Project: Showtime Extreme on-air identity, for Showtime Networks

Showtime Networks
Showtime Extreme on-air identity

More bread, more circuses: an on-air identity for Showtime Extreme

A cross-media rebrand commissioned to celebrate the addition of sports – extreme and conventional – to Showtime’s action movie channel, this project predates the official advent of bro-culture by a year or so. And while there are women among the devotées of NASCAR and Mixed Martial Arts, the brief called for, shall we say, a committed masculinism. We have always been irritated by high-fives, so we tried to keep our eye on the footage itself, figuring we’d leave that kind of behavior to its audience.

This brand is about aggression, conflict and resolution. It is not subtle. The visual conceit is the letter X – a point of convergence rendered by the four arrows implicit in the letter’s negative space, which can be abstracted to create transitional forms. Colors: black, white, and red. Period.


:60 promo

This brand is about brutality and conflict. There are no teaching moments; there are no hugs. Here, editor Neil Gust intercut ass-beating upon ass-beating, set not to generic Jim-Rome-goatee-metal, but to Audioslave’s “Cochise”, which, sadly, we couldn’t get cleared. We had listened to a lot of metal radio in our youth, so the copy pretty much wrote itself.



Print advertising

We used the X from the servicemark to show how the channel combined different types of ass-beatings, as shown here in a magazine ad, which features some fairly bro-tastic copywriting from Kyle Barron-Cohen.



Ratings card

Taking inspiration from the opening titles of MTV’s late-80s “Headbanger’s Ball”, we laid down a backplate consisting of rapid-cut violence and mayhem, over which rode claustrophobic typography. Everything should seem as if if were grinding up against everything else …



Navigation card

…but without the vulgar theatrical trappings of other extreme media. This was about framing the content, not competing with it.



Viewer discretion card

Typically, work like this tries to keep to the edges of the picture-safe area. We consciously violated it, throwing the graphics over the middle of the footage. And there’s no small type. The viewer discretion caveats are no longer points of caution: they’re badges of honor.



In-house guideline

Since most of the components would ultimately be executed by Showtime’s in-house staff. Kyle Barron-Cohen helped us write a brand guideline for that purpose. The deliverable here was a living document: a PDF distributed among staff to keep their eye on the sparrow.



Guideline: overview

The guide is executed in the language of the brand itself, albeit with the introduction of the color gray and H&FJ’s Sentinel, which were reserved for institutional use only. Action-addled viewers would never see them, because an individual’s sense of refinement is blocked by vicarious adrenaline.



Guideline: typography

The servicemark is a custom rendering of H&FJ’s Ziggurat, redrawn to fit as closely as possible. The form is more about the bristling, jagged negative space than the letters themselves. The display face, resurrected from its early-80s grave, is Futura Extrabold, crammed together in all caps.



Guideline: motion graphics

Motion graphics are simple abstractions of mayhem – mostly quick animations of aggressive forms (derived from the x, of course) crashing into each other. There’s no 3D stuff, either. Showtime Extreme is a two-dimensional country.



Guideline: digital

For small-space applications, we created an alternate servicemark based on the “x” in “extreme”: a familiar trope (e.g. The X Games, etc.) but this brand isn’t concerned with seeming obvious. Note overblown copywriting. There is no room for subtlety; Ring Lardner don’t cover mixed martial arts.

Creative director
Alicia Johnson
Art director
Adam McIsaac
Neil J. Gust
Adam McIsaac
Kyle Barron-Cohen
Motion graphics
Kiffer Keegan