Logo? No go.

I warn you before you read on, that graphic design can make me ranty. Even more ranty than science papers without any conclusions. So I found a link to an article on the Huffington Post earlier about a “redesigned NASA logo”. So obviously I clicked the link to have a look. Because you know, space plus graphic design. Okay, so the logo there was this…

Really? Because, I’m sorry but I don’t see a logo here. I see the word NASA written in rounded-edge sans-serif font, with a bite taken out of it.

I believe my normal reaction to things like this would go something along the lines of…

It has a concept – and don’t get me wrong, I adore the concept – but it’s been really poorly executed. I mean come on, really? It was made by design company Base Now, who are generally pretty good. I had a glance over their portfolio. They have some good things in there, and I like the way they play with typography… But… meh. Bafflingly, it’s apparently “won huge plaudits online” (and you can check the Huff Post article to see various tweets confirming this. Has graphic design really gone so far down the pan that this is considered inspirational?

You can even look at an image gallery on Fast Co Design, where you can see the new logo awkwardly photoshopped onto pictures of space shuttles and astronauts. Awkwardly, because they haven’t even bothered to match their logo to the contours of what they were slapping it onto. Come on guys, you’re professionals. You should know how to use the warp function in Adobe Illustrator. I’m actually embarrassed for you by this point.

Apparently, NASA politely declined, simply stating that they were “not looking to revise their identity at this time.” And you know why? It’s because everyone knows the NASA logo.

NASA’s “Blue Meatball” insignia is, frankly, resplendent. It’s among an elite handful of iconic pieces of graphic design which is instantly recognisable across the world. With the red swoosh symbolising the vapour trail of a rocket leaving the Earth and headed for the orbit which is symbolised by that white ellipse. The very essence of it is rockets and orbits and leaving the planet. It’s a powerful image, and one which has inspired a lot of people.

So potent is a well known icon like this that you could take the same insignia and write literally any word in there – at a first glance, anyone would still instantly think “NASA” and be reminded of space shuttles and journeys to the Moon. Or you could even take pieces of the logo and still (subconsciously or otherwise) be reminded of NASA. Which, incidentally, is exactly what NASA have already capitalised on before. The logo for the Constellation program, for example…

Replacing something so well renowned with something so insipid would be a crime in my opinion. Thankfully, NASA seem well aware of this.

Image credits are Base Now and NASA respectively. And so understandably protective are NASA of their identity that I’m obliged to state in this credit line that neither Supernova Condensate nor its author are in any way affiliated with or endorsed by NASA. Images appear in this article only for the purposes of discussion and critique in accordance with Fair Use policies.

Yes, I’m serious, usage of the meatball is actually restricted by NASA’s image use policies. If I’m requested to remove it from this page, I shall – though I really hope they don’t ask for that…

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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7 Responses to Logo? No go.

  1. Pingback: Spaceflight Aesthetics | Supernova Condensate

  2. Ash says:

    I second Alan B. The worm says “future” much better than the meatball, which has a 50’s look to it in my eyes. Also the meatball logo uses a serif font. Big mistake. Serif says “fuddy duddy London Times” – it does have a place in technical logos, it;s just that that place is back in the 19th century. Interesting article about the NASA logo here : http://www.logoblog.org/nasa-logo.php

    • invaderxan says:

      Now that’s interesting… Because personally, I’d say that the text style of the worm is old enough to have a retrofuturistic feel to it by now.

      And while the exact variety of serif in the NASA logo might admittedly be a bit dated, serifs are still everywhere in modern design. Take Google, for instance. Or Wikipedia. Honda. Apple. WordPress. Sony. Gucci. Granted that the current trend is for sans-serif fonts, which means they’re more popular for logos at the moment, but I wouldn’t dismiss all serif fonts quite so easily.

      Also, any long standing corporate identity does better by evolving it’s existing image than by a sudden radical change. Take Starbucks coffee, for instance. Their logo is very different to how it once appeared, but it still retains the common theme of the siren, and their colour has only changed once – from brown to green. On the other hand, Gap clothing have repeatedly tried to give their logo a sudden drastic change, and each time they’ve changed it back to the recognisable gap logo (which isn’t even all that good) in under a year.

      From the site you linked to (thanks a lot for that, by the way!), “the change [from the worm back to the meatball] was made after receiving complaints from employees across the nation about the logo’s incompetence and lack of projection.” Which says it better than I can. It’s nice and all, sure, but ultimately it’s just red squiggly text. A good logo does more than simply shout a name. A good logo puts forward an idea.

      Sorry… That was a bit more verbose than I was planning! :)

      EDIT– And because this all sounds a bit harsh, I’d agree that the meatball needs a little updating (and my own personal preference is for gothic sans-serif fonts). I just think discarding it completely would be unwise.

  3. Alan B. says:

    This may be contentious, but I still prefer the old “worm” logo over the meatball: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/NASA_Worm_logo.svg

    • invaderxan says:

      I’ll admit, I do like the worm. I prefer the meatball for everything it symbolises though. The worm suffers (as do so many “logos” out there) from being just text. Thought it was, at least, custom lettered text. I’m quite a fan of that style of lettering, actually. I might have copied the idea somewhat when creating my portfolio

      (Which reminds me, I have a little reworking to do on my own logo. I’m not entirely happy with it…)

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