Tributes to Martin Lambie-Nairn, eminent TV graphics designer and Spitting Image co-creator who lectured in Scarborough

An internationally renowned designer who gave the last public lecture to be held at the former Westwood campus of the former Yorkshire Coast College in Scarborough has died.

By Patrick Argent
Friday, 8th January 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th January 2021, 4:04 pm

Pre-eminent in the specialised field of television graphics over the past four decades, Martin Lambie-Nairn’s highly distinctive idents are instantly recognisable to households everywhere throughout Britain with his work for the major terrestrial channels.

From the very outset his career was based in television, working for the BBC, Rediffusion TV, ITV and London Weekend TV.

On establishing his own studio in the mid-1970s he went on to pioneer new forms of graphic presentation techniques in broadcasting for the current affairs programme Weekend World.

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Martin Lambie-Nairn

His extraordinarily innovative design for the Channel 4 animated logo sequence in 1982, which profoundly influenced both television graphic design and advertising, and his subsequent witty series for BBC2, saw him establish new creative standards for network identities.

Other notable work included the BBC1 globe hot air balloon clip, the ident for TF1 channel in France and the motion identity for O2.

In advertising he created the first ever 30-second computer-generated TV commercial in the UK for Smarties. His work for the BBC News and a version of his Channel 4 logo are still both used to this day.

He was also the co-creator of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image (1984-96) which made a comeback on the BBC/ITV streaming channel Britbox in 2020.

Martin Lambie-Nairn designed this BBC News ident

Staged in Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s former theatre-in-the round within the Art & Design faculty in March 2013, the lecture event was organised on behalf of the arts group Scarborough Digital. An unusual double bill, it also featured graphic designer Malcolm Garrett, known especially for both his ground breaking approach in digital design and his work in the music industry for such artists as Buzzcocks, Simple Minds, Duran Duran and Peter Gabriel, amongst many others.

Kane Cunningham, a former senior art lecturer at the Westwood campus, said: “We had the great pleasure of listening to Martin talk about the many familiar brands he created over his career. The theatre was packed with our students and his ideas on design influenced their work and professional careers."

David Hann, former marketing director for Sir Alan Ayckbourn who also attended the lecture, said: “The exceptional respect and admiration in which he was held by his near contemporaries was succinctly expressed by the other guest speaker Malcolm Garrett, (himself an eminent and much-admired graphic designer), when prior to the lecture he stated, "I'll go first, for to follow Martin would be like taking the stage after Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock!"

"The late celebrated designer Milton Glaser once said, "There are only three responses to a piece of design, Yes, No, and Wow. Anyone, having seen any of the BBC idents by Martin Lambie-Nairn, could only say Wow!”

The poster for the Westwood event

Other celebrated figures from the art and design professions who gave lectures at the former Westwood art school included former Royal College of Art Rector Sir Christopher Frayling, Pop artist Sir Peter Blake, fashion designer Jeff Banks, graphic designers Derek Birdsall, David Stuart, Michael Johnson, Vaughan Oliver and the exhibition and museum designers Neal Potter and Richard Fowler.

Mr Lambie-Nairn died aged 75 on Christmas Day.

BBC 2 ident designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn