Nathaniel Howe Studios Moves PBS Brand into the Future with New On-Air Look


By Egotist / /

Nathaniel Howe Studios (NHS) recently partnered with PBS and global creative consultancy Lippincott to create a new on-air graphics package to coincide with the iconic American public broadcaster’s revitalized identity, which includes a refreshed logo, bolder color palette, and custom typeface. The new on-air look for PBS will roll out throughout 2020 as the network celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Looking to better connect with viewers in the digital age, PBS brought on Nathaniel Howe Studios to translate its new identity for modern screens while providing brand coherency at both the national and local levels with its 300+ member stations.

“Nathaniel [Howe] and his team took our multi-platform vision to heart and developed a broad range of inspired ideas,” says Don Wilcox, Vice President, Multiplatform Marketing and Content, PBS. “Their creative and strategic expertise helped ensure that no stone was left unturned in our pursuit of elegant, easy-to-use solutions for our diverse mix of producers and member stations.”

Beyond the larger objective of affirming PBS as a future-facing brand in the age of streaming media, NHS was tasked with creating a visual identity that would appeal to a broader audience while bringing the premium quality of PBS content into clearer focus.

“From ‘Masterpiece’ to ‘Nature’ to ‘Frontline,’ the diverse slate of programming on PBS presented us with a breadth of footage to work with, so we made a concerted effort to let the content shine first,” says Nathaniel Howe, NHS Founder/Creative Director. “The design and animation play a supporting role, framing the content and delivering all the key information effortlessly within the new ‘digital-first’ brand architecture.”

Expanding on the visual system developed by Lippincott, NHS added supporting elements and motion cues that translate the system’s circular forms seamlessly from broadcast to digital platforms.

“The PBS logo provided the perfect framework to keep the visual system focused while reinforcing the brand in a subtle yet unified way,” says Howe. “Its new flat design also lent itself well to the motion theory behind the package, which favors minimal design elements, gentle key frames, and purposeful applications of accent colors to complement the hero PBS blue.”

More than a year in the making, NHS kicked off the massive project during the early phases of the rebrand strategy, working closely with PBS and Lippincott to help translate the revitalized identity for digital and broadcast screens. Additionally, NHS played a pivotal role in addressing the unique needs of PBS’s 300+ member stations, which included multiple phases of testing and feedback. In delivering a hard-working, customizable After Effects toolkit, NHS led a nationwide on-boarding process, which included the production of video tutorials and webinars, as well as in-studio training programs and presentations for PBS summits and conferences.

The greatest challenge was creating a cohesive look that unified the system but also allowed for accommodation for the local individuality of the member stations.

“Now, all of the vitals of the PBS rebrand live within a master toolkit that is quick and easy to use for everyone,” says Howe. “The beauty of Lippincott’s minimalistic branding system came into play here as it enabled us to eliminate technical limitations, standardize the graphics creation process, and speed up workflows across the board.”

Howe entered the project with nearly a decade-long relationship with PBS, collaborating on on-air graphics promos for several Ken Burns documentaries (“Jackie Robinson,” “Prohibition”), the “Indian Summers” series, and the “PBS Arts Fall Festival.” He also helmed the brand refresh of PBS’s long-running anthology series, “Great Performances,” and sizzle reels for network summits.


Client: PBS

On-Air Design Agency: Nathaniel Howe Studios
Executive Creative Director: Nathaniel Howe
Producer: Vanessa Varela
Art Director: Kyle Smith
Designers: Kyle Smith, Alex Jones, Josh Horrom
Lead Animator: Kevin Tokin
Animators: Kevin Tonkin, Christian Brown, David Hwang
Production Assistant: Cici Fang


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