A lot of unsung tasks go on behind the sensational headlines. While the entertainment media was gleefully milking the brouhaha surrounding the departure of Conan O’Brien from The Tonight Show and the return of Jay Leno, NBC was working hastily to design a new set and unveil a new logo that would signal the change. For the logo part, NBC brought in Douglas Oliver Design, who had just months earlier created the graphic identity for The Jay Leno Show, and asked the Bell Canyon firm to have a new The Tonight Show identity ready to launch in just two weeks.
With no time to spare, Oliver says he worked up about 10 different typographic approaches. NBC picked the one showing the name in Didot and rendered in a nocturnal gray-blue against a black background. A crescent moon, which had appeared in previous The Tonight Show logos, marked the “i”. From there, Oliver created business cards, signage, a stationery system and color alternatives. Fourteen days later it was all systems go for the new logo – and the new show.