The Nickelodeon Splat
As I transition my site to a new format, I’ve come across three or four posts regarding the Nickelodeon Splat. During my years at Nick I did a fair amount of work with the logo. At this point though, since Nick has gone ahead and redesigned the logo, away from the splat all together, I thought I might combine all those posts into a document that could be called, “The Waning Years of the Nickelodeon Splat”.
First a little background
When I started at the Big Orange, Nickelodeon had about 300 logos. That’s 300 primary logos. I’m not counting logos for Nick Jr, Nick@Nite, NickNews, Nicktropolis or Nick-trition — and yes, those are all real examples. Let that sink in for a moment, 300 plus logos and counting.
The original logo was intentionally designed as a bit of a moving target back in 1984 by Tom Corey and Scott Nash, along with Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman. As a “brand designer”, I always admired the evolving systems they created for the Nick logo and the MTV logo. The Nick logo was defined as “Nickelodeon” in Balloon Extra Bold, in a shape that could really be anything you wanted as long as it was orange. In many ways it was the coolest logo ever. But it wasn’t without it’s problems. Over the years a lot of really great designers contributed to the ever expanding library of Nickelodeon logos. So by the time I started around 2002, there was a massive library of logos in circulation. (here’s a link to a 1998 logo guide that just barely scratched the surface of what was available) There had been several attempts to refresh the logo by adding updated collections. Chip Wass did a bunch that were hilarious, Adams Morioka created a collection of beautiful abstract shapes and so on. The trouble was, with the very open ended rules that had been established, there was never any imperative to remove any logos from circulation.
Dawn of the Splat
One of my first projects at Nickelodeon was an extensive brand creative exploratory aimed at updating and revitalizing the Nickelodeon image. After many attempts at redesigning the creative around the logo, it became apparent that the problem lay in the logo itself. We had a staggering number of options to work with, it was in many ways impossible to focus in on anything. In essence, it had no default state. The possibilities for it had become so boundless that it had become fractured and subdivided.
So, in a fit of inspiration, or maybe it was naked hubris or possibly just dumb luck, I started dripping india ink on paper. I wanted to create a default state for the logo, or at the very least a consistent gestural approach to the logo. It felt right. The splat brought the logo to a place where it had a consistent energetic feel, and I think it harkened back to Fred and Allen’s original intentions in kind of a nice way. Years later Alan Goodman confirmed that thought by saying pretty much just that about the Nickelodeon Splat.
The Orange Book
With a new logo came the need for a new brand bible. And what a brand bible it was! A lot of really talented people poured their souls into what was essentially a corporate employee manual. A classic example of one of the best parts of working for Nickelodeon at the time, a lot of really smart people really, really cared.
It eventually became equal parts brand bible, employee manual and style guide. Evan Baily, Samantha Berger and I contributed to the writing. I co-art directed with Jennifer Cast. And we all really benefited from the very hard work of some amazing designers, Cecilia Bursell and Jany Tran and insightful creative direction by Theresa Fitzgerald. It came in a static free bag and even included a vacuum sealed tee shirt with the international symbol for armpit farts on it. Here’s what the AIGA had to say about it…
The Splat On Air
When animated, the splat was honestly a little obvious for the first year or so it was on air. Mostly just variations on a blob of something orange being thrown at the screen, which I guess was fine for a while. But then, after a few detours into some strange territory we decided to give it a little more focus.
We made the decision to reduce the number of splats on air to one and give it the ability to shape-shift, so as to not lose what made the logo special in the first place. I for one believe that was the original intention of the logo design.
Once we had a collection of shapeshifting logos, it seemed a natural extension to build an entire network package from that concept. I worked with Akin Akinsiku, Art Director for Nick UK and we came up with a plan and then a few round trips between London and New York later we had a pretty good sketch of what we wanted to do. So now with a plan in hand, we set off to work on this.
We were working from just a few basic ideas. The Nick logo is a shapeshifter, the primary activator on screen and all things Nick can be found inside the splat.
I worked with Freestyle Collective in New York to create most of the packaging bits, while in London, Akin worked with Mainframe to create a series of ID’s (or idents as they call them there)
The End of the Splat
As you probably well know, Nickelodeon redesigned their logo recently, moving away from the splat all together. I had nothing to do with this, it was all done after I left. But to be honest, I like it. A lot of people are surprised to hear me say that, but it’s very true. For one thing, the splat was never easy to work with. For designers it was always a very difficult element to work with. For the brand, the splat was always going to be limiting, as it speaks only to the core kid audience, leaving out preschoolers, tweens, teens and parents, all of which have become very important to Nick’s business.
My students often ask me what I think of various logo redesigns. I am very rarely comfortable expressing an opinion, because usually I don’t know what business problems the designers were trying to address in the design, or what the goals were. In the case of Nickelodeon’s new logo I know exactly what problems they were trying to solve and I think they did a very nice job. Will people ever love the new logo the way they loved the splat? Probably not, it’s a pretty network-y corporate logo. Does it solve a lot of the nagging problems that the splat (and all the logos before it) created for the brand? Absolutely.