Highly skilled and decidedly diverse, the BBC’s in-house creative agency, BBC Creative, is shaking things up.
If there is one in-house design team shaking up design, it has to be BBC Creative. The British Broadcasting Company’s in-house creative agency launched in 2016 and has since released a bespoke font, a revamp of BBC brands and countless street art projects.
According to the BBC charter, the organization aims “to be the most creative organisation in the world,” so BBC Creative follows suit, with the mission of “making creative and engaging marketing materials such as trails, idents and graphics, in order to bring to the attention of audiences around the globe the vast range of BBC programmes and services available to them.”
The London-based creative team is led by executive creative director Laurent Simon and head of creative Laurence Honderick. Both help direct and develop BBC’s brand material, graphic design and identity, and both are typography enthusiasts, which their portfolios show.
Portrait shot of management team (from left to right): James Wood, head of production | Justin Bairamian, director | Michael Lean, head of planning | Mandy Combes, head of operations | Laurent Simon, executive creative director | Aidan McClure, executive creative director
According to Simon and Honderick, BBC Creative is made up of 30 designers who work on hundreds of projects every year. “Our designers have highly diverse technical makeup,” Honderick says. “They’re skilled in motion, print, digital, and [they are] graphic designers working across an extremely broad range of promotional and identity work for the BBC; some have been with us since the beginning , others have been more recent additions, strategically deployed to enable us to think bigger as we progress our creative ambitions.”
When BBC Creative is choosing their designers, they go beyond looking at just a CV or a portfolio. “Their backgrounds are as diverse as their skill sets, not only in terms of how they found their way to design, but culturally, as well,” Honderick says. “Our designers come from all over Great Britain and from all over the world. We’ve found that the different approaches and values which come with a diverse department serves only to broaden our creative outlook and understanding.”
The most prominent BBC Creative projects over the past year, ones of which Honderick and Simon are most proud, include The Supporting Act, a two-minute Christmas-themed animated film that shares a heartwarming family story; and the BBC Sport brand refresh, which was meant to reflect the changes in the audience’s consumption of content across TV and digital platforms. For the sports brand refresh, BBC Creative worked in partnership with BBC Marketing, UX and TV Graphics and design agency Studio Output for a new logo, font using their bespoke font BBC Reith, color palette and a modular system for BBC Sport to convey text in a more consistent way across all platforms.
To support BBC Reith, BBC Creative launched a poster campaign and continued roll-out of the Reith typeface across the BBC brand portfolio. The font was created in partnership with leading typographers Dalton Maag, an independent design firm with an office in London. For the font, BBC Creative had the responsibility of coming up with a campaign targeting the 20,000 BBC employees. “Typography might be exciting if you sit in design or UX, but that feeling might not be shared if you’re legal or HR,” Simon says. “The brief was about getting everyone excited and for them to understand what BBC Reith [is] and why it’s relevant for their day-to-day.”
The BBC Reith poster campaign was rolled out internally across all the U.K. sites, including White City, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast, Salford, Glasgow and Westminster. Their online campaign had a fun A–Z guide highlighting 26 reasons as to why BBC Reith made business sense and had purpose.
The team’s biggest challenge in putting together the new typeface was staying consistent and versatile simultaneously. “From an advertising or creative perspective, the strength of the Reith font family is that it offered plenty of flexibility to be playful with the poster designs,” Simon says. “We were able to tailor the messages not only according to its functional benefits but also make it relevant to all the departments of the BBC, be it legal, HR or marketing.”
Another key project launched recently by the team was their street art campaign for BBC Three’s Sorry Not Sorry, a TV show that kicked off in 2017 celebrating the transgender community in the U.K. “We wanted to encourage young people to be unapologetic for who they are by subverting the British cliche of saying sorry,” Simon says. “BBC Creative is always bubbling with interesting projects, and in 2019, there are great opportunities to be seized, be it with Sport, the big BBC brands, or new and returning programs—as well as a couple of surprises.”
The in-house agency has been in the spotlight quite a bit recently, as London-based design firm Spin Studio gave BBC Creative’s in-house creative team its own branded graphic. It’s a playful take on the widely-recognized BBC logo, which has been around since the 1960s, accompanied by the letter ‘C,’ which changes form in an animated graphic. It ties into the team’s love of typography today, which they’ve seen a change of in the industry. “I’d certainly like to see more good typography more often,” Honderick says. “Great work and innovation is always out there if you look for it, but too often what you see in the world at large appears to be lazy or unconsidered.”
Could technology be replacing good design? Maybe. “It feels as though in the last decade, the arms race between design agencies in the field of broadcasting has disproportionately favored technological advances, like high-end 3D, for instance, over the progression of classical design standards such as those of typography,” Honderick says. “We’re at an interesting point in this narrative, as aptitudes in once-specialist technologies such as cinema 4D are becoming so widespread that industry players will soon be forced to reevaluate what gives them a technical edge over the competition, and a renaissance in classical design standards seems a possible outcome, and a welcome one, at that.”
Photos courtesy BBC Creative
Hear from IBM Design’s Bethany Sonefeld on what she sees as the benefits of winning a HOW In-House Design Award, and what impact it had on her career:
“We’ve seen adoption rates actually increase within IBM due to the press and marketing from our HOW award. We’ve also had designers and developers from other companies reach out who are interested in learning more about the system, how they could adopt or use it, and what benefits a design system could provide them with.
“I had the opportunity to speak at UX Pin’s Virtual Design Summit in February to share the story behind Carbon, and I feel that was a direct result of the press from HOW.”
—Bethany Sonefeld, design lead, Carbon Design System, IBM Design