Sagi Haviv on creating an icon of permanence for Warner Bros. Discovery

Partner at world-renowned brand and graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, the ‘logo prodigy’ delves into what makes an identity timeless, and simplicity as a motif.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Aug 18, 2022

Indestructible. Foolproof. Ironclad. Adjectives of fortitude and solidity that better define an encampment than a logo, an identity for a brand. But a conversation with Sagi Haviv, one third of the New York-based Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv lent a different perspective to that notion. "We are concerned with permanence," stated a pensive Haviv, termed the 'logo prodigy' by The New Yorker, during our recent conversation on the new identity design for what can only be termed a rarity in the corporate entertainment world - a merger between Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia by AT&T, establishing the giant conglomerate as one among the "big four" in this sphere, alongside Amazon, Disney, and Netflix.

Sketch development of the new Warner Bros. Discovery logo and identity | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
Sketch development of the new Warner Bros. Discovery logo and identity Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
A logo is a vehicle for the brand. – Sagi Haviv

Creating an instantly recognisable icon for this new conglomerate, one that could coalesce the properties of both brands under a single icon and could also endure, in the strictest sense of the word, was a challenge Haviv and the team at C&G&H sought to overcome through their meticulous process. That creative process, put in place over decades by Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff who pioneered the kind of 'essential', minimal logo design that the firm is now known for since the 60s - that of reducing an icon to its bare essence - is something that also doubles as a style of operating for the firm, also carrying over to the new Warner Bros. Discovery identity.

  • The logo was designed to be adaptable to motion and several other forms of digital media | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The logo was designed to be adaptable to motion and several other forms of digital media Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
  • A thumbnail of the reformed logo against blue and white backgrounds | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    A thumbnail of the reformed logo against blue and white backgrounds Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
  • The new identity was envisaged as a small logo atop the full name of the new conglomerate | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The new identity was envisaged as a small logo atop the full name of the new conglomerate Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Adaptability, intractability, multimedia compatibility, nostalgia, and more importantly, a formidable legacy were just some of the other myriad factors that came into play in the design of the new identity, especially given the multiple applications the logo would eventually spawn in the digital age, including AR, VR, social media, mobile apps, website, print, and the many physical manifestations of it - a far cry from the utility of logos back when the firm started. This variance in media, the vast transformation and evolution of digital media, in particular, is what has affirmed the firm’s position on designing for longevity, finding a veritable response in simplicity, in silhouettes, and in geometric shapes.

The value is in putting in place something, establishing something, that never has to change.

The transferring of what was termed to be an entirely corporate entity to a more creative ecosystem, defined and differentiated by storytelling as stated by David Zaslav, CEO of the newly formed media giant, fuelled the designing of the identity, deriving from the classic 1948 shield as its structural framework. "The goal with the merger was to establish a creative powerhouse that builds on its history as well as its unmatched talent and vision for the future," stated an official release on the much talked about merger, with the new identity termed a succinct reflection of that goal.

  • The new logo design uses the classic 1948 shield as a structural framework | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The new logo design uses the classic 1948 shield as a structural framework Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
  • The proportions of the original shield underlay were maintained | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The proportions of the original shield underlay were maintained Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
  • The weight of the W-B letterforms and the shield were equalised to create harmony | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The weight of the W-B letterforms and the shield were equalised to create harmony Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

The shield and its three-dimensional formation were distilled to a more reductive, purely two-dimensional geometry, maintaining the overall proportions of the shield. In contrast to the individualised, heavily stylised logos that came to be synonymous with what awaited the audiences in the film to come as the lights went out, the mark now features brighter colours, alternating between shades of blue and yellow. Along with an extension of the B to fill the space in the shield toward the top right, the streamlined curves of the reformed W and B letterforms and the shield are now equalised in weight, birthing a harmony that accrues to not just the identity, but also the new, enlarged media library.

  • The ends of the letters in the new sans serif wordmark were kept sharper to resonate with the sharp points of the shield | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The ends of the letters in the new sans serif wordmark were kept sharper to resonate with the sharp points of the shield Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv
  • The colours in the new identity are brighter, alternating between specific shades of yellow and blue | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
    The colours in the new identity are brighter, alternating between specific shades of yellow and blue Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Taking from the sharp, pointed ends of the new contemporary shield, the all-capital wordmark, developed as a sans serif form, has been drawn to accentuate these points. This reflects not just in naturally linear letters, including N and W, but also in the curvillinear C and S, along with the legs of the four Rs, a recurring letter in the name. The logo and the wordmark together coalesce as a singular entity that represents the conglomeration, with the relatively smaller logo atop the full name positioned as a jewel.

Sagi Haviv at work in Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv's New York studio | Identity Redesign for Warner Bros. Discovery | Sagi Haviv | STIRworld
Sagi Haviv at work in Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv's New York studio Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

With a decidedly long-term set of goals and outlook for the logo in mind, including conceiving and generating equity for the brand according to Haviv, the reductivism in C&G&H's logo designs, or a relative simplicity and the kind of communication it embodies is a careful balancing act between questions of identity, legacy, endurance, and permanence. In an enlightening conversation with Haviv, we delve into the genesis of the thought, and how Warner Bros. Discovery came to be a uniquely challenging proposition.

Click on the cover video to watch the full conversation.

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