Planning Unit

Developing over 180 icons to unify all BBC digital products


GEL icons




The brief was to create a consistent visual language – a suite of icons – to be introduced to the BBC’s most popular areas; iPlayer, Sport, News, Travel, Children’s, Weather and Social.

Application range

The icon suite is used within every aspect of the BBC’s digital space and helped form the design vocabulary of the GEL (Global Experience Language).

Distinctively British

We seemed inspiration from British design and history, to help create icons specific to the history of both the UK and the BBC. This includes the Intercity 125 train, and the original BBC microphone (as used in the broadcast of Charles de Gaulle’s 1940 appeals to rally resistance).

Grid system

The technicalities of the project required ensuring the icons were optimised to work at either 32 pixels and either 16 or 13 pixels in size. In most cases the smaller icon size needed a complete redesign to ensure legibility at the smaller size.

Planning Unit evidently like a challenge. In collaboration with our UX design teams they crafted a coherent and accessible suite of over 180 icons which live at the heart of our Global Experience Language (GEL). Focussed and personable, Planning Unit deliver without ego, yet with confidence. David Bailey, Creative Director UX&D | GEL, BBC Future Media

The brief

The challenges were to unify and simplify seven core areas, whilst introducing varied levels of aesthetic and technical complexities. The Intercity train and modification of the classic BBC microphone, are two examples of how we integrated themes of the BBC, modern Britishness and uniqueness into the design.


The final result presents a suite of 180 icons; a modern and cohesive showcase of what the BBC currently represents in its digital evolution. Used to enrich the users experience through the BBC online.

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