Sketchy details 

7 January 2014


What is your first memory of the television set being on? Some maybe reminded of images from programmes which have stuck in their head, others catchy theme music then come the moving images so unique, that are hypnotic to young eyes. The television ident, for all with the amount of design which they have put into them are most memorable in itself. From the simple to the sublime, it is these designs put on a scale with other design classics of their age.

For myself, they were the gateway to the programmes themselves, mini masterpieces placed in front. But before the days of the access of the internet, the only way of recalling them was to physically draw them down on some paper. In some cases, this was either on any old scrap of paper, but such was the meticulous of recreating them. I would fill pages and pages of drawing pads with colour representations of the latest ITV logos of the time.

Now some, like the actual idents themselves were easier to commit to paper. The London Weekend Television logo being one of the easiest to draw and when shown as a still ident or caption one of the most most iconic. By not having, a huge budget and also animation department to hand, just two felt tip pens would suffice by drawing the letters L, W and T, producing a quite satisfactory result overall on a page. The more daring, would take the logo and reproduce to almost artistic form by drawing by pencil, colouring in the ident and also the background as well as the lettering. But we didn’t have for this and a simple sketch would just do, as it would look like an impression of the LWT river ident.

This may seem strange to some, but at some point and another everyone has had a go at designing something or other from their imagination, from fantasy bus liveries and logos, through drawing space rockets to even designing imaginary football kits. Now they may seem a distant memory to most, to others they became the reality themselves. Even Kif Bowden-Smith of this website when recalling his younger days in ‘Kif’s Story’ at the affiliate site the Meldrum Home Pages, tried to predict the identities of the incoming ITA franchises in 1968 by doodling them on his writing books whilst at school. But such was the power of drawing them for myself each time I saw a new ident from companies which had passed or even asking people what they look like, I would try and draw them, fervently trying to recreate them as I understood them to be without any pictures or guides to go on.

Being a viewer in the Southern/TVS area as a child, these were easy to remember even from a hazy memory of them. But they were not always to get right though, the actual details of the Anglia Knight was difficult to do because of the model itself. Having only felt tips and paper, it was hardly the most accurate drawing at all. As having never drawn a proper horse before, it could be tricky at the best of times! The Thames ident from 1968 to 1989 was similarly so, a photographic like ident, it was easy to some of the buildings both ways up, but other with their intricate details were nigh on impossible to do.

Though it was the excitement of seeing something you had done, even though drawn from memory on a piece of paper. That it was almost as good as what was appearing on the screen at the time, when Channel Four launched, it was out with the pens copying the logo and even by pulling in it close to your face humming the channel’s ident music, it seemed real and something that had been created by your fair hand was as good as any graphics department could do for a lot more money.

Come the mid 80s when the new ITV franchises had settled down, their identities were getting clearer as new companies went for a more sparse approach, but others would slightly confused the young child. For instance, TSW’s ident of hills and the sea seemed some what odd to my eyes at that age. Was it a palm tree leaf, was an Opera House? Who knew! The classic symbols were there like never changing Granada and its ‘G’ with an umbrella, HTV still tinkling happily away with its simple aerial-like logo and Central sounding like a mixture of a fanfare and the Let’s Pretend music as it came on to the screen at the start of Family Fortunes or such like.

The mid 80s was to have a shock though, London Weekend Television, ever dependable dropping down from the top of the screen had changed. No more dropping, more like revolving and fading in. TVS had changed from the bright flower to what looked like a Fox’s Glacier Mint with a blue greyish background. Even the ever dependable Thames and Anglia had changed, Anglia’s horseman riding into the sunset to herald a flag like logo which fluttered in the virtual breeze and Thames for their 21st birthday celebrations had got a simple skyline on an inverted triangle baring the moniker ‘Thames XXI’, now knowing that XXI meant twenty-one it seemed spectacularly special to me. The virtual revolution was well in effect, more was to come though.

Having got used to them in current form, there then came an event which was to change ITV ident wise forever. Their had been branding for ITV previously, but not prevalent on screen at all. Whenever something was required to introduce a wholly networked programme, a simple ‘Independent Television Presents’ would suffice, making the next programme seem special. Although amazingly when Bruce Forsyth sung about getting the network together on his first ever edition of his Big Night in Autumn 1978, the programme still had the LWT logo introducing it. It might have been seen itself at the same time in all the ITV regions, but LWT firmly made everyone know it was their production. But come 1989 and with Greg Dyke coming to the ITV Network Centre at that time, what was to be a uniform look was conceived to rival the BBC’s presentation, with a series of catchy promotions on the channel itself, it did look good until the realisation that the logos were going to be squeezed into the ‘V’ of the new ITV look. For some it worked, the London companies used this new identity all the time, remembering it appeared on television screens all the time when ever I went to London as a child. Though for others like TVS, it was on with a new look, though similar to the last one they had, only the background colour had changed for a more pleasing silvery grey colour.

ITV’s corporate was hear to stay with it making appearances on the new national weather service, its sports coverage and also its refreshed children’s strand, even employing ex-Magpie presenter Tommy Boyd as its anchor in contrast to the BBC’s Phillip Schofield as it was produced in-house after being let out to an independent producer for a couple of years. Though for me the ITV Sport logo heralded live football on a Sunday afternoon in ‘The Match’, so it was a double edged sword where once the LWT logo had been seen before the top games of the day, now a seeming clean corporate logo took its place instead.

Though the new ITV logo was quite easy to draw, but it had also taken away the change to see each companies’ identities at the start of the programme, just with a still ident appearing at the end of each programmes declaring for instance it was a ‘Border Television Production for ITV’ with the familiar stylised ‘B’ logo above this pronouncement, it was different and some ways maybe quite backwards as well.

But much like anything, as time goes on with the willingness faded as new things enter my life having gone to a new school in September 1990 and started to witness new things that I had not seen before. So the ident drawings went on the back burner and maybe for good, though that was until the new millennium with the embryonic Television Ark website where along with TV World, I could see these logos once again and new ones for the very first time. It was OK, seeing these idents again like long lost friends but the hunger to design was still inside me. When at school, I had thoughts of becoming a graphic designer for television but neither my exam results and aptitude were good enough to do that. Though that was until when I was search the internet one day in the year 2000 when I came across the Java-TV website offering an alternative version of ITV companies if they had continued and not lost their franchises, it was different certainly and it was a good idea. Not so shortly after that like Chase Irwin on this sight I found the Afternoon Programmes Follow Shortly website and decided to join their forum, soon enough I was designing idents again for a notional ITV all networked service, a pre 1982 Channel Four and even a fictional West of England ITA franchise, putting even a anagrammed version of myself in charge!

I was back drawing idents again and later participated in the APFS Network game myself, co-owning a franchise with someone else but as time went on I disillusioned with that I saw as infighting between older and younger members of the site each fighting their corners in the game itself and the identity of the fictional network changed and changed again with new rules and other new blood coming in as well, it had been good but by this time I had other things to move onto such as becoming a hospital radio presenter and also being amateur comedy writer, later retaking two of my GCSE’s which I had spectacularly failed on three separate occasions. So it was time for me to bow out gracefully in the end as the Afternoon Programmes Follow Shortly website closed down and places for making mock idents were few and far between.

Coming to myself social media in the last few years, I have discovered new friends who had the same interest in television as me and knew what I was talking about when I said to them that I had drawn television logos as a child. It seems they had done also and many of them made their hobby even their life’s work preserving television idents and presentation of the past for future generations to enjoy. Some I even learnt had been fellow contributors to the Afternoon Programmes Follow Shortly website itself, from not knowing anyone who had done this and thinking it was only me, here was a whole people who had done exactly the same themselves! It may have been a case of knowing from afar really, but for quite a lot of them the passion remains to still design new logos and presentation. Even today new sites like TV Live Presents are springing up for new fantasy idents and presentation, maybe of a fictional world to ours. But in the proof for so long, it really does seem like the pen is mightier then the sword and besides, its still as tricky to do the fine detailing on the Anglia Knight with a pen!

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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1 response to this article

Rachel Collins-Lister 11 October 2019 at 4:35 pm

In my handwriting, the number 77 bears a strong resemblance to the Tyne Tees logo of the 70s/80s.

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