As the main space program in the United States, NASA has been responsible for many discoveries in aeronautics and aerospace. Their logo is associated with research, exploration, and ingenuity. Since its creation in 1958, NASA has only had two logos. Our article will tell you about the design decisions behind both of these logos and explain the meaning of the NASA logo.
NASA Logo Design Elements
The main feature of the NASA logo is a medium blue circle that serves as a background and unifies all of the other logo elements. Due to the round shape, many workers at NASA call it “the meatball.” Inside of the logo are the letters “NASA,” written in a bold, white font with serifs and contrastingly thick and thin lines.
A thin white line traces an elliptical orbit that runs from the left, top side of the logo to the right, bottom portion of the logo. A red, curving chevron intersects the ecliptic by going from the bottom, left side to the top, right side. This red V-shaped line is the only feature that goes outside of the blue orb. Across the blue background are sprinkled several white stars.
Changes and Evolution
The very first logo of NASA was actually the logo that is used today. In 1975, NASA made the first change to their logo. They removed all of the extra features and turned it into a simple wordmark that just contained the administration’s name. This was an attempt to modernize the logo of NASA, but it did not prove to be very popular. Many people nicknamed it “the worm” due to its curving, linear design. This logo was eventually retired in 1992 when NASA brought back their original logo.
NASA originally used a red, white, and blue color scheme in their logo to be patriotic. When they updated it in the seventies, NASA changed it to a simple red text on a white background in an attempt to streamline the logo. When the public did not respond positively to the simplicity of the logo, NASA decided to return to their original color scheme.
NASA’s first font was a slightly thicker version of a classic Roman typeface. This helped to make the institution look professional yet innovative. The font changed in the 1970s, and the new NASA logo font was what gave that logo the worm nickname. It was a thick, curving font inspired by the Bauhaus typeface. No angles were used anywhere on the font, all the lines had a uniform thickness, and both of the As were lacking crossbars. This font was retired once NASA started switching back to their original
NASA’s logo gets its inspiration from the official agency seal that is used for very formal purposes like presenting awards to astronauts. Employee James Modarelli was asked to create a simpler version of the seal that could be used as an everyday logo for the company. He removed all the excessive font, orbiting moons, and planets from the seal to create a more cohesive design.
Each element of the logo is intended to represent one of the fields that NASA studies. According to NASA, the blue circle represents a planet, while the white stars represent all of space. The circular orbit symbolizes space travel, while the red chevron is a stylized plane wing to represent aeronautics. The precise shape of the red V also mimics the shape of the Andromeda constellation, so it further represents NASA’s focus on space travel.
- NASA headquarters states the logo and the seal should never be used side by side because one is excessively formal and the other is informal.
- The NASA logo is technically in the public domain, but the government has a lot of laws in place about when it can be used.
- Though the stars bear some similarities to famous constellations, NASA purposefully picked star groupings for the logo that do not actually exist.
- NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA’s return to its original logo was a wise move that helped to reassure the public that NASA is not going anywhere even in modern times. Its vintage design references the proud past of United States space exploration, and the complex meaning behind the logo still clearly references the goals of the organization.