Thursday, November 12, 2009

When it comes to logos, the space race is still alive

This blog was submitted by Greg Dosmann, our Associate Creative Director who sends many a brand into orbit.

Some things seem doomed to divide us: Cubs vs. Sox, Pepsi vs. Coke, Star Wars vs. Star Trek and so on. Each camp can make a convincing case to why theirs is better. For design nuts, it’s turning into an alpha vs. beta division in choosing between the right logo for NASA.

The logo that NASA adopted in 1950’s, and still uses today, is known as “the meatball” (above left). From 1975 to 1992 NASA used a different logo known as “the worm” (above right) but ultimately moved back “the meatball.” What’s the deal with that?

Most designers love “the worm” for obvious reasons. It’s simplified text stripped of essentials (no cross bar in the “A”); the A’s also appear as side-by-side rockets getting ready for lift off, and the flowing “A” to the “S” depict the speeding off into space. Compared to “the meatball,” everything about “the worm” is new, futuristic, brighter and leading to a bolder future. However, “the meatball” has a case of its own and one that ultimately is winning. A NASA Lewis Research Center employee designed the meatball logo back in 1959 and the result is a very amateurish mess, but this is why people love it. It embraces the human touch, and there is an amateur design tradition at NASA where crew members design the mission patch for their space suits before every launch. It also sheds light on how passionate the people of NASA are about outer space.

Even though “the meatball” was designed to fit the spacecraft of its time, it still reminds us of the triumph our country experienced with the Mercury and Apollo missions. I don’t know if it can recapture the glory for today’s NASA, but regardless, both logos are brilliant in their own ways.

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