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New Work: WNET.ORG

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New York’s public television stations, THIRTEEN and WLIW21, have rebranded under a new umbrella identity, WNET.ORG. The new name references THIRTEEN’s historic call letters, a new commitment to digital communication, and the organization’s history of service to the public, locally and nationally. Working with WNET.ORG’s marketing and management team, Pentagram created an overall brand strategy for WNET.ORG, including a new suite of identifiers and the institution’s first online annual report.

Founded in 1962 as the Educational Broadcasting Corporation, THIRTEEN took on the call letters WNET when the station merged eight years later with National Educational Television. Today, representing the breadth of “New York Public Media,” the organization hosts its two flagship stations as well as a range of digital services including KidsTHIRTEEN, WLIW Create, THIRTEEN on Demand, and a variety of active broadcast and online production operations, which are sure to increase in the future under the stewardship of new president and CEO Neal Shapiro. Unifying this universe of activities is the institution’s commitment to four key values: inspiration, intelligence, innovation, and integrity.

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A complex and multifaceted problem like this needed a clear simple solution, and Pentagram found one in the name. By accenting the dot in WNET.ORG, we created a pivot point to which we can connect the identities of the two flagship stations, each of which conveniently has a dottable I in its name. The dot also serves as the hub of other messages, including WNET.ORG’s four key values, each of which, again, begins with the same letter.


The dot in the WNET.ORG identity acts as a pivot point or hub for other messages.

The WNET.ORG brand began a phased launch earlier this year with redesigns of the viewer guides for THIRTEEN and WLIW21. (THIRTEEN is the most watched public television station in the country; WLIW is third.) The brand is also finding its way into a wide range of merchandise. The clear connection between parent company, broadcast stations and mission help to unravel the labyrinthine complex of institutional relationships, including the EBC, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, that had dominated the local public media scene.

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Pentagram’s first experience with WNET.ORG was two years ago, when we were asked to design its 2006-7 annual report. For its most recent 2007-8 annual report, a decision was made to emphasize the institution’s commitment to digital communications by publishing online. A team led by Lisa Strausfeld developed an interactive website that traces the connections between the vast range of people, places, and ideas that comprise the subjects of the organization’s broadcast world. Clicking on any one of the hundreds of items in a word cloud discloses multiple links to a variety of WNET.ORG programming.

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A simple printed version of the report, in two colors on inexpensive recycled paper and delivered by mail, supplements the rich quantity of data available on line. The paper report recognizes donors, celebrates the year’s important events, and lists the network’s many awards for the year.

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The launch of WNET.ORG’s new look is completed this week with the debut of on air station identifications, created in-house by the station’s production department. The I.D.’s feature stylish 3D animations of New York City icons, from the Manhattan skyline at night, to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, to a “fly-by” of the Statue of Liberty. Accompanying each is an original theme by Juilliard student Niccolo Athens; the collaboration with Julliard anticipates the opening of a new studio on site at Lincoln Center later this year.

On-air station IDs pair the new identity with iconic views of New York. Video design by David Chomowicz, Assistant Creative Director for THIRTEEN.

UPDATE: Michael Bierut discusses the new brand identity with Inside THIRTEEN.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge; Joe Marianek, designer. Interactive annual report: Lisa Strausfeld, partner-in-charge; Nina Boesch, designer. Logo animation by Jack Zerby.