Friday, September 18, 2015

From 1959: ABC's trailblazing triangular symbol

Next week it will be 60 years since the arrival of commercial television in the United Kingdom, and ahead of this we look back at some identity design classics used by the ITV companies.

ABC Television (ABC for "Associated British Corporation") was the name of a British commercial television company that was active between 1956 and 1968. Of the four large companies that dominated British television during this period, it was the smallest, broadcasting only on weekends in the Midlands and Northern England. It did however manage to make a name for itself, primarily through distinctive drama programming.

ABC Television was owned by ABC Cinemas and its initial symbol was an adapted version of the cinema chain's symbol, an inverted triangle. After a few years on-air, the company commissioned a new symbol.

It was to be designed by June Fraser who worked for Design Research Unit, one of the leading industrial design groups in Britain at the time. Fraser had joined DRU in 1957. To my knowledge, this is one of the first major corporate symbols to be designed by a woman.

ABC wanted a symbol that was linked to the old one, but also one that could animate on screen and could work on stationary, vehicles and signage. In the ident that preceeded programming, three arrows would fall toward the middle of the screen and the join together to form the ABC symbol.

The new triangle was introduced in 1959 and was used for the rest of ABC's period as an independent company. In 1968, the regulator forced ABC to merge with the London-based counterpart Rediffusion to form Thames Television and the symbol was retired.

Fraser would eventually become a partner at DRU and later a director, staying with the company until 1980 when she joined the John Lewis Partnership as design director.

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