The making of an icon



At the end of the 1980s, BBC Two was delivering some of the best comedy and drama on television. However, research showed that it was not getting the appropriate credit from the audience. “Worthy but dull” was how it was summed up.


Controller Alan Yentob recognised the then existing identity was singularly unmemorable and so commissioned Lambie-Nairn to devise something new, different and unforgettable.


From this brief, the much loved and iconic BBC Two idents were born.

Over the years, Lambie-Nairn was asked back repeatedly to evolve the “2”s for a second, third and fourth edition.


It all started with the introduction of a simple Gill Sans numeral. Why was it chosen over all other 2s? Because it was distinctive. It had sharp edges and a lot of surface area, which provided space for things to “happen” to it.


As its personality grew, so did its eventfulness: it had paint thrown at it, was dropped into powder paint, it was made from copper, paper, neon, and glass. It had fireworks attached to it. It even became a performing dog.

The latest edition saw the figure with a pair of robotic arms and a cheeky personality, delivering irresistible fun and occasional anarchy into the proceedings, and reflecting the youthful slant of the channel’s new schedule.

The “2”s received their own fan mail.


Six months after launch of the first BBC Two idents, research showed that viewers’ perception of the channel had shifted from “worthy” and “dull” to “sophisticated”, “witty”, “amusing” and “engaging”, and all without a change of programming.


The yellow “2” series engaged with a broader and wider audience, helping the channel to increase its share of viewing by an impressive 50%.


Lambie-Nairn’s work won multiple awards, including a D&AD, Promax and a DBA Design Effectiveness Award.

“The BBC has had a long and highly successful relationship with Lambie-Nairn. […] They possess the ability to resolve complex communication requirements involving multiple stakeholders, and produce outstanding creative results of a very high quality.”

Greg Dyke, Former Director General, BBC