Star Trek is a popular science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry that debuted in 1966, and the Original Series ran for three seasons. Now there has been a 22-episode Star Trek: The Animated Series, a successful film franchise, five television spin-offs, and adaptations in other media. Ever since the Star Trek logo was introduced in the Original Series, people have been trying to figure out its meaning.
The original Star Trek logo is shaped like a delta, or an arrowhead, and it’s an insignia that represents an assignment to the USS Enterprise, the fictional spaceship of the show. The arrow-shaped, asymmetrical design was displayed on all Starfleet crew uniforms, installations, Starship hulls, and equipment.
What Is the Star Trek Logo?
The delta design of the Star Trek logo was inspired by the old NASA, later UESPA, logos used in Earth’s space programs in the 20th and 21st centuries. These symbols were used by the first space explorers, and so the Star Trek logo signified the duties of the crew aboard the USS Enterprise. The design is a simple pointer with a round backdrop, and while it was originally worn on the left shoulder, it was later moved to the right shoulder.
When the United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161, individual assignment patches were worn on both shoulders and a solid silver delta was on the left breast. In the 23rd century, a simpler version was used on Federation installations and starships, and it was not put on personnel uniforms. Some starships, such as the Defiant, had assignment patches that were similar.
There were six insignias used in the Original Series for Starfleet personnel:
- Fleet Command – a senior field commander personnel emblem
- Starbase Duty – used by Ground installation, Drydocks, Space stations, and Headquarters personnel
- Cadet Duty – Starfleet academy students (pewter colored, smaller version of Starbase Duty)
- Outpost Duty – Colony and Outpost personnel (a gold spikelet with a black background episode Balance of Terror and Arena)
- Spacecraft Duty – merchant Marine/Auxiliary Fleet personnel (Charlie X episode)
- Starship Duty – Fleet personnel
What It Means?
The Star Trek logo evolved from a delta shape to the arrowhead design that’s used now, and it shows the duties of the crew who wear it with division symbols. Crew members with a planet in the design are in the Sciences division, a stylized “E” is for Engineering, which later became Operations, and a red “Swiss Cross” is for the Nursing Corps.
Different ships wore different insignias, and because they were not part of the Enterprise crew, their insignias were Starfleet standard-issue. The insignias are equivalent to United States Service members to show how they serve. Roddenberry was in the Army Air Corps and producer Justman was a Naval radio operator, so they understood the significance of visual communication.
How Has the Star Trek Logo Changed Over Time?
The delta Star Trek logo was used for much of the exploration division while a starburst design was used for administrative and flag officers of fleet star bases and headquarters. Constitution Class Federation Starships also used a variety of insignias unique to their ships, but the USS Enterprise maintained its delta logo design for its insignia and assignment patches.
Starfleet Command adopted a new insignia, the MACO five-pointed star in the arrowhead. Its design was inspired by the United States Armed Forces space command used on UESPA exploration on vessels such as the Friendship 1 from the 21st century. The symbol pointed upward when worn on the shoulders or chest and on signage, it pointed down when used on the hull, and it was phased out in the late 2270s. It was also used for some Starfleet division into the 24th century.
A metal version was used as a com-badge in Voyager: Friendship One, The New Generation: Yesterday’s Enterprise, and Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan.
A stylized version of the Star Trek logo featuring only the arrowhead, no other symbols, mounted on an oval background was incorporated into uniforms, and a metal version was used as a com-badge and worn on the chest of personnel uniforms. It became common as the starship hull pennant.
A newer Star Trek logo was created to be used a com-badge. It had a trapezoid shaped background, and hull pennants were simplified as well, using only the arrowhead with a background. Starfleet Command still used the design from the 2270s with the circular background and an inscribed star in parts of the flag officer uniforms and signage as in Star Trek: Insurrection, Voyager: Caretaker, Deep Space 9: The Search, and Star Trek Generations.
How Can We See the Different Logo Designs That Have Been Used?
In the alternate reality episode with Nero’s incursion, Starfleet had no assignment patches in the 2250s, but a gold arrowhead was modified from the patch used on the USS Kelvin. It has a slight indentation on the inside of the arrowhead with a hollow division design inside. This is like the assignment patches used on the USS Enterprise.
In the Mirror Universe, the insignia used was Earth impaled with a dagger, as this was the Terran Empire’s symbol. It was used in the Imperial Starfleet and in episodes TOS: Mirror, Mirror, DIS: Despite Yourself, and ENT: In A Mirror Darkly parts I and II. Parallel and future versions in the Barash illusion created by Riker in 2367 show the symbol as an arrowhead in gold or silver with four horizontal bars to indicate rank. These were used in The Next Generation: Future Imperfect, and an alternate reality with Worf in 2370 Parallels.
In other alternate timelines, other variations of the Star Trek logo exist. In the 2390s and in the 29th century, there is a rotated arrowhead that has the bottom filled with a mirror at the top of the shape. The 29th century hull decorations have the arrowhead pointing backwards, possibly showing time travel in the episodes Voyager: Relativity and Future’s End parts I and II.
The Horatio Hornblower novels, Gulliver’s Travels and westerns such as Wagon Train inspired Gene Roddenberry, and it has been a cult phenomenon for many decades. Fans call themselves “Trekkies” and there is a wide range of franchise products that includes comics, toys, novels, figurines, and games. There was even a Star Trek attraction in Las Vegas from 1998 to 2008, and in 2016, the franchise generated $10 billion in revenue, one of the highest-grossing media franchises in history.
The series has left its mark well beyond the realm of science fiction. It is noted for its stance of standing up for civil rights, as most of the stories in the show focus on the adventures of humans and aliens working together, and for having one of the first multi-racial casts in television.
The protagonists hold altruistic values and apply them to complex situations, and many of the themes explored contemporary cultural scenarios, including the ideas of war and peace, personal loyalty, the role of technology, feminism, sexism, human rights, religion, racism, economics, class warfare, imperialism, and authoritarianism.
Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to have a progressive political message showing the emergence of the youth movement’s counter culture, but he was not forthcoming to the networks about it. He wanted to show what humanity could become if it could learn from experience and work specifically towards putting an end to violence. An example of this is the Vulcan race of aliens, who overcame their violent history and became able to control their emotions. The show had a definite anti-war message.
The Original Series of Star Trek was modeled after classical mythology, with the trio of McCoy, Spock, and Kirk being the focus. The show follows people searching for answers, and it offers a hopeful vision and imaginative solutions for the future. Fans connect through their love of the stories that highlight friendship, adventure, discovery, and exploration and promote diversity, technology, and a peace-loving society.
The Original Series (1966-1969)
The Animated Series (1973-1974)
The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
Discovery (2017 – present)
The original arrowhead Star Trek logo was created by costume designer William Ware Theiss for the Original Series. Three versions of the logo were created for engineering, science specialists, and command personnel to wear on their uniforms to show their assignments and specialties, and a fourth one was created with a Red Cross for Nursing.
Another version of the Star Trek logo was used in Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A version in The Cage was a box with a “C” shape inside, but only two crew members wore this and it was never seen again. Wearing the delta Star Trek logo signified that the person wearing it achieved the goal of cadets in the academy and the dream of fans: the honor to serve aboard a Starship and boldly go where no man has gone before.