The design story of NASA's "worm" logo, sadly retired

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Well, at least the NASA Credit Union still uses the logo.


Relive the glory days with the free font, Nasalization.


It reminds me of the OMNI Magazine logo. And it had about the same lifetime. So long, The Future!


So much better than the the current logo.


Err, no thanks. NASA put people on the moon with the classic logo. We didn’t get out of orbit with the worm.


The worm is a graphic designer’s idea of perfection. Spare, simple and utterly devoid of any thematic or narrative information. It would be equally at home on a car, or a disk drive, or a hedge fund prospectus. The meatball, is busy, requires adjustment to display in different formats ans sizes, and has both history (we went to the moon with this) and thematic elements (stars, an orbit) that visually scream SPACE!


The worm feels like the 1980’s like nobody’s business. Clean lines that computers can recreate and scale as needed. The meatball says everything great about 1960’s design, hand hewn and detailed.

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That design language was perfectly aligned with the OMNI, Blade Runner, Weyland-Yutani, Space Odissey cool space future zeitgeist.

It always saddens me a little to see excellent, forward-thinking design in the Paul Rand / Otl Aicher vein being retired after decades of good service (when it would have worked fine for decades more) in favor of some vector-and-photoshop-retouched inferior version of something older just for the sake of nostalgia.

Fiat’s modern and versatile 1968 logo and identity design (pdf link, design nerdery warning) being replaced in the 2000s by a chrome-and-airbrush 1920s ‘homage’ comes to mind. It’s sadly fitting for a brand that’s more than a little dependent on the strength of nostalgia.

Even sadder, the same goes for NASA.


I grew up in the 80’s and the worm is NASA in my mind. I keep forgetting that it’s predecessor has replaced it.

And NASA may have stopped using it, but it didn’t stop them from sueing Nice And Safe Attitude for their similar logo


I was going to say something but everyone else has said it better. It was a cool logo but now it’s 70s appeal is just as retro as the meatball. The ugly meatball perfectly encapsulates the early NASA ethos of rocket science. (Oddly, the original Star Trek logotype and tunic swash cover both.)

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Funny, I associate 1960s graphic design with the stark minimalism of the ‘Swiss International’ style (Müller-Brockmann, etc) becoming more mainstream and hugely influential, as with the examples I mentioned above. ‘Hand hewn and detailed’ in my mind has much more to do with the 50s and before.


So it’s a committee’s idea of perfection?

Reminds me of that scene in Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica contrasting David Carson complaining that it’s boring and unexpressive “the text says ‘first date’ but how can you know it’s not a third date?” and Massimo Vignelli complaining that design-ignorant people write “dog” and want the typeface to bark for them.

(I might be misremembering, but that’s how it stuck to my memory so I accept it)

Edit. Let me add this just because it never stops being funny.


Love the meatball logo. To hell with the lousy worm logo, glad it was abandoned. Meatball logo forever.

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Of course in zero gravity the worm looks more like VSVN than NASA


We know it’s you, NASA administrator Dan Goldin.


I like both the old and new logo’s and think that they should both be used, interchangeably.

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This story just deepens my belief that it’s not the laws of physics that keep humanity stuck at the bottom of the gravity well; it’s human nature.


That and the stupid meatball.


This “human nature” is what you make it! What it means to be human is to decide what it means to be human.

ETA: …and stuff.