Some brands are instantly recognisable. Few people can see the golden arches without associating them with a Big Mac, while the red swirls of the Coca Cola logo are identifiable across the globe. But not all brands have the power to spark happy memories and associations from childhood, and instantly evoke a sense of fun and creativity.
Children’s ITV (CITV) is one brand that skilfully achieves this. Whether you are a child watching the programmes after school or a parent enjoying the channel with your pre-schooler the second time round, CITV is a popular and recognisable entity. The ethos of the channel is life with a cheeky twist of imagination, and the images that viewers are presented with are always light-hearted, amusing and quirky.
But as any good marketer knows, conveying fun and creativity using a few seconds of animation or footage is no mean feat. Idents, the short clips that television channels broadcast between programmes, are used in the industry to link shows while also subtly conveying a message about the corporate brand.
Students at the University of Wolverhampton were given a unique opportunity not only to create their own idents, but to pitch them, to Creative Director at CITV Dave Hickman and potentially see them hit the small screen. This exciting opportunity was brought about by the Institute of Media Arts, led by Director Sam Hope, which aims to enhance students’ employability and create new opportunities with businesses.
Sam explains that gaining experience of working on live briefs is vital for students wanting to pursue a career within the media sector. A total of 21 students on the BA (Hons) Animation course were given a brief which specified that their idents had to be funny, age appropriate for 7-10 year olds, up to 10 seconds long, contain the CITV logo and reflect CITV’s personality. But other than that, they had a blank canvas and were encouraged to be original and creative.
Dave and Sam agree that the students well and truly rose to the challenge. The talented School of Art & Design students used a variety of techniques including drawn animation, 3D, textured design and photography and, most importantly, their imagination.
“The students showed a good level of professionalism in how they approached the project,” Dave says. “I was amazed that it was the first time they had presented. We are looking for idents but some of the ideas are bigger than that – you could almost rebrand the channel! No two ideas or approaches were the same.”
Sam agrees: “There’s such variety from in-your-face gags and classic jokes to well observed characterisation using, for example, a dinosaur and cavemen and to settings in quite surreal worlds, such as a really beautiful ‘child like’ dream scape with pandas snorkelling on the backs of dragons. This last animation is so different and a real quality piece that it is being extended by the student into a year long animated project.
“This experience has proved to be very inspirational to all of those involved and it is great to see the spread of ideas and creativity across the group.”
The students pitched their original ideas and were given feedback to improve their designs. They then presented their idents to Dave, Sam and their peers again, receiving more comments and tips on how to hone their creations.
“The students worked very collaboratively and have been presenting to each other and getting feedback from the group which is a positive – and creative – way of working,” Sam continues.
Five idents were short listed by Dave and Sam, with support from Animation course leaders Emily Mantell, Sam Moore and Steve Arnott. The next step involves Dave and his team looking at the idents to see which ones fit the brand and ethos of the channel. Those that meet the high creative and technical standards required could be broadcast on the CITV channel, and possibly be on screens later this year.
The process has undoubtedly been a positive, enlightening and valuable experience for the students. Jamie Cartwright created an ident featuring a spaceman relaxing in space which was one of the five shortlisted by CITV. The spaceman finds a new planet in the shape of the CITV logo and in his eagerness to get there, his jetpack malfunctions, he loses control and crashes into the logo.
Jamie says: “It has been a joy working with CITV. Nothing like this opportunity has been available to me in the past and to work on an assignment and receive feedback from people within the industry is just fantastic.
“It’s been a challenge but most importantly, fun. They have been nice people and very helpful. I am so thrilled that they liked my ident and took it onboard. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!”
It is valuable real-life experience for students aiming to secure jobs in a competitive and demanding industry. By working on a live brief, pitching ideas and creating material that is of broadcast quality their portfolios and CVs will stand out among the crowd and enhance their employability.
Sam says: “The fact that the students have this opportunity through the partnership between CITV and the Institute of Media Arts is fantastic. It is these sorts of experiences that we need to prepare students for the creative and media industries.
“To fulfill the brief, students need to present their ideas and communicate well, use technical equipment, work with others, produce a high quality finished product, demonstrate that they can work within defined parameters of time and resource and be exceptionally creative.
“We have seen the students deliver these requirements through this process and exhibit the sorts of skills needed to succeed in the media industry. That’s what’s expected.”
Dave has some wise words of advice for the students as they build their portfolios and consider career options.
“It’s a difficult world to get noticed. Often it’s luck – your CV falls on the right desk at the right time. But I would say be persistent and never give up on the path you ultimately want to pursue. It is fine to get a job to pay the bills but don’t lose sight of your dream job – animator, illustrator or whatever – make that your target and you’re sure to hit it.”
Cover image: Thomas Massey