December 18, 2008

cnn cleans up

If you've watched CNN this week, you might have noticed a change in their on-air graphics. The part that is getting the most attention is that they have done away with the godawful, annoying and illegible bottom-of-the-screen ticker that invaded most newscasts after 9/11. At first glance, I thought they had just adopted the ticker format used by CNN International which doesn't scroll the text but instead flips from line to line of color coded headlines. Instead, CNN is using the ticker space for a line of text about the story being featured above. At some times and during some shows, however, the space does change to rotating headlines which thankfully don't scroll, but instead flip from line to line, making it much easier to read and less distracting. Adding to the smartness, they have adopted a coding system with these headlines appearing on a black bar (as opposed to the story information appearing on a white bar). While maybe not necessarily obvious to the viewer, this creates a visual language that subconsciously helps to tell the viewer what kind of information is being presented.

But beyond the whole flipper vs scroller change, the overall look of the new lower third graphics is now consistent across the network. It is now much cleaner and easier to use. They clearly have taken a cue from the look of CNN International, which I've written about more than once (link below). Gone are the overdone beveled edges and gradations and light flares and multiple typefaces and other nonsense, replaced by clean type over solid colors. While lacking the style and sensibility of the CNN International look, its still a welcome change and a move forward that I never thought I'd see on the US version of CNN. Though the type is not as easy to read as the Helvetica used by CNN International, CNN's screaming all caps type is still clean and consistent. And the boxes create a consistent system of information that give everything a place rather than trying to jumble a bunch of unrelated elements together (like in the last pic above). Best of all, at times, the changing system of boxes can reduce to allow much more video to be seen (with the odd exception of some inexplicable curved red animating texture bar that comes up to block half the video during breaking news in AC360 shown above - as if the flashing black and yellow BREAKING NEWS isn't urgent enough?! - and the new breaking news segment opener animation is full of equally bad 3D and light flares, etc).

I haven't completely figured out the rationale of the changing box that holds the CNN logo, which sometimes is simply (nicely) just the logo, other times expands to include a world map that as far as I can tell is only decoration but also sometimes serves as background for a humongous LIVE bug that overpowers the CNN logo itself, and at other times expands to hold what I call the 'box of yuck'. The box of yuck is the one old-style holdover - constantly 1990's style animating graphics that have no purpose except to sell - and for some reason they are fairly consistently terrible: truly awful type and cheesy graphics that must have been done by some news intern (red type with a white drop shadow? wtf??) flying and rotating back and forth over and over and over. But at least now its only relegated to that one box. If you put a post-it note over that part of the screen, the viewing experience is much better.

Having designed my share of news graphics packages, you can't underestimate how difficult it was to get this through. (I would surmise that the necessity for the humongous LIVE and the Box of Yuck are probably concessions to different people in the mix of approvals). Hopefully this is the beginning of some modernization, cleanliness and consistency at CNN. They deserve kudos for this step in the right direction.
  • jbd blog, may 10 2006: good news
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    So good to see you blog on CNN's change. As a former producer at CNN International I've been so pleased to see the US counterpart adapt its style too. But I'd never heard tell of the box of yuck...i love that expression and its so appropriate! Hopefully other US networks will follow suite, CNN US is certainly showing them up now,