Eurovision isn’t just a competition where European nations come together to battle it out for musical supremacy. It’s also an international broadcasting network that’s been distributing TV shows and news footage since 1954. With the 2017 edition of its famous song contest recently concluding, Colossal put together a fascinating look at the network’s classic logo, a stringy, distinctively ’50s piece of art that preceded its broadcasts way back when. The article was inspired by a photo posted on the Twitter feed of Andrew Wiseman, who’s been cataloging the history of British broadcasting on his website since 1996.
As it turns out, that old Eurovision logo wasn’t a piece of hand-drawn art, as you might suspect. It was an actual 3-D model built from string and filmed. When asked why the station might go for a practical logo, rather than the seemingly simpler process of drawing one, Wiseman reached out to Transdiffusion, an organization dedicated to preserving European broadcasting history, which theorized that it was partially a technological matter: Different countries under the Eurovision banner had different broadcasting standards, and it’s possible that a drawn logo would look fine on one and crummy on others.
But, as Transdiffusion points out, it was pretty common for stations to use actual models and machines for their logos all those decades ago. Designed by poster artist Abram Games and used from 1955 to 1960, the BBC’s famous “batwings” logo was also a mechanical model made of piano wire, brass, and flashing lights. As Colossal’s article later looks back upon, even the spinning globe ident that the BBC would eventually adopt involved a physical model. The metallic globe, with its oceans painted black to create contrast, was filmed while it rotated in front of a panoramic mirror. It continued to be used for years with occasional minor alterations as more and more households started paying the premium for the station’s color broadcasts. It wasn’t until the 1985 that the machine was replaced by a rudimentary computer-generated globe.