We have been working on some great identity projects lately and one of the final pieces in a full identity package is the graphic standards manual. Known as “the book”. The book that is meant to direct others on how to use an identity correctly and keep the integrity of a visual brand consistent.
It’s fitting in the “launch” of Creative Arcade and our rocket ship icon that one of the greatest identities, NASA and the “worm” logo has seen some great press lately.
Wired magazine had a great article about the history of the redesign of the NASA identity in 1974 by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn a week or so ago telling the story of how the logo and identity came to be and how it was basically nixed in 1992 after 18 years of an ongoing attempt at killing “the worm”.
Since that first article, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to bring back the original graphic standards manual for NASA as a reissue in a hard-bound book. It has now surpassed 443% funding on the project and it will happen. Ironically (or maybe not) NASA has made that same manual available for free online. Speculation and timing seems to suggest it is in response to the Kickstarter campaign, but not for certain.
I think a great takeaway from the rise and fall and now renewed interest is the fact that the people at NASA were not thrilled to even change to “the worm”. It was directed by our government and most at NASA at the time really could care less about identities and manuals on how to use their logo, but approved it and for 18 years it lasted and evolved. Arguably, during one of the most exciting and inspiring times in the history of our space program. The NASA worm logo and the Space Shuttle program made science cool. A coincidence that their brand was elevated during the same time people were using the identity correctly in promoting the organization? I think not.
Regardless, I just love the fact that this whole story is being told in many forms here. I remember learning about the manual many moons ago and its significance in the world of design, but I had never heard the story surrounding its rise and fall.
Of course I downloaded the free pdf and looked through the manual and I have to say that it is a very significant piece of design history. It wasn’t the first standards manual ever created, but its evolution over the years in its spiral bound binder set the tone for what, why and how we put these manuals together today.
I hope other projects like this on Kickstarter will continue to resurrect some pieces of design history and tell the story of why we do what we do today.