In 2014, Jimmy Fallon took over hosting duties for "The Tonight Show," the long-running NBC late-night talk show. Pentagram designed the new identity for the series, updating the classic “Tonight Show” crescent moon with a full moon that signals Jimmy’s fresh take on the program, which has moved back to New York after more than 40 years in Los Angeles.
The crescent moon has been part of the “The Tonight Show” logo for much of the program’s history, starting with Johnny Carson’s three-decade tenure (1962-1992), into the Jay Leno years (1992-2009, 2010-2014), and even the brief Conan O’Brien interlude (2009-2010). With Jimmy’s arrival, the designers thought it was time to really bring the moon front and center. And so, the moon becomes the holding shape for the entire logo, creating a circular emblem that can be used as a photograph or a flat graphic.
The designers were thrilled at the opportunity to work with Fallon and his team again, having previously created the logo for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Knowing that the logo would play a major role in promotion ahead of the show’s debut, Jimmy was very involved in its development. The new identity has already appeared in everything from posters, print advertisements and the official “Tonight Show” app to a chalkboard countdown created by Jimmy’s interns, a Lego version presented to Jimmy by Chris Pratt, and a sign posted on the door of show’s home Studio 6B at 30 Rock, seen in the final moments of Jimmy's last episode of “Late Night.”
As part of the research to develop the new identity, the designers looked at the history of late night television, and how “The Tonight Show” has continued to dominate the field even as the TV universe has exploded with many different networks and late-night viewing options. They documented this in an infographic that plotted the various programs along a timeline, with the various “Tonight Shows” represented as giant circles with everything else in their orbit. (The shapes may have influenced the final idea for the new identity.)
Fallon and his producers wanted an identity that was fun and contemporary but still had a sense of elegance that conveyed the show’s long history as the gold standard of late night television. Previously the crescent moon appeared as a secondary element that acted as a kind of decorative accent. Placing the new logotype inside the full moon created a simple circular shape that can be used in countless ways. The logotype is set in Sharp Sans, with Jimmy’s name set in the same size as the show’s title. It introduces the show every evening in the opening title sequence directed by Spike Lee.
The logo lends itself well to applications and merchandise: moon-over-the-city images, coasters, glow-in-the-dark t-shirts, and of course a mug, which is used by Jimmy and his guests every night on the show.