August 07, 2005

Why Bugs Don't Belong on TV

Originally posted by Jessica Helfand from Design Observer: writings about design & culture, reBlogged by ts

Jessica Halfand has a good essay on Design Observer about the proliferation of bugs - from station IDs to animated ads - overlaying TV content, which she says “have become their own horrifying visual idiom: graphic lunacy.” As someone who’s had a little to do with inserting bumpers and bugs on the networks (at least where interactive TV and mobile were concerned) it’s interesting to hear about the resistance to this growing practice, and to read the comments on her piece.

Some excerpts:

On today’s TV screens, the station-identification logo sits tethered to the surface, like an annoying rash that won’t quite disappear. You think you ve kicked it when — WHAMMMO — there it is again, blemishing the patina of an otherwise perfectly good viewing experience. Once a translucent image that surfaced only intermittently, today’s screen logo has become a monstrous exaggeration of its former self. While this speaks poorly for broadcasters, it represents an even greater shame for designers, many of whom would like to think they can rescue their clients from making appallingly bad choices, like displaying large, pulsating logos in the corner of a television monitor.
In an effort to retaliate, some viewers opposed to these corporate (and graphic) interventions have formed grass-roots posses hoping to take on the broadcasting heavyweights with a kind of critical mass. Watchdog groups like Squash the TV Bugs in the US and Logo-Free TV in Britain have been moderately successful in raising public awareness, writing manifesti and sharing useful links with their equally annoyed brethren — yet in spite of such admirable intentions, there remains an air of inevitable despair about it all. Will the TV bugs continue to grow in size, noise and frequency, until we all succumb to a state of passive acceptance? Can TV bugs ever be restricted, minimized, abolished altogether? (TiVO, where are you?) Late-night TV host Conan O Brien offered his own remedy not long ago: reaching for a can of insecticide during his show one night, he sprayed the famous NBC peacock, whereupon it dissolved and dripped right off the screen.

(read the rest)