For 2023 Doctor Who has reverted to its ornate, iconic, 1973 logo. But it’s not the only one making such moves
Last year Doctor Who revealed its new logo for a new era. Except it wasn’t actually quite brand new. Rather its a modernisation of one of the show’s most classic logos. Designed by Bernard Lodge the diamond logo first appeared in 1973 in The Time Warrior Part One, the same episode that introduced Sarah Jane Smith and the Sontarans. It went on to becoming one of Doctor Who’s most enduring symbols. It stayed in the show’s opening titles for a record seven seasons.
And this isn’t even its first rebirth. When the television institution finally went to sleep for its long hiatus at the end of the 1980s, there was no ‘current’ logo any more. So many merchandise and tie-ins like videos and Doctor Who Magazine reverted to that classic diamond logo. Even when the 1996 TV Movie introduced chose to adapt the 1970-1973 logo instead, some merchandise strands were still clinging to the diamond version as late as 1999.
For many, it was the return of a beloved childhood friend, whether they’d grown up in the 1970s or the 1990s. For others, it seemed like a neat tie-in to Doctor Who’s Diamond Anniversary. According to showrunner Russell T Davies himself, the man behind the decision, it was simply the logo he’d always liked best.
The reimagined diamond logo embraces the Heritage Maximalism aesthetic
But others found it an odd choice. And in fairness, at first glance, even with the enhanced, three-dimensional quality and metallic sheen, it’s a distinctly old fashioned look. We’re more familiar these days to modern design trends bending in the direction of ever greater sleek minimalism. And certainly Doctor Who’s most recent logos have tended towards picking and tweaking a nice font and texture.
But the reimagined Lodge diamond logo seems fussy by comparison. The text is based on Futura Bold but with not one but three layers of stroke on the blue ‘WHO,’ in white, gold, and grey. The ‘Doctor’ isn’t blue, but grey, and curved over the top of the WHO in its own panel. Meanwhile, the whole lot is backed by a diamond shape with an inlaid art deco style design of shapes, consisting of two inner diamonds, a curve across the bottom of the middle diamond, and a V shaped cap on the bottom of the outermost diamond.
It’s a lot.
Indeed, it fits in neatly with the design style called maximalism, where more is always… well, more.
Doctor Who is just one of a number of classic properties looking to the visual past to find their future
Yet, for all its complexity, this new/old logo is very much on trend in the design world at the moment. That drive to make logos ever more streamlined, ever more simple, had gone about as far as it could in recent years. Often dubbed ‘debranding,’ many designers have instead begun to derogatorily call it ‘blanding’ instead. Almost every brand was using similar, clean, sans serif fonts that were becoming increasingly hard to tell apart.
As a reaction to that, many companies have instead kicked everything into reverse. They’ve gone back in time, sprucing up older, heritage logos. It’s a trend that’s been coined ‘heritage maximalism.’ Burberry have led the heritage maximalism charge on the designer goods front, reverting earlier this year to an updated version of their 1901 logo of a knight on horseback. Other prestigious brands like Gucci and Celine are on the same path to reverting to more ornate, showy heritage designs. In Gucci’s case, they’ve yet to formally re-adopt their old mock-handwritten logo. But the motifs used in their designs have begun for frequently echo it and heritage versions of the interlocking Gs in their size and complexity. There are rumours too about others luxury brands like YSL. Having previously abandoned their old strong visual identity, they may be planning a return to the classics as well.
Other television universes like Star Trek have also reverted to their heritage logos
On the mass consumer product side, even Pepsi have dusted down the logo they used variations of between 1950 and 1997 for a new lease of life. That’s still a relatively clean look, and hardly maximalist. Yet it’s also part of the same drive towards more detailed and old school imagery. On television, Star Trek’s current crop of shows, from Picard to Discovery and Strange New Worlds, now have a shared and consistent Star Trek branding. It’s a stable of shows we know Davies admires. He’s talked of a desire to emulate with his new Whoniverse. So perhaps it’s no surprise they too had already hit upon a heritage logo for their unifying look. The new Trek shows have gone all the way back to 1966’s Richard Edlund design.
In Doctor Who’s case, the team seem to have made the decision to return to the classic diamond logo organically, rather than as a conscious effort to fall in with a trend like heritage maximalism. But it does speak to Russell T Davies being plugged into the creative zeitgeist. And that, in and of itself, is very promising for lots of reasons.
I LOVE The Diamond Logo for Doctor Who.