Design guru Martin Lambie-Nairn dies aged 75

Design guru Martin Lambie-Nairn dies aged 75: Tributes are paid to man behind iconic Channel 4 and BBC2 logos – who also created Spitting Image ‘during lunch’

  • Martin Lambie-Nairn died at the age of 75 on Christmas Day, his family have said
  • The graphic designer is credited for helping create concept of Spitting Image
  • His design agency also produced Channel 4’s ident and the BBC’s balloon indent

Martin Lambie-Nairn, the graphic designer credited with creating Spitting Image and the Channel 4 block logo and ident, has died aged 75, according to reports.

The designer, whose eponymous branding agency Lambie-Nairn helped produce some of British television’s most recognisable visuals, died on Christmas Day, the BBC said.

Since the news of his death was broken, fans and admirers from across the globe paid tribute to the ‘design genius’. 

Announcing Lambie-Nairn’s death, his family issued a statement which read: ‘We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Martin Lambie-Nairn on Christmas Day.

Design guru Martin Lambie-Nairn (pictured) has died at the age of 75. His family released a statement confirming he passed away on Christmas day

What is an ident? 

A TV ident is a short animated clip that plays for no more than a few seconds before the beginning of a programme.

The idea of the ident is to remind the TV viewer which channel they are watching.

It acts as a critical part of a brand or channel’s identity.

Famous examples of idents include the red hot air balloon used by BBC One, which Lambie Nairn created, and the animated ‘blocks’ ident used by Channel 4. 

‘In a career spanning five decades, Martin was widely acknowledged as one of the leading graphic designers and creative directors of his generation.

‘From his ground-breaking identity for the launch of Channel 4 in 1982 and the re-branding of BBC News to his appointment as a Royal Designer for Industry and creating the original idea and concept for the TV series Spitting Image, Martin’s accolades and achievements are too numerous to list.

‘His exceptional work, kindness and infectious creative spirit touched the lives of so many people. He will be hugely missed by everyone who had the privilege to work alongside him over the years.’

Former Apple design chief Sir Jony Ive also paid tribute, saying he was ‘fortunate’ Lambie-Nairn had ‘defined part of my visual landscape growing up’.

‘His work for the BBC was so very gentle, thoughtful and beautiful,’ he said. ‘Identities driven by beauty and not a marketing agenda are so rare and so valuable.’

Lambie-Nairn’s design consultancy created Channel 4’s original ‘blocks’ animated logo in 1982, which was like nothing ever seen before on television.

Lambie-Nairn is responsible for producing Channel 4’s ‘block’ logo and ident (pictured) which helped create the brand’s identity – with a version of his logo still used to this day

Lambie-Nairn’s block logo and ident helped to shape the identity of Channel 4, with a version of the logo still being used to this day. 

His agency were also responsible for creating the globe balloon idents used by BBC One between 1997 and 2001.

They also produced idents for BBC Two and more recently the bubble logo used by mobile phone company O2.

Idents describe an animated, moving logo shown before a programme is run to identify the TV channel.

Following his work for Channel 4 and Spitting IMage, Lambie-Nairn worked as a director on the first ever computer-animated 30-second television advert broadcast in the UK. 

He also worked as a consultant creative director at the BBC before moving onto other avenues of work in 2002.

During his 12 years working with the BBC he helped reimagine the identities of BBC1, before creaing a series of idents for BBC One and BBC Two.

Lambie-Nairn also worked to produce a series of idents for  BBC News 24, now just BBC News, BBC Choice, CBeebies, CBBC BBC Four and BBC Three.

One of his most iconic BBC idents was the red hot air balloon which featured on BBC One from 1997.

In 1981, Lambie-Nairn came up with the original idea for the satirical puppet show Spitting Image during a business lunch.

Lambie-Nairn is also credited with having helped to come up with the idea for Spitting Image (pictured). He conceived the idea for the show during a discussion on a business lunch

Spitting Image originally ran for 18 series and was watched by 15million viewers at its peak. The show has since been brought back for BritBox

The show originally ran for 18 series between 1984 and 1996 and was watched by 15 million viewers in its heyday, before being rebooted for BritBox this year.

He received a credit from the showrunners which said the series was ‘based on an original lunch with Martin Lambie-Nairn’.

The show, which has recently been revived, originally created puppet caricatures of figures such as Margaret Thatcher but now focuses on celebrities such as Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson. 

Lambie-Nairn also oversaw a Blue Peter competition in 2012 to design the official emblem for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

He was a fellow of the Royal Television Society and was an honorary doctor at both the University of Lincoln and the University of Northampton.

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