The stereotype of a creative is normally presented as a precious snowflake, reduced to a stream of tears at the sound of even the slightest criticism. ‘Creatives are sensitive souls,’ we’re often reminded, almost as a warning to tread carefully around anything that might offend.
But stereotypes rarely live up to reality, and a case in point would be MediaWorks executive creative director Ant Farac, who shows no signs of sensitivity when asked for his thoughts on the flood of online criticism aimed at his creative vision for the Three brand.
“People are going to have opinions and that’s great,” Farac says. “The beauty is that New Zealanders are passionate about Three and they’re engaging in a conversation about the brand.”
He says it’s always better to have people talking about creative work because it shows that it has at least made an impact.
“Obviously, not everyone is going to like what you do, so all you can do is put it out there and hope for the best,” he says. “But I’m really proud of what the team has done here because it’s brave and bold.”
While much of the online criticism centred on the equals and plus signs in the logo, mathematics had very little to do with the inspiration underpinning the design.
“We were inspired by Len Lye’s artistic movement,” says Farac. “He’s one of the pre-eminent New Zealand artists of the 21st Century.”
Farac says Lye’s work is typified by light and movement, which together served as the foundation upon which the brand was built.
“We ended up calling [the concept] BPM, which is ‘bright, play, motion,’” says Farac. “So whatever we did needed to feel animated, fun and able to evolve. We didn’t want something stagnant.”
(image credit: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery)
It also needed to be versatile enough to accompany the full scope of Three’s programming across a given day.
“It had to be something that could be filled with anything. We have a lot of genres. We do news and entertainment and a bunch of other things, so we needed something that could encompass all of that.”
Rather than developing a single logo to be tagged across all the programmes, the creative team instead went for a set of variations on the core logo.
“We wanted the logo to flex and move and change, which is why we don’t have one logo. We have a multitude of versions. TV isn’t stagnant and logo shouldn’t be that either. We wanted something that could be flat, 3D or whatever we wanted it to be.”
To develop the concept, Farac went off-site with two creative collaborators and worked on the branding.
“We always have a small team working on projects like this, because we still have to pump out things on a daily basis,” Farac says. “I usually rely on two visual geniuses, Andrew Bunyon and Juita Tambunan, who help with projects like this. We set up shop in a little room and just hit it really well.”
Farac says that while the team is small, no one knows the brand better than them—which is also part of the reason why MediaWorks prefers not to commission external agencies to do internal branding work.
“A lot of things have changed over the years I’ve worked at MediaWorks, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that we are in charge of this stuff, whatever it is,” he says.
“Amazing stuff comes out of agencies, but we have to work with this brand every day. And the people who are invested in [the brand] are more passionate about it, there’s ownership, and we get to create a vision that works for everyone.”
However, before that vision is applied across the business, it must first win approval from the overlords. At the best of times, this can be tricky but even more so when the creative has ripped away the beloved fern and replaced it with some strange alien language.
“I take my hat off to the CEO, Michael Anderson, because it was a brave move to do this,” Farac says.
“I’m not going to say this logo is not challenging. It definitely is.”
Anderson took a risk, and it might've seemed like a bad idea in the beginning when the online bile started pouring in. But red mist—even in cyberspace—has a tendency to dissipate quite quickly, and viewers have seemingly settled into accepting the strange logo that gives an ever-so-subtle nod to a Kiwi artist.