ABC Chicago’s WX Graphics, First Element of New Group Design Mandate

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WLS, the ABC-owned station in Chicago, has quietly transitioned to new weather graphics which are the first elements of a new overall graphics package overhaul for the station and a starting point for its sister stations.

The new ABC Owned Television Stations package is the product of three years of development with consulting firm SmithGeiger, which conducted extensive research for the redesign effort.

The look shifts to a flat design aesthetic with opacity and overlays, losing the lens flare and 3D found on many ABC stations.

SmithGeiger’s creative services division, Vivid Zero, led the design effort and created a toolkit of design elements for the stations, each finalizing local implementation and customization. This ultimately means that each ABC-owned station can have a different finished product while sharing the same DNA from the original research.

Vivid Zero has quickly become ABC’s go-to design team, having recently worked on network programming including “The View” and the 2022 renaming of “Good Morning America.”

ABC-owned television stations declined to participate in this story, but NewscastStudio was able to confirm the details with multiple sources within the station group.

Debuts are expected in phases as each station completes implementation.

CBS is also working on a new group package for its owned-and-operated stations slated to launch this fall.

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Sources tell NewscastStudio that CBS’ schedule is constantly changing after key employees leave and the design has not been finalized. This design is expected to follow the broader “deconstructed eye” branding that has already debuted in entertainment, sports and current affairs programming in various guises.

ABC is the latest network group to move to a split graphics package, with CBS, Fox, NBC and Telemundo having standardized looks on their stations. Fox and NBC also have creative service centers that service their own stations, while CBS does not.

That’s unlikely to change with the new CBS package or ABC updates, in part because of union contracts.

First pieces of the new design

WLS is the first to feature elements of the new ABC design, with an appearance on June 8, 2022, during the station’s “ABC 7 Eyewitness News at 4 pm” show.

It is not uncommon for stations to change weather computer systems to new looks before or after other new graphics are rolled out, as they often operate separately and require much more integration given the way they need to be linked to real-time data.

The newsroom’s control room and editorial system handles news graphics while weather is generally self-contained and creates its own graphics, with the control room only taking a feed from a designated terminal that forecasters can control independently.

The new look uses the updated ABC globe alongside the station’s longstanding Circle 7 logo, both of which appear in a flatter look.

Both of these elements being circular, the look takes advantage of this as the axis of the updated entry animation for the headers.

See the full version on Giphy

The rapid sequence begins with a single solid white dot that splits into three before a swirling effect reveals the Circle 7 logo with the network logo. This sequence, except for the swirl, has some notable references to bug animations in ABC’s Aperture look,

The three-dot sequence is also used as a decorative element in header bars and other locations.

Colors are typically blue and gold with dark overlays and white text, plus some red mixed in for “alert” purposes. Yellow is usually an accent color, used in thin dividers or footer bars.

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Elements such as the header bars use a subtle blue gradient, similar to the current WLS graphics package, which has been in use since October 2013 and uses heavy 3D elements as well as glassy metallic elements and lens flares that seem the antithesis of the new look.

See the full version on Giphy

After this element, a solid bar slides out of the logo, with the header appearing as any additional elements unfold downward, sometimes in segments.

See the full version on Giphy

In other cases, elements are animated with a horizontal effect that also includes yellow, blue, and white bars.

While WLS still has the ability to insert live cameras from across the region, the new look focuses more on stylized, slightly blurred backgrounds ranging from expansive cityscapes to a view of pedestrians hurrying through the rain.

Many times, thanks to the new entrance animations, viewers are treated to brief glimpses of these backgrounds with nothing on them.

There were cityscape views like these in the old looks, but they tended to stay in the background only for the start of the footage, with a loop of fluffy clouds on a blue background replacing them .

See the full version on Giphy

The new weather graphics appear to abandon the use of 3D city models that change lighting and atmospheric effects to match the forecast weather in favor of doing so with photographic-style imagery, such as adding a layer semi-transparent cloud over the same view of the city.

See the full version on Giphy

This approach is more subtle than simulated city views and also lacks the ability to showcase key buildings or landmarks, but also looks a bit more realistic.

Viewpoints tend to remain the same during these segments, rather than circling around the city as before, a feature that allowed the station to feature multiple areas of the city.

The new graphics package switches to Proxima as the primary typeface. At WLS, the station used Helvetica extensively, including in weather maps. It is also expected to be the new font for the lower third insert graphics.

This Live Doppler 7 Max view actually combines several radar scans, including the one ABC 7 has (which is the one to the right of DeKalb).

ABC 7 Chicago has its own radar, known as Live Doppler 7 Max, and charts featuring this scan get a significantly condensed header element – ​​to the point of almost being more of a “label” or “bug”. in the upper left corner of the filter.

The previous Live Doppler 7 Max look, as seen in its 2016 debut, features a more complex logo and blue bar that often feels like it takes up too much visual space. It’s displayed in “max mode” here, signified by yellow. sweep and turn icon.

It doesn’t look like ABC Chicago is ditching its AccuWeather co-branding, but it’s been updated to a much simpler layout that takes up less screen real estate.

The AccuWeather bar now appears primarily on a dark gray bar, as opposed to the orange the station used (and is part of the AccuWeather brand standards), but now features the sun icon to the left of the logotype.

Another big change is the 7-day forecast table, which now spans the full 16:9 width of the screen.

The old 7 day outlook layout.

The design retains the vertical columns that have been a mainstay of these layouts across hundreds of TV stations for decades, but reinvents it, once again, with more photorealistic imagery instead of the previous icon style.

While simple, monotonous icons still remain at the top of each day’s column, the entire column is now filled with an animated representation of conditions in a look that’s no different from the Apple iOS weather app.


This isn’t the first time a station has used this approach, but the application is remarkable because in some cases the imagery can span multiple columns. For example, if two consecutive days are cloudy, there is a single animated cloud background inserted that spans both, separated only by a thin dividing line.

For cases where there are dramatic changes in conditions, the columns rightly change at the border.

See the full version on Giphy

The extended forecast design also uses a separate entry animation that includes each column increasing in transparency, becoming slightly taller, and then smoothly sliding into position.

The new look also includes a layout for “AccuWeather Alert” days, distinguished by a red header and underline. Weekends have a small triangle accent and white bottom border, while weekdays with no alerts have a blue border element at the bottom of the layout.

Similar layouts can be used for shorter forecasters, such as a 12-hour forecaster, with wind speeds inserted in place of low temperatures.


WLS’s current graphics package debuted in 2013. Other ABC-owned stations have seen updates since, such as KABC in 2015 or WABC in 2016.

NewscastStudio’s Dak Dillon contributed to this report.

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