MTV Logo

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MTV is a cult phenomenon that shaped the musical tastes of millions. An important difference of the channel it was based on was interactivity with the audience. Viewers could vote for their favorite songs and favorite artists. This principle later became the basis of all music television channels and television charts. With the advent of MTV, the situation turned upside down. If initially, only the clips that already existed went on air, then very soon the clips began to be filmed just because they could be shown on MTV. It became a great marketing tool and provided a greater variety of available videos.

Meaning and History

MTV Logo history

On August 1, 1981, MTV or Music Television, the first music channel in history, began broadcasting under the direction of Bob Pittman based on Sight On Sound. It was showing recordings of concerts and music programs. “Ladies and gentlemen, Rock’n’Roll!” was the first phrase that sounded on the air of MTV. Hip-hop, boy bands, and glamorous R’n’B were still yet to come. So, the development of cable TV networks in the United States and music video as a separate format, along with the fact that by 1981, enough music videos to broadcast an entire channel had already been created gave birth to MTV. In 2010, the channel’s management decided to completely abandon the prefix “Musical” in the name, as irrelevant, but before that, the channel’s air was ruled by rock music. It is interesting to note that when the name of the channel was announced, no one liked it. Some people thought it had an awkward sound, while others were reminded of the popular MTM company.

What is MTV?
In its long history, MTV, a musical channel, has gone through the typical path of an outstanding cultural phenomenon: from avant-garde to conservatism. Only a few thousand subscribers to the network in northern New Jersey could watch MTV’s first programs, but four months later, more than two million Americans were watching MTV.

1977 – 1981 (Pre-launch)

MTV Logo 1977

MTV was based on Sight on Sound channel, which was launched in 1977. Accordingly, the name of this channel was printed in two lines and had a curve going from the bottom “S” around the name on the left and touching the horizontal bar of the “T”. All the words were interconnected in one way or another.

1980 – 1981 (Pre-launch)

MTV Logo 1980

The iconic logo was made in a hurry. This version was offered by Manhattan Design to future MTV creative director Fred Siebert back in 1980 when the channel was just getting ready to launch and didn’t even have a name. Now, this stylized musical note, clenched in a cartoonish white glove, seems ridiculous, but for several months the idea seemed to be quite working. An attempt to add the full name of the channel underneath was not successful either.

1981 – 1994

MTV Logo 1981

In the spring of 1981, the new channel’s name appeared. Since the TV channel was launching in a few months, Manhattan Design studio partner Patti Rogoff threw in a voluminous “M”, and another designer, Frank Olinsky, famously wrote “TV” in sharp new wave style and then simply painted these two letters using pink spray paint. That’s where they stopped. The new image of the channel was polished and presented to the public. It was featured in many different colors, leaving only the base unchanged.

1994 – 2010

MTV Logo 1994

Although the channel preserved the shape and placement of each letter, the emblem has a very different feel thanks to a bold choice of colors. The letter “M”, which takes up the most space in the logo, is done in black. A relatively thin white line is used for an outline to emphasize the 3D shape of this letter. The “V” also has a thin black outline where it goes beyond the “M”, so the white color of the letter would not blend with the background.

2010 – 2021

MTV Logo 2010

The new logo looked like a zoomed-in version of the previous logo. To avoid making the emblem look gigantic, the designers cut off the bottom of the “M” along with a bit of the “T” in the “TV”. The white letters forming the “TV” no longer had the black outline, which made anything that went beyond the black “M” disappear from the logo. The white outline around the “M” also appears to be thicker. In addition, the letter itself was made slightly wider, creating more space inside. All these changes added strength and made the emblem appear boundless.

2021 – Today

MTV Logo 2021

2021 – Today

MTV Logo

A new logo was introduced during the Video Music Awards. It was more appealing and brought about a happy mood thanks to a pleasant shade of yellow featured in the letter “M”, while the red used for the “TV” added excitement and energy. The white outline around the “M” was made thicker, while the 3D effect was done with the use of turquoise, which stands for freedom and self-expression. These colors not only changed the emblem’s appearance but also represented the emotions the channel wanted to bring.

Font and Color

MTV Emblem

Before the channel launched, the company used a sans-serif font that featured very fluent, smooth strokes. The next logo that was created right before the channel was launched used the ITC Eras Bold font. The next logo introduced in 1981 featured a modified version of the Helvetica Black for the “Music Television” portion, while the initials were custom drawn. Until the channel was launched, the company used a black-and-white color palette. The logo introduced in 1981 was presented to the public in a variety of colors, with only the text portion remaining constant. Later it returned to the black-and-white color palette. Only in 2021, the company went for brighter colors, choosing yellow, red, and turquoise for its emblem.