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List of PBS logos

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PBS logos are station identifications used by the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Programs distributed to its member stations end with a television ID including the PBS name and logo and often a voiceover, known in the industry as a "system cue". From 1970 to 1984 the logo was usually displayed on-screen for eight seconds. Since 1984 the logo has appeared on-screen for five seconds.

This article also covers the logos used by PBS's predecessor, National Educational Television.

National Educational Television (NET) LogosEdit

First logo (1952–1962)Edit

The National Educational Television and Radio Center was established in 1952. Its original on-air logo was used from then to 1962. It was a two-dimensional still shot[1] of a white map silhouette of the United States inside a black oval over a white background. Inside the map design are three sets of segmented lines shaped like television monitors with the letters NET inside each box. A TV antenna appears vertically through the map design with the words National Educational Television at the top and Educational Television and Radio Center underneath. However, this can be slightly seen due to low picture quality. A version with a circle reading NET and a version with a map reading National Educational Television have also existed. The other version used from 1959 to 1962 has the house with "NET" engraved in it.

Second logo (1962–1966)Edit

The original logo for the abridged National Educational Television was first used on June 17, 1962[2] to 1966. It was a simple still shot of the network's logo—the letters "NET" with a slanted roof coming out of the top-right of the "T", hanging over the "N" and the "E," with a small antenna sticking out over the sling pod letter "N." There are also "stars" all over the screen. Meanwhile, an announcer says, "This is National Educational Television." Another version said "This is NET. National Educational Television" with the logo slightly zoomed in.

Third logo (1966–1968)Edit

The third logo was first used in 1966. First, gray dots appear and disappear rapidly. A white circle is sketched around the dots. A vertical line is sketched over the circle, but then is erased. A small fire or a jumping one appears in the circle. Several curved vertical and horizontal lines cover the circle to create an image of the globe. Several white lines appear under the globe to form the letters "NET". The globe ultimately winds up on top of the "T". The theme playing in the background opens with several bell sounds followed by an orchestral tune, as an announcer says "The following program is from/this is NET, the National Educational Television network."

Last logo (1968–1970)Edit

NET's last logo

This was a variant of the 1962 logo made for color. First, the left section of the screen tilts with red from the bottom, the middle section fills with yellow from the top, and the pulling section fills with blue from the bottom. Then, one at a time, the sections flip back over outward to form matching pairs with the letters N, E, and T (in that order) on a black background. An announcer says, "The following program is from/this is NET, the National Educational Television network." As he does this, the words "National Educational Television" appear over each of the letters, then mutate into a roof charged to the blue T with an aerial antenna connected to it. On later variants, a different announcer (Fred Foy) says, "The following program is from/this is NET, the public television network." Once this variant was introduced the "National Educational Television" wordmarks were replaced with a blue line that slid into view, then took the roof shape.

The theme was a synthesized horn score composed by Eric Siday (1905-1976), who also composed the score for the similar-sounding Screen Gems and CBS color programming logos.

The updated opening and closing logos are included intact on the second volume of the Sesame Street: Old School DVD with the first test pilot episode.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) IDsEdit

PBS's first logo

First logo (1970–1971)Edit

The first PBS logo was used from 1970 to 1971. Then, actor Macdonald Carey says, "This is PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service." This ident served the network for its first year. The picture was simply a still with the words PUBLIC, BROADCASTING, and SERVICE, set in Helvetica and displayed in red, yellow, and blue, respectively. During this ident's time, it served as a filler for the NET ident until the second PBS ident was introduced. It was actually previewed on August 30, 1970 in front of the Grateful Dead concert program Celebration, before PBS debuted.

Second logo (1971–1984)Edit

PBS's second logo

The second PBS logo was used from 1971 to 1984. This ident was used on a less regular basis until 1991, when it was completely taken off PBS. It features cel-animated tricolor letters that assemble onscreen to form the logo, similar to the concepts used for production logos from that era, such as those from MTM Enterprises.

This logo starts with a full-screen present blue "P," which zooms out to the upper-middle, taking on the shape of a face in profile (which would become the PBS P-Head) as it turns left. Soon after, an orange "B" and then a green "S" pop out, with dots popping off to form the spaces in those letters. In tandem with the letters appearing, the words "PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE" appear individually at the bottom of the screen, left-aligned, and in a sans-serif typeface.

This logo was designed by Ernie Smith[3] and Herb Lubalin of the Lubalin Smith Carnase design studio, on assignment from the Lawrence K. Grossman advertising agency, whose creative chief, Ron Aigen, directed the logo search. The agency then commissioned the accompanying music, composed by Paul Alan Levi, which consists of a EMS VCS 3 score, beginning with a rapidly descending, telephone-like scale, followed by five warm, heavy brass-like notes. This was the only logo used for PBS programming until the third PBS logo debuted in 1984. The logo is featured on the Sesame Street: Old School and The Best of the Electric Company DVD sets.

Lubalin's human face "P", known internally at PBS as "Everyman", but more commonly known as "P-Head", became the basis for all subsequent PBS logos.[4]

Third logo (1984–1989)Edit

The third PBS logo was used from 1984 to 1989. The logo was principally developed by Tom Geismar of Chermayeff & Geismar.[5]

Chermayeff & Geismar felt that the Lubalin-designed logo too much resembled the logos of the three dominant commercial networks of the time, and they sought "to develop a symbol that could stand for the more inclusive concept of 'public television'". They inverted Lubalin's "Everyman" "P" to face right instead of left, repeated the outline as a series "to suggest a multitude, a public", and renamed the icon "Everyone".[4] The repeated outline of the face has also been interpreted to suggest a degree of "multiculturalism" as well as the public service aspect of the PBS mission.[6]

The logo starts with a blue abstract profile of the human face, facing right, set on a black background. A piece blasts to the right, and settles a short distance from the figure. The letters "PBS" appear below in a white, slab serif typeface. The accompanying theme, composed by Jonathan Elias, consists of a piano chord accompanied by some pizzicato tones, then a softer version of the piano chord.

A variation of the ident was used at the end of the first episode of Square One Television in 1987. The logo appeared as usual, but then multiplied off into the distance over a chorus of "And on, and on and on...", to coincide with a song called "That's Infinity" that appeared in the episode.

Fourth logo (1989–1993)Edit

The fourth PBS logo was used from 1989 to 1993. On a black background, a holographic side-facing transparent blue P-head switches to the right, leaving behind a trail of P-Heads. The trailing P-Heads hologram into the PBS logo from before, which blends into the center of the screen, occupying almost all of it. Several white and rainbow lines streak across the bottom of the screen, keeping the text "PBS" in the same typeface as before to the bottom left. An announcer says, "This is PBS." or "You're watching PBS."

Fifth logo (1992–1996)Edit

The fifth PBS logo was used from 1992 to 1996. Designed by the New York design firm Telezign, it starts with a pink glass circle spinning while 8 faces of various people appear and disappear within it. Then it jumps out through the eye of the stylized P's in an orange/pink installation art environment. The familiar "PBS" text spins in, in white and to the left of the P.

The accompanying theme, composed by Peter Fish, is described as "a musical airport signature that employs 4 different voices like Etihad Airways (a pop singer, a blues singer, a soprano and a bass), with qualities ranging from classical to jazz". Christopher Murney says "This is PBS." or "You're watching PBS."[7]

This ID is not animated with computer graphics, but rather was created traditionally on film. The stylized P is frosted glass, and the PBS text is rotated into place by rods beneath a rostrum. The movement of the scene was created with a motion control camera.

Sixth logo (1996–1998)Edit

The sixth PBS logo was used from 1996 to 1998. Its composition now included of a variety of items: A telescope turns in the lower left corner; a globe of the Earth shows at upper right; while at center a framed windowpane traps in. The various objects fade away to reveal the stylized P's, which are initially yellow-green with the right section splatted blue. These colors change to blue and green, respectively, while the "PBS" text gets in below. The ending result resembles the third ident. Actress Lauren Bacall says "This is PBS", or occasionally "You're watching PBS".

Seventh logo (1998–2002)Edit

The seventh PBS logo was used from 1998 to 2002. It is a combination of live action and computer effects. It begins with a man or woman holding up a black, round disc printed with a white PBS logo. As he/she holds the disc in front of his/her face, several superimposed acrobats jump and somersault behind the person, in a circular pattern. The letters "PBS" appear in black to the right of the disc, with the PBS website address below the letters. This is the first time the website address has appeared in a PBS logo.

The accompanying theme is a world/new age piece, with Lauren Bacall saying "This is PBS." Sometimes, Bacall will say "You're watching your public television station, PBS."

This logo also introduced a minor change to the PBS logo. From here on, the PBS figure logo appears in a black circle, with the "PBS" text to the right. According to Chermayeff & Geismar, the disc was disguised as a shield if it was added to keep the logo "from background interference".[4]

Eighth logo (2002–2009)Edit

The eighth PBS logo was used from 2002 to 2009. It features live-action footage filmed on a large set with a hardwood floor and shaggy brown curtains and has many variants, including "Young People" (voiceover by Edie Mirman), "Performers" (voiceover by David Kaye), "Flowers" (voiceover by Helen Mirren), "Daddy and Son" (voiceover by Kyle Eastwood), "Cowboy" (voiceover by David Kaye), and "Generations" (voiceover by Edie Mirman). It ends with the PBS logo animating over the scene. Each variant has its own special arrangement of the current PBS promo music, along with a voiceover. The voiceover is one of these six people saying "We are PBS," or occasionally, "I am PBS."

There is also a version that uses a purple-blue background instead of the original shaggy brown curtains. The words "Perspective. Analysis. Understanding." flash briefly and fade out, and then "Be More" scans to the right, followed by "PBS" in white. Bob Hilton says, "This is PBS." This variant can only be seen on Frontline.

Ninth logo (2009–present)Edit

The ninth PBS logo was first used in 2009.[8] The logos show various people engaged in different, leisurely activities, some stargazing and others reading a scrapbook. Each ends with a voiceover saying "Be more, PBS," or occasionally, "You're watching PBS." The "Be more" slogan is displayed, with the PBS logo to the right. "PBS" in text follows which transitions to the website "" The idents were designed by Los Angeles-based Troika Design Group.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "KETC | Because of You: 50 Years of Channel 9 | Part I". KETC via YouTube. 2008-10-13. timestamp 1:06. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  2. ^ George W. Woolery (1983). Children's Television, the First Thirty-five Years, 1946-1981: Live, film, and tape series. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press. p. 594. ISBN 978-0-8108-1651-0.
  3. ^ Jennifer Dunning (April 4, 2004). "Ernie Smith, 79, Jazz and Dance Authority". The New York Times. He worked at several advertising agencies in New York. Among them were Sudler & Hennessy and Lubalin, Smith & Carnase, where he developed a logo for PBS.
  4. ^ a b c Chermayeff, Ivan; Geismar, Tom; Haviv, Sagi (2011). Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff & Geismar. F+W Media, Inc. p. 68. ISBN 1-4403-1032-7.
  5. ^ Steven Heller, "ART; A Laboratory for Sign Language", The New York Times, December 14, 2003.
  6. ^ Gernsheimer, Jack (2008). Designing Logos: The Process of Creating Symbols that Endure. Allworth Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-58115-649-2.
  7. ^ John Carmody, "The TV Column", The Washington Post, January 1, 1993 (pay site), reprinted as "PBS Logo Takes on a New Look", Albany Times Union, January 5, 1993, copy available here or here from HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  8. ^ "PBS Gets a Fresh Look for Fall". 2009-09-25. PBS stations will debut the new package in conjunction with the September 27 premiere of Ken Burns's most recent film series

External linksEdit