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The NASA logo is probably the most controversial thing about the organisation. Millions in the US and around the world follow NASA’s story religiously, and it enjoys a position as one of America’s best-loved government agencies. It has helped underpin the country’s global scientific leadership and its superpower status. Logo Design Agency
On 21 July 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the surface of the Moon – the highest moment in the history of America’s space programme. Now, 50 years later, NASA is marking the occasion with events around the world under the strapline ‘Next Giant Leap’ (image below). Many in the design community would argue that to fulfil this forward-looking sentiment NASA could do with revamping its comms, starting with a new logo. (If you need logo help, too, see our guide to logo design.)
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If NASA is ever to regain the optimism that helped blast the Apollo 11 crew all the way to the moon, a trawl through the history of NASA’s logo points to the need for something new. Let’s explore…
Before NASA there was NACA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the satellite, Sputnik. Well, we say formed, but NASA really evolved out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. Logo Design Agency
With roots dating back to 1915, the NACA didn’t have a logo per se, but used a variety of insignia based around a pair of eagle’s wings, along with a shield to signify its military potential.
The NASA Seal – 1958 to present
As a federal agency, once NASA was founded it needed an official seal. Federal seals are sometimes used in the same way as logos, but also hold heraldic and ceremonial significance. Working with other artists in NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now the Glenn Research Center), James Modarelli, head of the Research Reports Division, developed the NASA seal.
Illustrative in nature, the key element of the NASA seal is a stylised pair of wings based on a supersonic wing concept designed by aeronautical engineer Clint Brown. Although they look like they might be constellations, the star patterns are artistic embellishments. The shadow the wing drops onto the planet cleverly gives it a three-dimensional aspect. Firstly, it went to the Heraldic Branch of the Army Office of the Quartermaster General. Then to the Fine Arts Commission.
NASA’s first logo – 1959-75
Design. The reason is that rather than have a fresh logo designed for everyday communications, Glennan asked Modarelli to simplify the seal. Logo Design Agency
This process took place alongside the development and approval of the seal and resulted in a design with a circular blue background (Pantone 286) to represent a planet, with the wing configuration central in red (Pantone 185) signifying aeronautics. This time, the wing straddles the acronym NASA in a high contrast serif type with stars in the background representing space and an orbiting object to symbolise space travel.
NASA usually refers to this logo as an insignia, which gives it a bit of a military flavour. It was on Neil Armstrong’s space suit when he stepped onto the moon 50 years ago, and has appeared on spacecraft, airplanes, buildings, ground vehicles, signage and so on – never mind the fact that, with its little stars, it’s tricky to render at small sizes and on certain media.
The NASA logotype – 1975-92
In 1974 the controversy began. NASA’s leadership decided that the Agency needed a more contemporary look. The idea didn’t just come out of the blue. Between 1972 and 1981 nearly 50 government agencies looked at their identities and made changes with support from the Federal Graphics Improvement Program and the National Endowment for the Arts.
NASA engaged the New York identity design firm Danne & Blackburn to create a more modern logo. Danne & Blackburn noted that the round emblem really reflected an old fashioned sci-fi take on the space programme, and didn’t chime with the real science that NASA stood for.
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There is nothing pictorial about the modernist design Richard Danne and Bruce N Blackburn came up with. Their single width lettering symbolised the unity of NASA and of the US in general. The fluid curving of the letters represented continuity, and there’s something aerodynamic about the design. Without their horizontal srokes, the ‘A’s have a sense of vertical thrust.
It came with a 90-page standards manual, which is available to read on the NASA website. Younger staff tended to like the new logo, older staff didn’t. Logo Design Agency
Danne & Blackburn’s logotype was implemented in 1975, with NASA Administrator Dr James C Fletcher commenting on how the Agency believed in progressive design. With its sleek, geometric logo and rigorous visual standards NASA won the 1984 Presidential Award for Design Excellence.
Return of the meatball – 1992 to present
It could be that with the Challenger disaster in 1986 and other setbacks morale was low and something needed to change. Possibly, pressure from older employees was the main factor.
Whatever the case, on his first day in the job in 1992, the new administrator Daniel S Goldin took the snap decision to reinstate NASA’s original logo. The move was just as controversial as the introduction of the logotype in 1975 and was the subject of widespread debate.
The argument rages on to this day, and like so many issues at the moment it polarises progressive and conservative viewpoints. This revived interest in the modernist logo. Logo Design Agency
Article Source : CreativeBlog