The Warner Bros. logo has always been more irreverent than the marks of other major media brands. Think of Bugs Bunny, one hand leaning against the edge of the shield, the other holding a half-eaten carrot. Or similarly posed Michigan J. Frog, the top-hatted mascot of defunct teen television channel the WB.
Unlike say Disney, which is undeniably a family brand, Warner Bros. has always had many audiences and identities. It has more flex. And now, after WarnerMedia’s freshly sealed merger with Discovery, the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery brand is drawing on that storied, multifaceted visual identity from the past to launch itself into the future.
“We think of Warner Bros. as legendary, iconic, historic,” says Sagi Haviv, partner and designer at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, whose firm started working on branding the as-yet-unformed media giant in early October. On April 8, AT&T formally handed over WarnerMedia’s assets to Discovery, creating Warner Bros. Discovery in a massive $43 billion merger. The company combines WarnerMedia’s assets (a 99-year-old movie studio, as well as television brands like CNN and HBO) with Discovery’s (including HGTV, Food Network, and TLC). And the new logo pairs the company’s lengthy new name with a sharp, flat design take on the classic WB shield.
The new logo follows a leaked mock-up logo from an internal presentation that was widely ridiculed online in June. That logo, one part Superman, one part WordArt, with a dash of movie magic, was a visual representation to accompany the announcement of the proposed merger, not a bona fide mark. (The tagline “The stuff that dreams are made of” is the last line delivered by Humphrey Bogart’s character in the 1941 noir The Maltese Falcon.) Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv was not involved with it.
One can, perhaps, forgive Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, formerly head of Discovery, for leaning into that cinematic urge. After all, AT&T bought Warner Bros. in 2018 as part of the Texas-based telecom’s acquisition of parent company TimeWarner, then “slashed and burned through the Warner Bros. ranks and . . . pushed Warner to start behaving as more of a technology company and less of an entertainment one,” as The New York Times reported. The logo got a similar treatment: It was stripped of its iconic gold color and dipped in AT&T’s blue and white.
As Warner Bros. Discovery, the company is embracing its entertainment roots once again and has the logo to match. The shield is back in its full blue-and-gold glory.
Warner Bros. Discovery could have gone with a more abstract visual identity to appear consistent with competing media giants like Amazon and Netflix (not to mention Disney, whose logo has been simplified dramatically over the years). But this new mark isn’t meant to make Warner Bros. Discovery fit in.
“What is a logo meant to do? It’s meant to set you apart, differentiate you. You don’t want to be like others, so that’s one thing,” Haviv says. “The other thing is, they are not like those others. They are storytellers, and the Warner Brothers brand really stands for that and that is why this was selected to be the banner.”
In other words, by embracing—even flaunting—its legacy as an entertainment company above all else, Warner Bros. Discovery hopes that it will be able to better compete against other media brands in the streaming world and beyond. The shield has played before hundreds of iconic movies and TV shows of the past century. It reminds audiences that the company’s library includes not just breadth of content, but depth.
Still, Haviv says that strategy-wise, the design team was careful “not to capture nostalgia alone.” The inspiration for this new logo comes from the 1948 WB shield—a gold, three-dimensional shape that first appeared (in black and white) in the opening credits of Key Largo, another Bogart-starring noir classic. It could easily look antiquated.
So the designers took pains to nudge the overall look in a modern direction. Creating more symmetry between the letters was one such tweak. Without the ribbon of text across the middle traditionally usually used in the shield, the size difference between W and B is more obvious. Filling that space made it look more like a cohesive interpretation rather than a direct translation. But a W is wide and a B is more of a standard width, so giving them equal space inside the shape involved redrawing the swoop of the B to fill the gap in the upper right corner.
The second challenge was equalizing the weight of the border with the weight of the letters so that everything appears as a single unit. That harmony, Haviv says, is what makes it feel “more contemporary, more of today and tomorrow.” One can imagine a form like that easily scaling down to a favicon while still looking at home on a movie poster.
It takes a lot of time, money, and exposure to build meaning into a logo, Haviv says, but the Warner Bros. shield already comes with that time-worn weight. So while the idea of borrowing a symbol from the past for a future-oriented company may seem counterintuitive, the choice was deliberate, and the execution nuanced. The shield is proportioned to be small, Haviv says, “like a jewel,” compared to the main story, which “is more the word, the name.”
Despite the complexity that comes from creating a visual identity in the middle of a major corporate merger, Haviv says that the leadership at Warner Bros, Discovery, especially Zaslav, had a lot of vision. Creativity, storytelling, longevity . . . “all of these qualities are built already into that shield,” Haviv says, “and you can’t buy that.”
Source: Fast Company