Towards the space graphics, 1977
NASA's Unified Visual Communications System, written by Kato yoshiko for Graphic Design 68
The following is an article published in issue 68 of Japanese magazine ‘Graphic Design’. The images that accompany this article were black and white, so have been illustrated here by drawing on the NASA brand guidelines developed by Bruce blackburn, Danne & Blackburn.
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The words "space age" are often used these days. As for design problems, the feeling is that the time has now come to go from visual communication on earth to the problem of graphics in space which has been expanded time-wise and space-wise. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has recently created big news with its Apollos and Vikings programs as well as the Voyager planet exploratory program, put out the NASA Graphics Standards Manual and is trying to create an entirely unified visual communications system. Although it is mainly concerned with environment on the earth, it seems that this program will become a good beginning for studying "space graphics" in view of the scope of NASA's activities. Consequently, we tried to introduce as much as possible of the NASA Graphics Standards Manual.
NASA's new design program began with the use of a new logotype. 'The logotype used in the past was a round emblem in red, white and blue with the letters NASA in white block letters. The new logotype is a modern, easy-to-read design with only the letters N-A-S-A. The main color used is red; also black or warm gray is used. Color is unified in the case of red and gray with color swatches, and in the 4-color-process printing, the formula for NASA red is solid red plus solid yellow. Application of the logotype has been to comparatively small things, such as agency and center identification and on various forms, such as letterheads, envelopes, news release sheets and receipts, and then gradually to much larger things, such as cars and other ground vehicles, aircraft and spaceships. At the present time application in NASA publications is the most thorough. In the case of printed matter, changes can be made comparatively easily, while this media occupies a comparatively big position in modern visual communication.
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There is a big variety of NASA publications. The manual categorizes publications into leaflets and folders, journals and technical publications, news publications, quality publications, case bound and educational publications, press kits and directories, posters and broadsides. In accordance with their respective features, the manual stipulates the position of the logotype, photos and illustrations, typeface, colors, type of paper, cover design and page layout format.
As for the movies and video tapes to be used on television, which is another strong visual medium, it is reported that the logotype has begun to be used in the opening and closing titles.
As for signs, the new ones will be made according to the new design standards. But it seems it will take some time yet before the new standards are applied to the entire signage system, including the old signs. In the same way, the application of the design standards to such ground vehicles as cars and trucks and to aircraft will be carried out gradually as the time they are repainted. But the exterior marking of the Space Shuttle orbitor has already been completed.
The new logotype is scheduled to be used in arm patches: It will not be too far in the future that the new logotype will be used in all uniforms for NASA guards, pilots, astronauts, mechanics and guides for visitors.
Besides the logotype, among the symbol marks stipulated in the manual are patches and seal. The patches symbolize the various missions and projects carried out by NASA, and they are used in printed matter as marks or attached to uniforms as patches. Each mission is comparatively short, so the use-period of the patch is short. On top of that, since they symbolize missions with different characters, they must have a visual effect separate from the official identification centered around the new logotype.
Whereas the official logotype is used in NASA's daily communication, the seal is a symbol which is used in special events and official events. The uses of the logotype and seal are clearly separated, and they are placed separately so that two elements are kept visually uncompetitive. A good example of how the logotype and seal are used differently is seen in certificates and awards.
Apparently there was some opposition to adoption of this design program. Eventually, however, because support was obtained, not only from top-level management, but also from every NASA employee, it is reported that early adoption was realized. It is also reported that the systematic management system was one reason for the successful adoption of the program.
Furthermore, this project was carried out as part of the Federal Design Improvement Program promoted by the Federal Government since 1972. Besides NASA, the Commerce Department, Marine Corps and various other Federal Government agencies (read: FEA, USIA, EPA, The United Nations Year of Women & National Zoo) have already adopted design programs and have brought about big results in visual communication.
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