Designing Thames


A rose by any other name

Geoffrey Lugg, the first head of presentation at Thames had held a similar position at ABC. As such, he helped oversee the name change as the new station was developing.

He had also begun corresponding with the then Transdiffusion Children, dropping heavy hints as to what the new station’s identity would be. After the launch of Thames, he was able to explain the processes involved in creating a new identity for one of the first ITV companies.

Changes this large were decided at board level, with senior staff asked to comment and add their own ideas into the melting pot. The new company started life with the working title of ‘Associated-British Rediffusion’, a name that neither pleased nor fooled anyone involved.

Artist's impression of Associated-British Rediffusion logo

For the decision on the final trading name, the board and senior officers became split. From the beginning, there were three leading choices – ‘Capital’, the name ABC had planned to use upon winning London weekends, ‘Tower’, a suggestion that appears to have originated in the Rediffusion camp, and ‘Thames’, a compromise suggestion not well-liked but too good to discard.

Artist's impression of Capital Television logo

Capital Television, Capital Network, Capital London – Geoffrey felt that these names tripped off the tongue well and suited the planned identity of the station. There was debate over ‘Capital’ or ‘Capitol’ – the latter not then considered an Americanism as it is now.

Artist's impression of Capital Television front cap

The problem with the name, though, was a perceived lack of ‘zing’ – it was simply the obvious choice and therefore had no life of its own. Although supported by senior staff who had worked on the identity in the run up to the 1967 contract awards, support at board level died away and the name began to fall behind ‘Tower’ as a choice.

Artist's impression of Tower Television ident

The problem with ‘Tower’ stemmed not just from its supposed Rediffusion roots. Although the name suggested many things – the Tower of London, the Post Office Tower, the towering heights of St Paul’s, Tower Bridge – it was flat. Even more so that ‘Capital’ the name was boring.

Artist's impression of London Television Consortium's Thames ident

The London Television Consortium had taken an option on the name ‘Thames’ very early on. Also considered was ‘Thames Weekend Television’. However, the art-driven people behind the new weekend broadcaster felt that a ‘contrived’ name like ‘Thames’ was ‘uncool’, according to Geoffrey. Instead, they decided that they should be called what they were – London Weekend Television.

This left the new ABC-Rediffusion station with a name available that would suit its purpose and set it apart from the rival London broadcaster. While ‘London Weekend’ was identifying only with the metropolis, ‘Thames’ could identify with its viewers in the home counties and beyond – the VHF signals reaching almost to Brighton in the south. Combined with a new local news service for the area, Rediffusion having never really bothered, Thames would be the local station for everyone near to the river and its tributaries.

Artist's impression of Thames with triangle

With the name decided, the identity of the station progressed with a pace. Despite being on the ‘losing side’ over Capital, Geoffrey helped develop the new station’s identity through its graphics.

Many early attempts were made to continue with the ABC triangle. Simply replacing the letters ‘ABC’ with ‘Thames’ was considered and almost adopted when the idea of a stylised skyline of London was proposed. The artwork proved very popular, but attempts were made to incorporate the ABC triangle even here – soon abandoned as the ident simply didn’t work.

Artist's impression of Thames skyline with triangle

The finalised versions of the ident were a complete break with the past, with the skyline version, without triangle, being used by Teddington and a plain ‘From Thames’ caption being used by Television House. Geoffrey insisted it was not a policy of the new company to differentiate between ex-ABC and ex-Rediffusion, but the effect was to do just that.

With everything set to roll – a new name, an impressive ident, a definite style for the station – Geoffrey got a shock on seeing the new Harlech ident. Embracing electronic music and featuring a futuristic formup, he was left feeling that Harlech had developed the classic ident while the new Thames was old-fashioned and plain.

He was wrong.

Leave a Reply