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Most major corporations have strict guidelines detailing how their logos should be used. Some can be cumbersome, espousing rules for everything from minimum size requirements to how it should look on the back of a gas guzzling 4×4. The GE styleguide, for example, is a tome at over 300 pages. Imagine my shock, when I stumbled upon MTV’s identity guidelines. It’s one page!

MTV Styleguide

The styleguide shows the main artwork, suggested colors, and some things not to do to the logo. Nothing more. There’s not even a cover. London agency, Hi-Res, designed the styleguide, describing it as:

…a styleguide for people who don’t like styleguides.

Our concept was to introduce the simple concept of Hijacking Reality. If MTV and the videos that are shown do not portrait the real world (after all, there’s not much dancing in the streets in general and none of our friends drive Ferraris and sit in Jacussis all day), the way to express the reality of MTV would be to combine two things—reality and another element which would turn it into something new.

A simple concept, which we could apply to all forms of communication!

I don’t get the “Hijacking Reality” part, but the idea of creating a minimal styleguide that’s easy for people to understand and distribute is great.

I think it’s quite brilliant. What about you?

Update (September 3): Apologies, I’ve made an error. Looks like Hi-Res may not have designed this one-page styleguide after all. I had assumed the images on Hi-Res’s website were of promotional materials introducing the one-page styleguide. But after taking a closer look, I’m not even sure they designed it, since the one-pager isn’t shown in any of Hi-Res’s images. I’ve searched Google, and can’t seem to find a definitive answer to who designed it? Can anyone shed some light on who the mystery designer or agency is?

Update (September 4): Florian Schmitt, Creative Director of Hi-Res, wrote me to clarify the matter:

I have no idea where you got this styleguide from, it looks like a variation of something that formed part of the overall package we made with Precursor, but it’s not something we have done. Our stlyeguide didn’t even have logo guidelines, but was rather a box with inspirational material, not rules. No idea where this is from, but I would assume that MTV produced this themselves.


I’ve gone ahead and striked through the parts of the original post that mistakenly credited the one-page styleguide to Hi-Res. Sorry again for this error.


  • Derek

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    9:49 am

    It’s really not that surprising. Historically if you look at MTV’s station ID spots going all the way back to the 80’s they were always very design forward and conceptual (ok, some are downright weird). I’d argue that flexibility in design is part of MTV’s brand.

  • Robbin

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    10:24 am

    Simplicity will rule the world.

    Brains on Fire is a naming and identity company and are constantly looking for ways to reflect our client’s authentic “soul” — across all touchpoints. Opportunities are everywhere. Even in the style guide. Awesome!

  • Bone

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    12:33 pm

    I am confused as to why they would have a guideline (#2) that says “The outline of the logo should never be altered,” then have a list of RULES that tell you what not to do. Shouldn’t #2 be down in the rules?

    I follow a philosophy to say only what you CAN DO in a style guide and not mention what you CANNOT DO. It is impossible to cover everything that a person can think of to go about wonking-up a mark and doing so opens the user to say “You did not say we can’t do X”. Following this philosophy, the guide could have been even shorter and clearer.


    I can hear it now… “You did not say we could not crop the logo.”

    Instead, say something to this effect… The logo must be completely visible on the page and must be only used in the original form that has been provided to you.

    Simple, no?

  • Ryan Nichols

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    3:55 pm

    I think they forgot a few rules that are a part of our standard styleguide:

    1) Do not taunt the logo. 2) Do not look at the logo for prolonged periods. 4) If the logo begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head. 5)When not in use, the logo should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration. 6) Pregnant women, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exposure to the logo. 7) The logo may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.

  • Ben Fogarty

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    4:34 pm

    Awesome, clear and to the point!

    I totally disagree that your should only include what somebody SHOULD do with a logo. Show them all the ways they should use it, but definitely show them the forbidden uses and manipulations of the logo (effects, font changes, warping…). You may not hit on all them, but it at least plants the seed in a users head.

  • BC

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    4:36 pm

    If only MTV were ACTUALLY music television instead of reality show television.

  • Nicholas Pawlak

    gravatarAug 31, 2006
    8:21 pm

    The first rule of “The Logo” is do not talk about “The Logo”

  • Bone

    gravatarSep 2, 2006
    2:44 pm


    Totally disagree with you on this point.

    B only showing what you can do – print using a single color using these colors, logo must be upright, it must be atleast this big, etc., etc.

    Little to nothing at all is open to interpretation.

    I.E. The first thing I would challenge with the MTV standards is that I would crop it heavily.

    Nowhere in this document does it say I cannot crop it.

    That is my point. By attempting to cover all possible unwanted uses you inevitably open up unitended uses as well.

  • jsaltz

    gravatarSep 2, 2006
    6:25 pm

    An abomination, it seems.

  • mr observant

    gravatarSep 3, 2006
    1:57 pm

    check ou tthe Hi-Res site – there’s a lot more to the styleguide than this one page that talksabout the logo

  • Chanpory

    gravatarSep 3, 2006
    2:39 pm

    Mr Observant, thanks for noticing that. I’ve posted an update to the end of the post. A mystery indeed.

  • Captain Obvious

    gravatarSep 7, 2006
    10:34 am

    I like the simplicity… and I guess you could crop the logo Bone but of course you may be constrained by #2.

  • Dudical

    gravatarSep 7, 2006
    11:41 am

    Sometimes my #2 is constrained. But then I take some metamucil and everything is A-ok ;-)

  • Billifer

    gravatarSep 8, 2006
    1:08 am

    It would be nice if they’d at least include PANTONE® PMS numbers with their “suggested” colors, ya know?

    As for the guidelines, etc., yeah, the idea of “do not alter the logo in any way (including but not limited to bleeding off the page, twisting, or cropping)” could have been a little clearer. The “styleguide” looks more like a cheatsheet for MTV design interns/noobs than for actual PR or media kits.

  • christy

    gravatarSep 17, 2006
    5:07 pm

    As a graphic designer, I always made a big distinction between a style guide and logo regulations. A style guide can change frequently depending on the current marketing strategies as far as color, fonts, etc. but chances are the logo guidelines will remain pretty static (don’t make the logo plaid, don’t add drop shadows, don’t crop the logo or remove any of its elements, etc.)

    So to me, this would only be one part of an overall style guide.

  • christy

    gravatarSep 17, 2006
    5:10 pm

    I just realized that you did say “identity guidlines” so pardon me for not getting it, if what i just said was totally irrelevant. :)

  • Frank

    gravatarOct 19, 2006
    5:58 am

    I used to do work for comcast, and i can tell this is the only style guide our art department had on hand for Mtv, and we got it direct from them. to this day though, still think of it as one of the best i’ve ever seen. I almost never had a question about what was acceptable usage and therefor had very few pieces kicked back from their legal department.