History of the NASA Logo Design

Inkbot Design
8 min readMar 26, 2018

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is well-known around the world as NASA.

They have operated the USA’s space and aeronautics programs for well over 50 years.

To this day, they have only changed their visual identity and NASA logo design a few times, even though the nature of their company and mission allows them to experiment to their hearts’ content.

What is the story behind the NASA logo and subsequent logotypes and what can we learn from their efforts to stay true to the initial idea of the agency?

The illustrated NASA logo iteration

NASA was once called NACA, back in 1957 while the agency was still in its infancy.

The title of this now forgotten agency was The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.

The reason behind the name change was simple — the agency began working closely with the government on developing spaceflight and space shuttle capabilities.

This is something that NASA does to this very day, although with a much larger competition than it once used to have, thanks to people such as Elon Musk taking the reins of the space race.

Old-Nasa-Logo-Design-Evolution

Coming back to NASA and its first visual identity, it was a work of art done by the agency’s in-house illustrator by the name of James Modarelli.

Modarelli was an illustrator of his time, which can be clearly seen in the round shape of the NASA logo and its colour scheme that reflects the modern America of those days.

While the logo itself represents the efforts and strivings of young NASA in a brilliant way, it didn’t stand the test of time as these trends have long past their prime.

The spherical positioning of the title behind “NASA” and its allusion to the oval office was not intentional — NASA began working very closely with the US government and has received lucrative funding as a result.

The choice of colours can also be seen as an allusion to the American flag that boasts similarly designed stars on its blue…

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