Mark Hurrell.

The BBC Global Experience Language was the first time BBC had considered the brand of its digital services as a single experience. I pushed for the typographic system to use Helvetica Neue as the only tonally (and historically) appropriate web-safe font for an organisation rooted in early 20th century modernism, and developed the font scale by extensive testing of every pixel size across all mainstream operating systems to ensure legibility
The early internet has been primarily text, but with increasing bandwidth video was becoming more common - and is arguably the BBCs greatest strength. GEL brought an increased focus to video patterns and interactions
The visual character of GEL comes from its precise whitespace alignment to an eight pixel grid and baseline. Like this typography, I pushed for this as more historically appropriate for the organistion than the previous versions gradient-heavy plastic gloss
I designed, prototyped and wrote production code for this lightweight video carousel interaction pattern with James King
Research Studios designed this Global Experience Language design patterns poster to give a simple overview of the design system

BBC Global Experience Language (GEL)

Design and prototyping for the BBC

2009  2010

We were mid-way through redesigning the BBC News website for the first time since 1996. Since no one knew when this was likely to happen again, the BBC decided to bring together all its digital products and services under a coherent brand language. To avoid this descending into infighting, Neville Brody’s Research Studios were brought in as consultants and a central BBC digital design authority was set up to oversee the process.

I was working on the BBC News website redesign. GEL was basically a project about how this redesign could be scaled up into a brand language that could encompass everything the BBC did online. I defined and prototyped the web typography scales, grids, interaction patterns and initial brand elements. I worked with BBC Worldwide to develop a grid around new advertising formats. I also spent a lot of time liaising with Research Studios about the technical feasibility of translating their more experimental ideas to HTML and CSS, including issues about accessibility and touch interactions. And I prototyped responsive and mobile interpretations of GEL, and variants with Gill Sans embedded as a web font.

The News website redesign was the first product to launch using GEL, arriving shortly after the similar Metro design language from Microsoft and signalling the death of skeumorphic design. See also: BBC News website redesign


BBC News creative direction by Paul Sissons, with design from Toby Bradbury, Caroline Galipeau, Adam Hutchinson, Nina Monet, Dan Ogunkoya, and Dan Shallcross. Working with Neville Brody’s team at Research Studios, Chris Hankins and Duncan Swaine at BBC Worldwide, and the central BBC Design Working Group led by Liz Citron, Ben Gammon and Andrew Greenham.

Selected projects