The original BBC Television Service was launched on November 2nd, 1936, and was taken off air at the outbreak of war in September 1939, returning in June 1946.
In December 1953 the first ident, nicknamed the “Bat’s Wings,” was introduced, an elaborate mechanical contraption constructed by designer Abram Games, which featured a tiny spinning globe in the centre, surrounded by two spinning “eyes,” with lightning flashes to either side.
The model was temperamental, and broke down shortly after it was filmed. By the early 1960s the Bat’s Wings had been superseded by the “BBC tv” logo within a circle, beneath which would appear a map of Britain split into the BBC’s broadcast regions.
Perhaps the channel’s most famous emblem, the logo over a globe, appeared in its first guise on September 30th, 1963. The first such ident featured the continuity announcer speaking over a rotating globe while a “BBC tv” caption appeared along with the announcement, “This is BBC Television.”
The globe was changed on September 5th, 1981, to the double-striped BBC1 logo, sitting below a lime green and blue globe on navy blue background.
In 1988, the BBC launched a new logo designed by Michael Peters. The previous logo was modified by sharpening up the parallelogram edges, setting them to an angle of 17 degrees without reducing the size of the spaces between the boxes.
February 1991 saw a new virtual globe, designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn’s branding agency, Lambie-Nairn, who had first made an impact with Channel 4’s original 1982 ident. The idents were based on a filmed model, composited and enhanced on computer. The ident consisted of a figure “1” inside a rotating transparent globe surrounded by a swirling smoky atmosphere above the BBC’s corporate logo — the bold italic letters BBC within three rhomboids, sitting above the three flashes introduced in Michael Peters’ refinement.
There were various reproduction issues with the diagonals in the logo, as well as the costly full-colour print required with the coloured bars beneath. Lambie-Nairn’s solution was introduced in October 1997. Straightening up the boxes and letters removed the problems associated with diagonals and those associated with disappearing lines. The shape of the boxes was kept retain equity, and the typeface used was Gill Sans, made by Eric Gill.
In 2021, the BBC began to phase in the first modification to its corporate logo in 24 years. Closely based on its predecessor, it maintains the basic form of the existing logo used since 1997, but the blocks have more space between them and slightly smaller lettering. The typeface was also changed from Gill Sans to the BBC’s corporate font Reith Sans.
More BBC logo history here: