It’s been nearly 51 years to the day since the BBC hit the on switch and started beaming out Radio 1 across the length and breadth of the UK. The first voice to greet curious new listeners was that of the broadcasting legend Tony “Pick of the Pops” Blackburn, a man who sounds like he could smile his way through a minor disaster.
“And, good morning everyone,” Tony said, presumably aware that his dulcet tones were talking themselves into history. “Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1.”
From the late, great John Peel’s much-loved late-night slot, to Nick Grimshaw’s recently-abdicated and slightly-anarchic take on the breakfast show slot, Radio 1 has been at the vanguard of the young UK music scene for the last 50 years. Super-obscure specialist shows share space with the kind of drivetime programmes that suit everyone from harried commuters to school-run mums.
Things change over the course of five decades, and the BBC recently considered the fact that Radio 1 has extended far beyond its original remit — becoming “a super brand with multiple sub-brands like Live Lounge, Biggest Weekend and Teen Awards” — and as such was in need of a clear branding system and “a contemporary new graphic language.” Enter Mother Design.
Their colourful, curvy, overhaul is bright and bold. “We needed to create a consistent approach to using BBC Reith font across all applications and sub-brands, as well as develop a graphic language that brought cohesion and united everything,” Mother Design tell us.
We ask the team there what it was like working with such a vast, multi-faceted public broadcaster. “They’re a great team, the BBC is a very vibrant organisation and the projects are always interesting and challenging,” they say. “BBC’s mission is to enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain, so it feels good to be a part of that. BBC Radio 1 is the UK’s youth biggest radio station, so we have to design bearing in mind that the audience is very broad and varied.”
Like today’s other BBC rebrand — which sees BBC Two swapping their iconic little “Two” mascot for soothingly curvy semi-abstract screensavers — this overhaul of the Radio 1 identity is an exercise in geometric flow. “We wanted the graphic language to be bold and arresting in a more competitive market than ever,” say Mother Design, adding, “We created a suite of large geometric illustrations that could provide dynamic backgrounds for the ever-changing content at the BBC.”
Spread across digital and physical collateral, from public billboards to online idents, the new look feels as contemporary as a rebrand for a youth-orientated radio station should. When we ask if everyone aboard the good ship Mother Design regularly tunes into the station, they gave us this very diplomatic response:
“There is always music on with a ‘carefully selected DJ’ who controls the playlists. Depending on the time and the day it ranges from chilled electronic music to trap, from pop to indie rock. There are definitely some BBC Radio 1 tunes on a Friday.”
The new identity has been unrolled, and you can check out some of the images from the campaign below.