Letraset was… in the background, there was this looming coming of electronic graphics we heard about. You’d hear about it and perhaps read articles about it in trade magazines. But that was in the future. That was to happen in 1986, the electronic graphics department started at Granada TV. But when I moved on from World in Action, which was very much Letraset and hand-drawn maps, and it was filming rostrum techniques under a rostrum camera, where you’d have various layers of cell, and you’d build up maps and animations. We developed a good relationship with the rostrum department. The head of rostrum, who was a very strong union man, that used to be fun. If you brought stuff down during their coffee break, lunch break, “Oh, I can’t do it now. Oh, no. There’s dust on the lens.” Phil Phillips, rest in peace. But yes, he was always an interesting character. But yes, it was still, in those days, a very traditional when I worked on world in action. Yes. But I went moving on from world in action. That was the other great thing about television graphics, it’s the visual support. When people ask me, “What exactly is TV graphics?” In a book or an illustration, it’s kind of easy to say, but to me, it’s the visual stamp of everything you see on television. It is the branding of a TV programme, it’s any visual support, that is graphic design. And of course, a lot of it now, you don’t even see with special effects, but that still comes under a sense of an umbrella of graphic design. But I then went from world in action to what was called promotions. And again, promotions are… that was where you would promote your programmes on the national ITV network to promote your programmes and the whole network programmes if you were doing regional and network campaigns. And that was a really interesting time because it at that time, I suppose, that I had the opportunity to design my most famous logo, if you want to put it that way, the actual ITB logo, and that came about because the network was looking for a new ITV logo. So, there was a lot of network meetings where various designers would go down and take storyboards. And fortunately, we had a good editor from promotions, and I forget his surname now. David, ginger hair and a beard. Again, a nice man.
Yes, head of promotions. David…
Oh, I know who you mean, yes.
Very broad, very Scottish, loved his running. He’d always be out running every lunch hour. And again, bark worse than his bite, but he was a very strong voice on the network and the network meetings and various bodies. And so yes. And as it turned out, they wanted a new ITV logo as a filler for a year or so when they selected my design, as it turned out. So, I always kind of think I’m quite proud that I thought, “Well, actually, I had the ITV logo for about…” I think it lasted for about a year to 18 months. I mean, looking back on it now, it’s perhaps no great shapes, but it must’ve done the job. And also, while on promotions, I think, rightly or wrongly, I think I’m right… I think I was the first designer to animate our Granada G, our beloved G, in a three dimension, to make it into a three-dimensional animated form. So, that was interesting because it coincided in 1984-85 with the dawning of this electronic graphics, which we heard was coming. So, yes, we did a 3D animation of the Granada G, a golden G on a bluish background to keep the colour branding with a company in London, a small company that was starting up called Electric Image. And yes, they were exciting times, really. Yes. And I remember then doing another campaign with Electric Image. In the Christmas campaign of 1984, the Granada department had to do the Christmas network campaign, and I was working then with an editor, a promotions editor called Nick Lake, who was a very nice man. He always knew what he wanted when he saw it, so that was always interesting. So, you had a certain free reign. And I came up with a campaign of a toy train that was sitting under the Christmas tree, and then it flew around the skies, dropping TV programmes to all and sundry. And I always remember an interesting conversation with David Black.
David Black, that’s his name.
David was a very… he was a great organiser, but he wasn’t the most creative of promotion editors. So, he couldn’t quite square the circle why there’d be a flying train. He said, “Well, why isn’t Santa Claus in his sleigh?” I had quite an interesting hour trying to persuade him with storyboards, that, “Look, it’d be different to have this flying train, and we’re going to use this brand new electronic 3D imagery.” So, I managed to persuade him in the end, and I think it all turned out. It all turned out well in the end. And in fact, I was the front cover of a trade magazine with graphic design, Christmas graphics enters the new world or something, which was with a picture of the toy train on the front cover of a magazine called Televisual, December, 1984. So, that was quite nice. So, yes, it was, again, exciting times. Yes.
So, the advent of electronic captioning, etc., must have had a huge impact on the department.
It did. It did. Because it was such a revolution, and I think I use that word not too lightly. And I was very much involved because I ended up actually getting the job, the position of head of electronic graphics. And I think it was more by default than anything else because a couple of very talented designers dropped out of the interview process. It was an internal interview process, and a couple of them decided they didn’t want to go for it, but I thought, “You know what? I’m going to go for this. It’s the brave new world, all exciting.” So, I applied for it and I think I was the last men standing, so they said, “Well, look, see what you can do.”
So, yes. So, I became head of electronic graphics and, hey, the salary got boosted because I was head of a department. So, this was 1986, so sort of seven years on from starting. And the interesting thing then was, of course, my friendships didn’t alter, but it was slightly different having a certain level of authority, if that’s the right word, albeit organisational authority over some fellow designers. So, some took to it quite easily. Some, sometimes, that was a challenge. But yes. So, the electronic graphics departments opened up for business in 1986, and yes. So, we had to take over some offices that was on our floor, the second floor in Keith Street in the main building, and all this electronic equipment and fancy new furniture was made and fancy swivel chairs and lighting and electronic desks and all sorts. And of course, we got to know a lot of characters from another universe called engineers, and they’re another breed. These guys that really knew all the tech stuff, because it was then so new to us that, in a way, the engineers were kind of learning as they went. So, yes, it was an interesting… Interesting times.
So, presumably, because you no longer have the Letrasets, you’re no longer doing the scores, you’re, what, just typing it all in?
Yes. So, there was a piece of machinery that came between Letraset and full-blown electronic graphics, as we call it, and that was called the Aston caption generators, and they were being used then on live sports programmes, mainly football, obviously. And that was, now looking back, quite a basic caption machine, but it was the industry standard, and there was a number of Aston… there was an Aston 1, 2, but Granada entered at Aston 3, and we started off at Aston 3 and then went through to Aston 4. And that was a bit like a big keyboard that would not look at a place in a Doctor Who Tardis with a nice little joystick and nice twirly controls and buttons as well as a QWERTY keyboard. And the floppy disc, the good old floppy disc was an 18-inch square floppy disc, which I still have a few, and it’s just amazing now to look at it and to think the floppy disc held a font, one font, or it would hold the captions that you then typed for that particular programme. So, it didn’t exactly have a great memory capacity. But the Astons, they were actually, like I said, to look at now retro, are a nice work of art, I always feel, and Aston Industries. And yes, like I said, it wouldn’t look out of place on a Tardis, a Doctor Who control panel.