NASA Needs to Adopt This Cool New Logo
The Russians were NASA’s chief rival during the space race, so it’s ironic that it took a young Russian named Max Lapteff to design a smart, speculative rebranding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration logo. The mark pulls off a hat trick, referencing NASA’s illustrious past, nodding to its dreams of taking us to new planets, and ditching the dated features of the old logo.
NASA’s current insignia is easily recognized, but the red, white, and blue mark is busy and complicated to render. White stars on a blue field are meant to form a constellation, but end up looking like a mess of misplaced stitches on embroidered flight badges. The red chevron is a reference to hypersonic wings that were the pinnacle of innovation when the logo was drawn in 1959, but long since have been superseded by superior tech.
Lapteff sought inspiration in simpler, more timeless places. “The idea came to mind at once when I looked in the night sky at the moon and saw a potentially beautiful circular logo,” he says. “Our universe consists of the atoms, all planets are round, space is infinite and has no beginning or end like a circle, NASA ships and satellites constantly fly on an orbit, and so on.”
This circular theme is embodied as an arc that cuts the letters off from the baseline, suggesting the curvature of a planet. This generalizes NASA’s mission in a way the current insignia doesn’t. Where you might find a registration mark on a corporate trademark, Lapteff placed a solid circle. Paired with the negative space below, it suggests an endless cosmos to be explored. The chunky futuristic font of the “worm” logo, mercifully grounded in 1992, is replaced with a lighter typeface that preserves some of the original hallmarks, like the missing crossbars in the “A’s.”
Lapteff considered the practicalities of applying the new mark across NASA’s myriad applications. The logo’s simple lines help it scale from a logo on T-shirts to the livery on NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” its zero-G simulation plane. He designed a style guide that allows the floating orb to be replaced with graphics for specific missions, like a red circle for a mission to Mars or an asteroid for an Armageddon-style adventure.
Lapteff’s logo, and his new tagline “For the Benefit of All” make NASA feel less like a Cold War relic, on its way to being replaced by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, and more like an organization that can boldly go where no one has gone before.