The Late Show Logo

Staying Up with the New “Late Show” Logo

The “Late Show” torch has officially been passed from David Letterman to Steven Colbert, and apparently so have the not-so-great logos. Letterman’s logo is iconic, even with all of its flaws. It’s been around for quite some time and has grown on us, but that doesn’t make it a good logo—the royal blue, high school letterman jacket-style, super heavyweight serif typeface stroked in gold, arched over a much smaller and chubby yellow “with David Letterman” script font does not do it for me.

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The show’s title—“Late Show”—breathes heavy over the host’s name, arched in an uncomfortable cartoonish way. The lettering feels like it’s in pain, particularly the T, E, S and O; they look tortured. They’re being stretched or squished desperately trying to create a bridge or tunnel over the host’s name.

Even with all those poor design choices the logo has stood the test of time. We forgive it because David Letterman is a TV legend. His logo could be a picture of his chuckling gapped-tooth smile; that is Letterman, not this chain-restaurant menu clip art.

Now, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”—or should I say “the LATE SHOW with stephen colbert” began last night and the new logo is following in the footsteps of Colbert’s last gig, when he played a super conservative right-wing pundit. Following in his own footsteps, The Late Show logo has gone all America. The red, white and blue goes deep and they’ve continued to carry over a serif type face from “Report” to “The Late Show,” only this time in a softer, lighter and maybe a less conservative version.

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The new “Late Show” logo feels less like a talk show logo and more like a sign I’d stick in my lawn to re-elect some county judge. It’s uninspired. Clearly, they spent all their money and time on sadly updating the Ed Sullivan Theater.

If this logo were to be shown on a much smaller TV screen it would probably read “LATE SHOW stephen colbert,” the “the” and “with” would be a blurry fuzz lost in the high-def pixels. We’d be rubbing a rag over the “L” and in the “O” on our TV screens trying to clean the smudge. Those choices feel like afterthoughts instead of smart design.

Not to mention, if I were hosting a television show bearing my name I think I would like to have my name spelled properly: I am a proper noun; capitalize at least my first initials. The way they set the hierarchy between show and host makes me feel like the show is more important than who hosts it.

Is there a battle or possibly a “Cliffhanger” moment happening with the capital “H” and the lowercase “h”? (The capital “H” is Gabe Walker; the lowercase “h” is Sarah, holding on for dear life.) Is CBS subliminally telling Stephen to not slip up or we’ll drop you into the void?

You never know; look what happened to Conan.

I will say this much: out of all the late night show hosts on television today—and this might be because he’s a bit younger and more in tune with trends and design—but Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” logo is the strongest of the bunch.

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It uses a modern, bold sans-serif typeface, and separates the show from the host by simply aligning left and right, maintaining hierarchy between these elements. There is a balance there. It says these late-night show brands are just as important as the person who hosts them.

Cheers!