NBC, which introduced the colorful bird as its mascot back in 1956, is quietly rolling out a redesigned peacock for its on-air look.
If you haven’t noticed the changes to NBC’s logo, don’t worry about it. It’s not that you’ve missed something obvious. Subtle changes make up a redesigned peacock on a series of on-air promos and IDs that began rolling out some time around Thanksgiving.
The changes are by no means drastic with this update. Unlike in year’s past, the bird isn’t changing the number of feathers or the arrangement of its color.
That wasn’t the case at least two times during the bird’s history.
A trip down peacock memory lane
When it launched in the 1950s to serve as a visual reminder of the network that pioneered color television, it was a bold, animated design with each feather featuring multiple colors.
But the original 1956 peacock, nicknamed “The Bird,” appropriately enough, wasn’t the network’s primarylogo. At the time, NBC relied on the peacock only to introduce programs broadcast in color.
For its official logo, NBC continued with a three-note xylophone design with the letters N, B and C spelled out across the chimes. That xylophone logo lasted through 1959, which it was replaced by “The Snake,” with the letters N and Bsitting on top of a C that animated onto the screen as if it were a snake sliding into position.
The peacock largely disappeared, other than in rare bumpers leading into network specials, in 1975.
That was the year NBC made an embarrassing logo blunder. It introduced a two-color trapezoidal N that turned out to be nearly an exact match to the Nebraska Public Television logo. NBC found itself in a trademark infringement lawsuit. It settled, agreeing to give the Nebraska network some $800,000 in equipment and $55,000 to design a new logo so NBC could keep its odd-looking design.
The peacock returned in 1979 in what was nicknamed “The Proud N.” The appearance of the new, modernized peacock accompanied the network’s marketing campaign for the year: “Proud as a Peacock.” The new bird sat atop an outline of the trapezoidal shape.
Like its predecessor, the 1979 peacock featured 11 feathers.
The most recent peacock debuted in 1986
The design most familiar to viewers today made its debut, believe it or not, way back in 1986. That year, the bird shed five of its features, settling on just six.
I don’t know what led them to originally go with 11 feathers. The six, however, were said to represent NBC’s six major divisions:
- News (yellow)
- Sports (orange)
- Entertainment (red)
- Stations (purple)
- Network (blue)
- Productions (green)
That’s the official story. It may or may not be accurate. I’ve seen some goofy explanations for logo redesigns to justify nearly anything. But I don’t recall, even during my time at an NBC affiliate, seeing any evidence the network divisions paid any attention to their specific color.
But like the CBS Eye, the simple design managed to make a bold statement. You don’t see that many logos remain largely unchanged for this long, after all. Designers love to change things. Of course, their income depends on such changes.
So what’s so ‘new’ about the redesigned peacock?
The TV news design website NewscastStudio, which confirmed the change with the network, points out three primary differences to the peacock itself.
The first is a wider separation between the feathers. The narrower white line that separated each color now looks to be nearly twice as wide. But the change doesn’t overwhelm me when I look at it. Even when I see the animated comparison’s on NewscastStudio’s website, the change is noticeable but by no means drastic or uncomfortable.
The second change, a bit more subtle, is the hues of the feathers. While the colors didn’t change, they became more vibrant. You’d think adding vibrancy to the feathers of a peacock — of all things — might be redundant. But the bolder colors are certainly pleasing to the eye.
The final change is even more subtle and involves the shape of the bird’s beak. The new design lengthens it into the purple feather. Yes, the bird ended up getting a nose job, but it appears to have gotten the opposite kind most nose job patients seem to go for.
Check out their story to see a direct comparison of the “before” and “after” versions of the peacock.
The site also points out another key change to the on-air look. But this one isn’t about the logo but a more noticeable change to the typeface that accompanies it.
NewscastStudio credited “eagle-eyed” viewers who noticed the change around Thanksgiving. (Shouldn’t they call that “peacock-eyed”?) NBC says it plans a slow rollout, which is probably a relief to NBC stations across the country. I don’t imagine any of them will rush to update their logos.
Changing a logo for a big company can cost a fortune, even when the new logo isn’t all that different. It would not surprise me if some NBC stations take years to update all of the signage and stationary in their building.
Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad design update at all. But given my suspicion that many viewers might never notice it changed without it being pointed out, I wonder if the change was actually worth whatever it ends up costing.