Spitting Image’s co-creator and graphic designer who modified the branding of television stations.
In branding television networks and commercial products and services, Martin Lambie-Nairn, who died at the age of 75, broke new ground. His idents – shifting logos shown between programs – were so common in the UK to brand the BBC and Channel 4 that they also received fan mail for their wit and originality. In 1982, Martin Lambie-Nairn, an early adopter of computer animation, used it for the launch of Channel 4 to establish the bold and vibrant identity of “animated blocks”
Advertisers soon saw the opportunity to integrate Martin into various common ads, including Smarties and Hamlet Cigars, the latter a spoof of the identity of Channel 4 in which the blocks do not properly assemble until they come together to shape a resigned yet pleased cigar-smoking face.
The visual identities for a number of TV stations and brands around the world, including TF1 in France, BBC One and BBC Two, and the oxygen bubble logo for the mobile phone network O2, were invented and developed by Martin and his design agency.
With the satirical puppet show Spitting Image (1984-96), whose credits testify to its genesis from an initial lunch with Martin Lambie-Nairn, he made an innovative contribution to television programming. He had the idea in 1981, and the cartoonists Roger Law and Peter Fluck became puppeteers to create it with comedy director John Lloyd. In the age of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, the original series lampooned political life.
Martin was pleased that the show would return with another Tory as prime minister in 2020, as the first new commission on BritBox, the BBC and ITV streaming service. With artistic daring and creativity, Martin had a rare talent for shocking viewers. He also showed great compassion and concern for others, and I am one of the countless individuals who have benefited from this in the branding and design industry. Martin was the son of Stephen Lambie-Nairn, an accountant, born in Croydon, South London, and Joan (née Lambert), an accountant. He studied at the College of Art in Canterbury, now the University of the Creative Arts. He started his BBC television career in 1965. He then moved to London Weekend Television and ITN, where he created the on-screen graphics for the space missions of Apollo and later the concept for the corporate logo of ITN and the News at Ten title sequence. In 1976, with the designer Colin Robinson, Martin founded the Robinson Lambie-Nairn agency, joined shortly after by another partner, Ian St John. For Weekend World and The London Programme, they received commissions for program graphics. The business grew rapidly from then on and was successful in the 1980s in both print and TV branding.
The business was renamed Lambie-Nairn & Company in 1990. In 1990, for the entire BBC brand, Martin was appointed consulting creative director, a role he would hold for 12 years.
He led a rebranding of the BBC and its productions in all media during that period. The station’s most popular logo was the one commissioned by then Controller Alan Yentob for BBC Two. The artistic brief was simple: “Make the brand feel less stuffy.” Typical live action was used for all the identifiers in the first season.
A new generation of idents, created with computer-generated imagery, was later commissioned when it came to appealing to a younger generation of viewers. Martin updated the branding of BBC One in 1997 – replacing the long-established globe logo in the shape of a red hot air balloon used for a new set of channel idents. The underlying premise was that the channel would carry every corner of the UK to the entire world. He also co-designed the “Rhythm and Movement” idents for BBC One in 2002.
In 1999, he worked with David Lowe, a television and radio composer, to launch another identity defining genre, this time for BBC News. The aim was to underline the strength and prestige of the brand as a world-class global news organization. The rebranding of the Royal Opera House in 2011, the launch logo for the UK’s leading biomedical research center, the Francis Crick Institute, in 2016, the artistic creation of the HSBC brand in 2018, and the rebranding of BT in 2019 were subsequent national and international branding ventures. Martin was named Royal Designer for Industry in 2012 and was a Fellow of Royal Televisions.