You know it when you see it: The smooth, soaring typeface with two uncrossed A’s. NASA’s so-called “worm” logo is a beloved symbol of space exploration even decades after it was retired. Now, thanks to Pentagram, you can relive the glory days of design and America’s space agency on your coffee table.
The New York design firm is reissuing the NASA Graphics Standard Manual for $US80 on Kickstarter. Originally designed by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn in 1974, the book has become an artefact of late 20th-century graphics, one that was perhaps too futuristic since NASA decided to revert back to its space age-era “meatball” logo in the early 1990s. Despite support from President Nixon’s Federal Graphics Improvement Program, the new zigzag design had ruffled the feathers of NASA veterans who preferred the patriotic old logo, complete with its serif font and kitschy rocket ship. They could hardly comprehend how much the work and its Helvetica-heavy branding had unified NASA’s image.
Nevertheless, the manual is a work of art. A handful of the originals have survived the decades of neglect, and in 2011, Display posted photographs of every page on Flickr. As enthusiasm for the NASA’s worm era mounted, Pentagram decided to republish the thing on Kickstarter, just like they did with the New York City subway graphics standards manual last year.
While the original manual came as a ringed binder, the reissue will be bound as a book that displays scans of the old pages, hole-punches and all. You’ll be able to flip through elegant renderings of space shuttles and vans and even uniforms emblazoned with the worm logo and stunning with simplicity.
The images are so beautiful, you’ll probably just want to tear them out of the book and frame them on a wall of pretty things. It’s too bad NASA didn’t feel the same way about its too-future-for-us worm logo. We might already be on Mars, if they had.