Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tonight On Siffy!

On July 7, the SciFi Channel officially changed its name to "Syfy."

Much has already been written about the change. It was first announced back in April of this year, and many people thought (and hoped) it was an April Fool's joke. Sadly, it was all too real.

The reason behind the change is allegedly a matter of trademarking. The SciFi Channel naturally wanted to trademark their name (um... shouldn't they have done that maybe... fifteen years or so ago, when they first started broadcasting?), but was informed by the courts that because "sci-fi" is a word in the English language, it can't be trademarked. So they decided to get around the ruling by changing the spelling of their name so that it would be uniquely their own.

I have no idea how many variations and versions the network brass went through, but however many it was, it wasn't enough. Somehow, someone of high rank at the network settled on the new spelling "Syfy."

I defy any English speaking person to look at their new logo and NOT pronounce it as "Siffy."

I was going to say that surely there were better spelling variations than this one, but after thinking about it for a minute or two I can't think of any. "SyeFye" doesn't leave any doubt as to the pronunciation, but it doesn't look any better than what they came up with.

I think if they were dead set on changing the spelling to something they could trademark, they should have gone with a new name altogether. Something like, "Imagine!" or "Brainstorm." OK, those aren't much better, but I didn't have 75 meetings with my staff to discuss it.

They might just as well change their name. The network hasn't had much to do with science fiction for years now. Personally I've had no use for them since 1999, when they canceled Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was the best show they had, and one that could have gone on forever.

That was just the beginning of their long, slow decline. Not long after that they started airing wrestling (!). OK, I get the "fiction" part where wrestling is concerned, but I'm not seeing the science. Then they started producing a series of reality TV shows, one in which unsuspecting people are deliberately scared poopless, and another where two grown men pretend to see ghosts. Again, I see the fiction, but not so much the science.

Also, what's up with the tagline there in the new logo? "Imagine Greater?" What the hell does that mean? It's not even a sentence. Apparently there was a huge miscommunication between the network and the ad agency, causing them to drop a few words from the slogan.

Mom and Thumper always told me if I can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all. Honestly if I adhered to that rule I'd never say anything. But I like to give credit where credit is due: despite the ridiculousness of the new spelling and the bizarre sentence fragment of a slogan, it is a nice layout. Stark, clean and elegant. The letterforms are masterfully combined as well. Makes me wish I'd designed it.

But it still spells "Siffy."


  1. Siffy or Sci-Fi - I guess it doesn't matter either way now that you've ditched cable.

  2. are they worried that other Sci Fi Channel will steal their name? Are they saying you can only copyright made up words? Does this mean I can start up a channel called Oxygen, and Food Network since they are English words?

    Maybe they could write "S" and then draw and eye next to it, and then write "F" with an eye next to it. S(0)F(0)
    (0) = eyeball

    Whatever they do, they need to make sure it's big, and it should wiggle or change colors a lot.

  3. Willceau: I never watched SyFy at all once Battlestar Galactica was done, so cable or no cable, nothing much will change.

    KW: I don't really understand the whole trademark issue, but that's why they claimed they were changing their name. I get that "sci-fi" might be a real word and not subject to trademark, but surely pairing it with "Channel" would do it. "Cola" is a real word, and "Coca-Cola" is trademarked (I think?). What about Food Network? Isn't "food" a word? Or is FN not trademarked?

    Seems like sooner or later you're going to have to trademark a word someday, or else all products will be called "Qwerz" or something equally non-nonsensical.


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