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Martin Lambie-Nairn, Spitting Image co-creator, dies at 75

Posted at Dec 29, 2020

Martin Lambie-Nairn, the co-creator of Spitting Image and the man behind the Channel 4 logo and other TV branding, has died at 75.

The graphic designer died on Christmas Day, the consultancy that he co-founded, ML-N, announced on Monday.

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In 1981, he came up with the original idea during a business lunch for the satirical puppet show Spitting Image, which ran for 18 series between 1984 and 1996 and was watched by 15 million viewers in its zenith before being rebooted for the BritBox online subscription service this year.

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

The designer also helped produce some of British television’s most recognisable visuals, including Channel 4’s original “blocks” animated logo in 1982 and a series of BBC idents – the sequences between programmes that identify the channel – including the globe balloons used by BBC One between 1997 and 2001 and BBC Two idents such as one with paint splashing horizontally across a two.

A statement from ML-N described him as “one of the leading graphic designers and creative directors of his generation”.

It added: “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.”

Sir Jony Ive, the former Apple design chief, said he was “fortunate” Lambie-Nairn had “defined part of my visual landscape growing up”.

He said: “His work for the BBC was so very gentle, thoughtful and beautiful. Identities driven by beauty and not a marketing agenda are so rare and so valuable.”

Lambie-Nairn’s branding agency also produced the bubble logo used by the mobile phone company O2.

The designer was a consultant creative director at the BBC for 12 years before moving to other projects in 2002. He 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.

Chris Cook, BBC News’s creative director, tweeted: “This is very sad. Martin Lambie Nairn was instrumental in building the @BBCNews brand as it still exists today. He was a brilliant designer and a thoroughly lovely man. Sleep well Mr.”

Mark Read, the chief executive of the advertising multinational WPP, tweeted: “Martin Lambie-Nairn contributed so much to our industry and created some of the most iconic identities that have stood the test of time around the world.”