Tomorrow” graphic design concurrent in 1956. This was later called ‘pop art’ – and arrows can also be seen in the logos of TV shows, the opening titles of the Tony Hancock film “The Rebel”, and as part of the logo of the rock group The Who. Defiant, vainglorious, spiky – the arrow demands that you look at the name.

And yet, research indicates that the symbol actually used was not the first draft. A book on graphic design showed an arrow, coupled with a “G” pointing west. It looks very similar to the WW2 “CC41” utility mark, and because of the heaviness of the lines used may not have worked well on-screen. The Granada Media logo used at the turn of the 1990s bears resemblance to this early draft, but may just be coincidence.

There were two early variants of the first Granada symbol, the most controversial being the version where the “N” is bumped by a rising arrow: Sidney Bernstein was extremely unhappy at what appears on first viewing to be a frivolous idea, debasing the company name.

It took only a few years from their first broadcast to use the slogan “From The North” to emphasise the origination of Granada’s programmes. This came at a time when the ITV network had expanded to cover all the major population centres, and had the effect of establishing Granada as a major on the national network.

from the North

The letters appeared in blocks, in white on black, and then later in black on white with a grey background. There was even an animated version (with no musical jingle, curiously) in which the arrow pointed at the “From The North” by-line, and the letters flipped over. Peter York, on “The Late Show” in October 1989, said that the ident looked as if Granada owned the North. This strong identification, along with the emphasis on northern subjects in programming, led to the company calling the area “Granadaland” – an epithet that is retained to this day.

There were a number of variations on the Granada idents, like the export caption in which a map of the UK was shown with a huge arrow pointing to Manchester, and the simpler endcap in which the arrow was shown at the top over the words “Granada Production”. Another was used for a local news/continuity strand showing “Granada In The North”.

As I stated earlier, smaller companies used names that identified with their areas, along with local symbolism: there is nothing “London” about the Rediffusion Adastral, or anything “North and Midlands” about the ABC triangle. However, after 1964, the ITA wanted to see more local identification amongst the companies, and ATV and Rediffusion made sure to show this on their network shows, following Granada’s lead. (Curiously, ABC did not follow suit).

The story of the 1967 franchise reallocation is well known: Granada, after the threat from Sidney Bernstein that if Granadaland was interfered with, he would go to the United Nations, found themselves with half their original area and a seven-day contract. “From The North” was out and “From The North West” didn’t sound so good – but was used on local magazine programmes anyway. So the simple name “Granada” was used, between two lines, with no arrow at all, by management edict.

In 1968, some of the new franchisees seemed to adopt minimalist concepts – have a name with no symbol – look at the “From Thames without a skyline” logo, or at London Weekend’s first attempts for examples. Unfortunately, rather than establishing their names, it made little impact, and eventually even LWT formulated idents for use pre- and post-programme.

The classic Granada logo

Granada took about a year to come up with something, and when they did it appear to be purely by chance. A new arrow was drawn up, for use on T-shirts given away on a children’s programme, and Sidney Bernstein decided it should be adopted. This “G-arrow” has become one of the best-known trademarks in the world, and yet there have been little subtle “tweaks” of the logo’s specification. Some of the early versions have a longer tail between the G and the arrow’s point: the first colour version has “Granada” in yellow, above a white G-arrow on a blue background (later changed to “Granada” in white above a yellow G-arrow).

The Granada symbol has been used a great deal longer than many others, certainly in the competitive television market, and the company used the logo for its TV rental business and motorway service stations also. It has been animated, often with music, and rendered into 3-D. However, its greatest threat came in 1989, with the establishment of a generic ITV ident, which reduced a lot of the company trademarks to pennants.

Granada’s was not even recognisable, and remained unused – and a number of the other franchisees refused to use their variations too. Maybe that was the reason for Granada to unveil their “blue ribbon” ident, showing the symbol in silver.

This appeared in the form of a flag, and with a small red arrow (over the G-arrow) pointing northwest on regional programmes. Sometimes it appeared with light and shade, and the later version (dark blue, blue background) omitted the word “Granada” completely.

Granada used the “G-arrow” in a lot of other ways – a bar of soap in a bathroom, as a footballer, on a Fender Stratocaster guitar – which rivalled BBC-2’s efforts for ingenuity. There were seasonal versions, most of which followed the ITV template, but Granada came up with their own, notably the very beautiful and ethereal Millennium design.

In 1999, the ITV “hearts” logo was adopted across the board, with almost the entire network using the company symbol over the ITV one. Granada’s ended up in a small blue box. The hearts sequences were heavily promoted at first, but later disappeared without fanfare. Then, in August 2001, “ITV1” appeared on the captions – strong evidence that there were intentions afoot to rebrand the entire ITV network, thus losing company names. By Christmas, there was also a seasonal ITV1 ident too, and rumours were rife of a Carlton-style rebranding by Granada.

New Granada logo

That did not happen, but yet again the “G-arrow” be under threat. For a little while, Granada have used a new typeface for their name on DVD/video releases, and this has been appearing at the end of programmes produced by companies under Granada’s management. While not exactly attractive, it lends itself well to computer animation, looks good on their various websites and seems to contain three arrows if one looks at the three incomplete “A”s in the logo. It is yet to be seen if this is a break with the past, or a look to the future, but the signs are that it is here to stay. And in an ironic way, isn’t that just like Granada?

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