Collins’ CNET rebrand cuts through digital doomscrolling with a chopped and trimmed wordmark
The news outlet’s rebrand has one foot planted in journalism history and the other in the future – tied together with an instantly memorable new wordmark.
- Liz Gorny
- 30 May 2022
When CNET first approached Collins for its rebrand, the design company was faced with realising an interesting new direction for the organisation. “On one hand, it was as if they were creating an entirely different news outlet, but still calling it CNET,” says Tom Elia, creative director at Collins. “And on the other hand, this new iteration was still firmly based on their belief in providing expertise and usefulness.” This union of the old and new offers a perfect metaphor for describing the look and feel of the new CNET design. Fusing references of 1950s-1970s non-partisan broadcast journalism with surrealist, near-science fiction imagery, Collins hopes to carve a brand in contrast to the “daily firehose of information” within today’s news cycle, it explains in a release.
To signal this positioning away from the current news landscape of “partisan publications” and “clickbait factories”, the wordmark had to become “radically different”, says Tom. But it also had to reference back to CNET’s established trust and reliability. The brilliant solution came in the form of a CNET wordmark that uses custom serif typography to fit the four-letter name into the proportions of a square, trimming off any outside serifs. The update on the lower case sans serif that CNET had used for the last 30 years unites the individual typographic gestures of each letter – from the drastic curves of a ‘C’ to the rigid vertical ‘T’ and ‘E’ – into one bold lock up. The result also nods to the history of journalism, particularly the recognisability of mastheads from previous “legendary newspapers and magazines”, explains Jump Jirakaweekul, design director at Collins.
Jump continues: “We looked at the big three broadcasters and PBS stations in the United States from that era, as well as their news programmes and other popular news magazines of the time. In general, we felt like they were monuments to the press, but in the form of bold, memorable, almost iconic wordmarks. They seemed to say: this is foundational, this is trustworthy, this is bigger than the people doing the writing and reporting.”
Paired with this to-the-point brand foundation, Collins has layered fascinating, more surrealist imagery into the mix. To innovate a predominantly photographic editorial platform, the design company turned to illustrator Robert Beatty, whose style also speaks to the open, non-partisan approach CNET aims to champion. “We were drawn to surrealist illustration because it’s never a mirror of the viewer’s life — it’s open to interpretation [...] We want these illustrations to provoke questions, not shut them down.” Beatty’s visuals were also chosen for their fusion of a “forward-looking style as well as a nod backward”, which is highly fitting for the project.
Finally, toeing the line between “authoritative and friendly” – two central ingredients for establishing trust – is CNET’s new typeface, Sentinel. The slab serif typeface was chosen for two reasons: its eye-catching nature and, crucially for a news outlet, readability over large display and smaller scale formats. “We also liked that a slab serif typeface nodded to CNET’s previous logo that had some slab elements in its original forms," the release states.
Ultimately, the design company hopes that this reliable approach to branding will show audiences that the news can be something more than “fleeting ideological talking points or mindless clickbait”. Instead, it's “a useful tool that improves their lives every day,” concludes the release.
Collins: CNET (Copyright © CNET, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.