“Third Rail with OZY” is a new PBS primetime debate series that explores provocative, timely subjects in lively discussions with new voices. Pentagram designed the striking branding and motion graphics package for the program, including the opening titles, and collaborated on the set design.
Co-produced by the digital news site OZY and WGBH Boston, “Third Rail” was conceived as an unconventional, cross-platform alternative to typical political talk shows that would appeal to new audiences. Hosted by OZY editor-in-chief Carlos Watson, each week’s half-hour program explores a single “charged” question touching on a “third rail” issue (in the political metaphor), debated by expert and celebrity guests in front of a live studio audience, and incorporating viewer input from social media and data from exclusive national polls. First season guests included Malcolm Gladwell, Roxanne Gay, Amber Rose and Ann Coulter––a mix of the left and the right––with the idea that the “third rail” is where they meet and set off sparks, or “electrifying conversation” (a tagline developed by Pentagram).
The identity and motion graphics share the show’s fresh approach, looking unlike anything else on PBS. The branding plays off the subway reference of the title, with “Third” and “Rail” crossing in the wordmark to share the common shape––and middle ground––of the “H” and the “I.” The logotype is set in the powerful typeface Ferry, with the conversational Brandon Text as the secondary font. The identity integrates the OZY logo previously designed by Pentagram.
The title sequence dives into the “Third Rail” logo, asking a series of debatable questions along the way, such as “Are lies the new normal?” and “Is America at civil war?” Set at angles, the typography moves like trains on tracks, and individual letters sizzle and flicker with electricity. When the two words of the title finally connect, the whole logo jolts to life with a shock.
Pentagram also consulted on the set, which is designed to encourage conversation with a convivial, bar-like atmosphere that remains, transparently, a TV studio. The audience is seated at small tables surrounding the set’s main focus, a large central table with the host at the head and panelists facing off on opposing sides. The arrangement nods to the partisan nature of the discussions, but works to brings everyone together. The set is backed with a large-scale, dimensional version of the logo rendered in bright yellow neon. A streak of yellow runs through the table, and light rails run along the side of the room, drawing the viewer’s eye toward the action at the center.
“Third Rail with OZY” recently aired its first seven episodes, and is set to return in 2018.