Channel 4

Brand Identity, Naming, Typography

A new masterbrand for the UK’s most disruptive public service broadcaster.

Pentagram, working in collaboration with Channel 4‘s in-house agency 4creative, has created a new masterbrand that brings the broadcaster’s content, channel brands and streaming service together under one roof. The principles-based brand system embraces Channel 4’s inherent rebellious and unapologetic creativity, balanced with a need for cohesion and consistency—a system that gives the brand the ability to both unify, and be creatively flexible. Grounded by a consistent brand narrative, ‘4 is a traveller’, Channel 4 can now confidently lead its viewers through a world of ‘Altogether Different’ content.

A disruptively different history
Launched in 1982, Channel 4 is a British public service broadcaster with a remit to champion unheard voices, to inspire change and to stand up for diversity. From the early days of The Tube through to Desmond’s, Dispatches, Big Brother, and now Naked Attraction, it’s a broadcaster that’s not afraid to take risks, commissioning unique television that people want to talk about. The channel has a similarly daring and progressive visual design heritage and Pentagram’s new masterbrand both reflects Channel 4’s status within Britain’s cultural landscape and revitalises its ability to venture towards exciting creative territories.

The changing broadcasting landscape
Over the past decade, the landscape for broadcasters has changed completely. Whereas Channel 4’s competitors were traditionally other TV channels, today’s marketplace has been transformed by international streaming giants. Interaction with brands is increasingly on-demand via streaming platforms and social media, with viewers from around the world discovering Channel 4 content, without having a relationship to the brand’s domestic heritage. 

After an extensive review of its existing branding, marketing, digital products and guidelines, Channel 4’s leadership identified the need for a brand transformation to ensure the broadcaster’s continued appeal in the entertainment landscape of the future.

A principles-based system for consistency and flexibility
A design system for a brand of this breadth and depth requires a fine balance between design consistency and creative freedom. Pentagram created a system with behavioural principles that connect its identity across all platforms, both now and into the future. Motion, interaction and composition principles guide the brand outputs regardless of content type, creating a consistent yet inherently variable experience. Much more than a new look and feel, Channel 4’s new brand helps engage viewers in all the ways they experience content.

Working closely with Mat Heinl, who led the brand transformation strategy, Pentagram understood and integrated Channel 4’s overarching business objectives, creating a masterbrand that is instantly recognisable from street to screen. 

A key strategic decision was to holistically redefine the portfolio. This included renaming the current streaming player as ‘Channel 4’, meaning that for the first time the service would be clearly connected to its masterbrand. Armed with the insight that viewers don’t need more brands in an already complex content landscape, Channel 4 had the confidence to take this unique approach compared to other broadcaster’s streaming platforms.

Pentagram’s strategy team supported the development of a new brand architecture system, created a naming toolkit and also defined sharp new articulations of ‘4ness’ (Channel 4's distinctive personality) and its unmistakable tone of voice, to support the rollout of the brand, and the broadcaster’s future creative evolution.

Bringing the 4 logo back together
Leading Pentagram’s solution is the re-establishment of Channel 4’s logo at the heart of the brand, alongside the introduction of a singular masterbrand colour. A consistent presence across all brand touchpoints within the world of ‘Altogether Different’ content, and an anchor from which to explore it. Optimised by Pentagram whilst retaining its legacy, the 4 logo was redrawn to hold greater visual presence in digital assets and a new logo reveal was created, with its iconic form and new stand-out colour working as a key driver for masterbrand attribution off-platform

A consistent masterbrand logo with parametric possibilities
The new logo animation is built on a variable parametric system that can respond to the universe’s different moods and functionality across all Channel 4 platforms. This inherent flexibility means that core assets can be skewed towards the tonal positioning of channel brands—allowing for both individuality, and clear attribution back to the masterbrand.

Casting 4 as a traveller
Channel 4 is different from other broadcasters—it’s comfortable leading you to places that might feel a bit uncomfortable. Inspired by this fearless, sometimes mischievous, brand heritage, as well as Channel 4’s ‘Altogether Different’ positioning, the team likened 4 to ‘a traveller, guiding us through a universe of content’. This narrative is functionally practical across the brand system, forming a core brand principle ‘4 leads’ which informs the framework for lockups and layout.

A universe of ‘Altogether Different’ content worlds
The universe that 4 travels through is made up of immersive, ever-evolving and interconnected worlds—where ‘Altogether Different’ comes to life. Anchored by a cube-based framework, the square motif within worlds can be recessive or prominent, allowing them to be a truly flexible canvas for expression. Transforming to contain anything from menus and programme footage to elaborate, narrative idents for collections, partnerships, channels and seasons—worlds are at the core of the masterbrand. 

As the base version of the worlds that the traveller always returns to, immersive gradients bring the ‘Altogether Different’ nature of the universe to life in a vast, eclectic, and at times delightfully clashy spectrum of brand colours. Expressing the diversity, awkwardness and mischievous nature of Channel 4,  the gradient worlds, and travel between them, are motifs found at all levels of the brand.

Viewers are reminded of the wider universe by movement that reveals glimpses into adjoining worlds. A functional tool to showcase what’s on next, create attribution to the channel you’re watching, or just hint at all the content to explore—nudging into the next world reinforces the idea that there’s always more to see and new places for the viewer to explore with 4.

By zooming out even further, the full extent of the Channel 4 universe is revealed. This allows the brand to curate and showcase content in collections, genres or seasons. The worlds underpin Channel 4’s seamless experience across product, marketing, On Screen Presentation (OSP) and social platforms. The multi-content device and nudge mechanic are core pillars of the masterbrand, creating seamless connection between.

A brand with motion principles at its core
Whether on Instagram, Tiktok or TV, Pentagram’s motion principles govern all travel through Channel 4’s universe, ensuring that audiences experience consistency in the way the brand moves. Physics-based elasticity of the 4 logo allows for reaction and dynamism, whilst travel and transformation principles create defined but flexible parameters for moving through the ever-expanding universe of Channel 4, as well as governing the smallest digital interactions.

Grounded by these principles, Channel 4’s logo has the freedom to subtly react to the universe’s light and physics. Similarly, the audio design contextually responds to the world around it, with subtle changes of ambience emphasising contrasting content and variety of stories encountered on its travels.

A bold and reductive graphic language, peppered with playfulness
Balancing the diverse and eclectic backdrop of content, colour and motion, the graphic system is reductive in its approach, creating a design language that is bold, contemporary, and forward-thinking. Designed with practicality at its forefront, typography and layout principles are constructed with a clear information hierarchy, with 4’s leading position being a consistent presence in all outputs. Ensuring that this innate functionality does not drown out Channel 4’s mischievousness, the graphic system is peppered with playful moments such as the ‘4moji’ icons integrated within the brand typefaces. 

Tonally flexible show branding
Great shows are the heart of Channel 4 and the reason that viewers come to, and stick with, the brand. Pentagram created a new naming strategy and design structure to align core show assets, such as colour and typography, with the masterbrand system, whilst also providing shows themselves with appropriate tonal flexibility. The Channel 4 Headline typeface, which has become synonymous with the brand over the past decade, was expanded to include variable condensed and extended styles for use in show brand creation.

A system for unifying channel brands
Channel 4 had a number of longstanding brands in the market, however, their naming and visual identities had evolved organically over many years, making them out of step with each other. The new masterbrand will be used to govern the rebranding of existing channels, with the principles creating unification and systemisation of channel brands, whilst allowing for their personalities to shine through.

Bringing the brand to life
The Pentagram team produced the masterbrand design system, and directed the subsequent roll out across marketing, OSP and social.

The diverse range of assets were brought to life brilliantly by collaborators Art Practice and Time Based Arts (idents), Found (OSP), Factory, SIREN (music and sound), Stink Studios (social) and NaN (typography).

‘Altogether Different’ now and into the future
Throughout the process, the team never lost sight of the main reason viewers come to Channel 4 in the first place—for the content they love. Pentagram has created a brand system that addresses the breadth of contemporary viewership, with principles that future-proof the brand. The system keeps content at its core, boldly showcasing must-see shows, films and digital originals, connecting new viewers to a prolific brand that has been at the heart of British creativity for over four decades.

Luke Powell
Jody Hudson-Powell
Naresh Ramchandani
Project team
Nav Bhatia
Jack Llewellyn
Ashley Johnson
Luis Gutiérrez
Alice Sherwin
Hazal Ozkaya
Isla Wickham
Kate Heller
Robyn Siân Cusworth
Zoë Gibson Quirk
Found Studio
Stink Studio
Factory Studios and Siren
Mat Heinl
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