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Dear SyFy, Imagine Greater – Please!

We have been warned. The Sci Fi channel announced that it was changing its name to SyFy a few months ago, and the switch happens tomorrow. Unfortunately Bruce Willis is not going to rescue us from this colossal attack of bad branding and phonetic foolishness. This name change has been widely criticized, so I’m only adding a final pinch of salt to the wound on the eve of its debut.

Sci Fi Channel

We have been warned.

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The Sci Fi channel announced that it was changing its name to SyFy a few months ago, and the switch happens tomorrow. Unfortunately Bruce Willis is not going to rescue us from this colossal attack of bad branding and phonetic foolishness. This name change has been widely criticized, so I’m only adding a final pinch of salt to the wound on the eve of its debut.

Syfy logo

The pre-launch ad campaign has been plastered on buses and phone kiosks. It shows a glowing white SyFy logo hovering menacingly over an unsuspecting metropolis. The tag line accompanying this image is IMAGINE GREATER. Really. Why change the name at all, “sci fi” is already a clearly understood abbreviation for science fiction? Can’t trademark it? Design a symbol and register that!

The existing Sci Fi channel’s logo is weak by any measure but in my opinion the cable TV universe is not a pantheon of stellar graphics. Given this environment this logo with its meager graphic reference to Saturn, blends in with the rest of the lackluster logos for the other channels.

animal planet logo

One of my least favorites is for Animal Planet. My kids ask me why this logo has the “M” turned on its side. I just say it represents a dead mammal. For all the visual wonder the natural world has to offer, this typographic cliché is all they could come up with?

On the other hand the Spike TV logo is muscular and direct, just right for their testosterone-powered audience.

spiketv logo

The new SyFy logo is devoid of any visual clue as to the station’s programming. Maybe it will blink, beam or blip when used in the bottom right-hand corner of our screens. Otherwise, it could substitute for any product branding out of the pharmaceutical industry.

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I’m not really part of the SyFy channel’s demographic. I like my “sci fi” in IMAX with surround sound and popcorn. However, I am a fan of effective design and branding and this identity change is galactically flawed. Fortunately for the SyFy channel, we terrestrials are a very adaptable species. A year from now, we will just accept this new brand and not even question wy.

Read more of Ken Carbone’s Yes to Less blog
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Ken Carbone is among America’s most respected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity and intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany & Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie’s, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group and The Taubman Company. His clients also include celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art.

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About the author

Ken Carbone is a designer, artist, musician, author and teacher. He is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of the Carbone Smolan Agency, a design and branding company in New York City.

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