In the fall of 2015, AMI-tv, a Canadian national cable channel for the blind and low-vision, launched a refreshed on-air look and sound for the brand. But let’s rewind, to the spring.
We were informed that there would be a significant program shift in our prime time line-up that coming fall, with an emphasis on modern dramas. The new schedule brought great potential to see new viewers come to AMI-tv. But would our current branding satisfy our new audience, and was it still representative of the channel? Or was this an opportunity to modernize the brand, elevate the design, and provide even greater satisfaction and independence to the unique community we serve.
I recognized that this was our chance to move the brand forward, there was an obvious need, and with the upcoming volume drop as we awaited delivery of the new programs, a window of opportunity for execution. I presented the case for our need to refresh our on-air branding to all of the executive stakeholders from Marketing, Programming, and Production, and was given the green light to proceed with the initiative. The next step was get a better understanding of the marketplace, and share that knowledge with all of the stakeholders on what the landscape of modern television branding looked like. I led a presentation on the state of current television graphics, particularly from channels that had similar program styles or variety, that identified trends, compared strategies, and analyzed the accessibility merits of different approaches and designs.
Refreshing any television brand will have it’s challenges. Refreshing a television brand for an audience who may not be able to see the television, is an entirely different matter. We needed to find ways to increase the accessibility of the creative, while elevating the design to meet the expectations of the modern television viewer. The network also serves an audience that is as diverse as the population itself, and has a broad mix of programming to represent that diversity. We needed a design that was flexible enough to be inclusive of the different programs, and feel natural throughout the entire schedule. Another consideration was the usability of the new graphics package; with a small creative department, it was imperative to develop a look that would not be overly taxing on our resources once implemented.
After establishing our primary pillars, which laid the foundation for how we would approach every decision, we looked at specific goals we wanted the new branding to achieve.
The most accessible graphics package on television. Accessibility is who we are.
Confident look and feel. We’re the world leader in broadcast accessibility, we need to live it, for our audience to trust it.
Modern and timeless. Our audience is widely diverse in age, this was essential to creating a brand that all viewers can “own”. It was also a key component in our Longevity pillar.
High-end, emotes quality and substance. We expected a new audience with higher expectations.
Increased visual variety. We are commercial free, but run traditional break structures filled with promos. Variety was key to creating engaging breaks, and providing the flexibility to promote our full schedule with the greatest effectiveness.
Usability and adaptability. This was an important goal for the overall success of the rebranding. Resource light packaging, fast rendering, and the flexibility to integrate any future elements or requirements with the design.
Clean, minimalist aesthetic
Flat, black and white colour scheme, with corporate green as primary accent
Boxes and rectangles as primary design element – This doubles as an accessibility feature, allowing full control over contrast. The strong lines and geometry also reinforce the confidence of the network
Bold primary font – Helvetica Neue Condensed Bold. Highly legible and readable, identifiable, but doesn’t overpower.
Simple, smooth animations, based on digital sensibilities
Signature logo animations
Visually diverse, while maintaining brand consistency
Thematic flexibility – Allows us to promote programs in a more targeted and authentic way
Greater simplicity and consistency in promotion tags.
Confident and trustworthy VO
Unobtrusive, minimal sound design – Doesn’t drive tone of messaging, allows content and promotions to stand out-front.
From an idea that was first proposed in the spring, to a shiny new channel in the fall, the AMI-tv brand refresh was a success on all levels. Our focus group research from our target community has revealed an overwhelmingly positive response to the updated branding, with the increased accessibility being cited as a key benefit. The simplified, and more targeted approach to promotional tags has been lauded for increasing viewership in high-value time slots.
We were able to accomplish a project of the highest value, that will define our brand for years to come, as efficiently and cost effectively as possible; entirely in-house, with a single creative lead, and one additional designer/animator. The entire package was delivered on-time, as were all work-back deadlines.
In the year since the launch of the brand refresh, the usability and adaptability considerations have paid dividends, we have increased productivity by reducing render and edit times, and now have greater flexibility and direction to tackle new creative challenges while staying on brand.
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