In time for the 2021 BET Awards, BET has unveiled a new logo and branding effort that represents perhaps the largest transformation in the network’s 40-year history. BET called it a “pivotal shift for our brand and a commemoration of our 40-year legacy of Black excellence.”

Perhaps the most noticeable change: BET’s logo now forms a square, with “B” and “E” on the top line, and “T” and the network’s signature star underneath. That star will also turn into a plus sign, or another signifier, depending on whether the focus is on the linear BET network, or its digital, streaming and experiential arms.

“The Black consumer has recently become one of the most coveted audience segments; we are thrilled for brands to begin to see what BET has known all throughout our 40 year history,” said Kimberly Paige, exec VP and chief brand officer, BET. “It was time to leverage the brand equity we have built throughout the years to re-envision how we show up as the only brand that represents the fullness of the Black experience. For us, this is no standard brand evolution, it is a brand revolution, in solidarity with the cultural shifts driven by the Black community.”

Here’s a quick history of the BET logo through the years; the most recent has been in use, in various forms, since 2005.

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Paige noted that the star has been a part of the BET identity from the beginning, and dubbed “Black Star Power,” it remains a key component of the new branding.

The new look came after “rigorous testing among consumers and gathering data and feedback from focus groups,” Paige said, and the network found that the logo elements are recognized by consumers even when rearranged. “This opened up a world of possibilities as we sought to reimagine how to visualize our brand in a way that reflects this new era, both for BET and for the Black community,” she said.

But the decision to, as some BET leaders called it, “breaking the logo” in stacking the “B” and “E” over the star, came with quite a bit of internal dialogue. “What we’ve done in actuality, is leverage the brand equity we’ve earned, not to break the logo, but as we like to say, we liberated it,” Paige said.

Paige said the concept for the new branding was dubbed “Black Canvas.” Via email, she explained the idea: “This conceptual territory positions BET as the destination for all forms of Black creative expression,” she wrote. “It all happens here. Black creators. Black talent. And the BET audience. They all come together in this one place. A blank, Black canvas where anything can happen. The square logo lock-up serves as a visual metaphor for this canvas. The epicenter of Black Culture. The square is not rigid, but fluid. Stretching and growing and flexing to showcase all forms of Black expression. This is a design system that is vast, open-ended, and responsive, making room for multiple visual styles and motifs that can grow and evolve with the brand, dialing it up or down, as the moment demands and meeting the audience where they are.”

In creating the new look, Paige said what they’re calling the “Vis ID System” will be used for units including BET Plus, BET Digital, BET Studios and others. “One that is future forward, boundless, and invites all to fully participate in the brand,” she said.