Last month, we looked at studios that specialize in “broadcast design.” I recently had a chance to connect with the folks at FX Networks, which faces a constant challenge in attracting viewers to its popular programming. The network is home to Sons of Anarchy, UFC, American Horror Story, How I Met Your Mother, The League and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and according to executive VP of marketing and on-air, Stephanie Gibbons, a lot of their success comes from breaking rules and avoiding templates.
“Every rule we have, we break when we need to,” she explains. “We do not have a template or branded look. Each show is it own entity in terms of tone and manner.”
The network, whose own logo Gibbons sees as “chunky, visceral and monolithic,” relaunches its broadcast design package every year, holding on to some of the “connective DNA” from the previous year. “Every year the look is different,” says Gibbons. “It all stays within the same family, but that’s sort of the thrill of it — to try to reinvent the wheel every time, although it remains a circle.”
A show like The Shield, which has been running for seven or eight seasons and relies heavily on iconic imagery of the badge, presents the challenge of “taking it to the next level.” Newer shows, such as the breakout hit American Horror Story, provide their own unique challenges, such as staying with what has worked in the first season, or pushing the envelope further.
“I would say we could probably push ourselves a little further than we would have with any of our other shows,” says Gibbons of the horror drama. “I think it’s an interesting question: ‘When is it ready for the next level?’ My answer to that would be: ‘Always!” The work should be scathingly arresting and fresh. And to that extent, I think you stand a chance of bringing new people in… I want to have the most powerful communication out there. Maintaining what may be mediocre and [didn’t] get them the first time is not going to be successful.”