Warren Ellis Ident

Art Direction / Design / Animation

With Warren Ellis’ hit Netflix show Castlevania entering its third season, there came the need for an ident to put his stamp on the production and any other future shows he might be involved in. Working with motion graphics artist Travis Krause and musician Zac Bentz, we created a 3-second animated logo that spoke the language of Ellis’ personal brand — something atemporal, reaching forward and backward in time, with overtones of the occult and technological.

The ident's first appearance will be in Castlevania Season 3, at the conclusion of each episode.

See it on Vimeo.

Client: Warren Ellis
Animation: Travis Krause
Sound Design: Zac Bentz

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Inspiration and Process

From the start, Ellis had some ideas about what he’d like to see in the ident. Simple, monotone, atemporal. Foremost in his mind as a source of inspiration, was the very first television ident — a moving logo designed by Abram Games for the BBC, in 1953. Known as “the bat’s wings” or “the thing," depending upon who you asked at the time, that ident was actually a physical contraption crafted from brass and piano wire, that was put into motion and filmed. It was a bit ominous and esoteric in appearance, to say the least, so I could see why Ellis was drawn to it. And as was the case with the BBC ident, Ellis was keen to see his be something that was rotating for the short time it was on-screen in front of viewers.

In addition to keeping this old ident in mind, he also wanted to see the type set in Transport, a sans serif typeface first designed for road signs in the United Kingdom. It’s something we also used in the visual identity for Summon Books, a label Ellis created for his self-published digital-only works. And a custom ident sound was provided by musician Zac Bentz, who had worked with Ellis in the past, creating the audio ident for the SPEKTRMODULE podcast. I was familiar with Bentz, and his recent concept album of fictional ident sounds was fresh in my mind, so it was great to learn he was on board for the project.

Beyond that, it was up to me to dig in and puzzle together elements that spoke to what Ellis was doing with his television production, and what I know about him as a writer and thinker.

[ Note on Subject ]

Clockwise from top-left: BBC ident by Abram Games, graphic by Dustrial, manual cover via Individuello, USSR symbol for science and technology, graphic by R▲, NASA publication.

Before I got going on ideas and creating things, I first assembled some mood boards to expand upon what we liked about the BBC ident. In theory, whatever we ended up creating would feel somewhat at home amongst the elements we picked out, and what you see above is a sampling from that process. And as you can see, there were some new things and some old things.

After this, I moved to the sketchbook, drawing rough forms and taking note of symbols that could serve well in a logo. Globes and eyes, representing the audience and viewers for the shows Ellis produces. Gears, sparks and atoms for his creative process and production. Orbital paths, waves, and satellite dishes for reach and distribution. Tape reels for film and media. That sort of thing.

As I was flipping through old technical trade magazines I have around the office, hoping to find more visual references, I came across something else that was interesting. In a 1959 issue of Industrial Research magazine, there was an article on the future of “World-wide Television” as the technology was coming into view at the time.

Predicting that world-wide television would soon be as commonplace as continental television, it didn't get so far into the future that it predicted Netflix. What it did imagine though, was a network of satellites blanketing the globe, in a system dubbed the “Earth Net”. In addition to its tie-in with television, I was drawn to the form depicted in the concept art, which called to mind the rotating ellipses in the BBC ident, and stars that appear in magic circles or other occult symbols. On top of all that, the image of satellites encircling the globe relates to other similarly themed efforts by Warren Ellis, like his Orbital Operations newsletter. So I decided this was worth pursuing as well, in at least a few directions I would present.

Finalizing the Design

After looking over the options I explored, some of which are pictured above, Ellis thought it would be great to combine the orbiting satellite network, utilizing the trailing lines (a nod to Games’ BBC ident), with the "radioactive" vintage tape reel from another option. With that, we had landed on the final mark.

Sound and Animation

With the design and sound approved at about the same time (Zac Bentz outlines his process on Bandcamp, and shares some interesting outtakes as well), I then sat down with Travis Krause here in the studio to storyboard the 3-second animation that would reveal the logo and time out with the sound. Once we worked things out on paper, I handed the assets off to him so he could go work his magic.

For the final animated piece, a subtle glitching of the RGB channels was applied at the beginning of the ident, which then resolved clean. So what we ended up with was a thing that looked a little like something out of the past, mixed with ideas about the future, that was also a product of our present digital world. You can see the full animated ident below.