To help Cartoon Network bring to life its vision of a brand expansion strategy that included a new look and tone, the international creative design and production studio Brand New School partnered with the network's creative team to produce a look and sensibility that would allow them to have a dialogue with its audience across an array of platforms.
The network chose to embrace its brand visual heritage of the black and white checkerboard by imbuing it with new meaning, and the artists and producers of BNS were able to bring this idea to life in a fresh, compelling way using dimension, color and movement. All the new design elements began appearing in late May, and the new on-air IDs premiered on the network this week.
"Our brand expansion represents our commitment to delivering a breadth of content that our audience cannot find anywhere else," said Senior Vice President of Creative Direction, Michael Ouweleen. "The checkerboard is in our DNA and is not only reflected in the subtle redesign of the logo but also provides a through line that connects and helps frame our diverse slate of programming from animation to live-action. The art direction and creative acumen of the Brand New School and their ability to breathe new into the iconic was invaluable and helped us achieve our goal."
BNS founder and creative director Jonathan Notaro, along with art directors Eric Adolfsen and Mike Calvert, provided detailed insights into the conceptual thinking behind the multifaceted brand expansion project, where their approaches emphasized interconnectedness across each and every deliverable, as well as the pairing of extremely thoughtful design with animation geared toward generating specific audience responses, including laughter.
"This has been a very exciting opportunity for us to be closely involved with Cartoon Network and their continued evolution," Notaro began. "The new on-air identity complements its diverse range of visual languages, and leverages our design expertise by incorporating specific, creative means for consistently packaging the network's editorial humor into every second of each broadcast day."
By combining their design ideas within the organizational approach, the BNS team is pleased to have created a meta-narrative that uses the complete visual identity system to creatively convey the interconnectedness of the channel's content. From the promos to the menus to the bumps to the IDs, each piece tells the same story from a different perspective, where the checkerboard functions like a chessboard, with infinite moves possible.
"Because we'd created such a gridded and structured designs for the overall approach, it became imperative that the movement of these pieces felt snappy, fast-paced, and above all, playful and full of life," said Calvert. "Our animators developed a language that's rooted in familiar physical interactions, but caricatured and amplified into something incredibly captivating and energetic."
It was important to Cartoon Network that each day part be distinct and branded with its own color, humor and expanding level of complexity. "We wanted to share on-air the excitement we found in the initial explorations of the checkerboard and the grid," said Adolfsen. "From the first to the last second of each day, we looked for ways to consistently surprise viewers and build on the language of the checkerboard, eventually creating a visual shorthand the audience could embrace."
The creation of each animated asset in the project was led by BNS's Hyesung Park, Arthur Hur and Andy Mastrocinque. Among many elements created by various artists under their supervision is a series of 14 short, black-and-white animated IDs, each of which derives visually from the letter forms of the newly designed Cartoon Network logo.
As summarized by Calvert, "Our enthusiasm for the brand reached every pocket of this redesign, culminating in the ID system we developed," explained Calvert. For the ID's, Brand New School established a simple rule: make a black and white animation based on each of the 14 letters of the words Cartoon Network. "The idents are both a nod to the channel's history as well as an opportunity to curate the artists we love. They're a celebration of every form of animation, from hand-drawn cel to 3D."