As I watched yesterday’s thrilling landing of Perseverance on the surface of Mars, I couldn’t help but notice the big round NASA logo on the wall — the ‘meatball.’ Do you remember the NASA ‘worm’ logo? It was designed in 1975 by Bruce Blackburn (he just died earlier this month).
Blackburn’s design quickly became a symbol of the space age and the promising future that lay ahead. “The less you can do with the most effect, that’s the thing you want to do,” is how Blackburn described his process. He used a simple combination of lines, curved, and circle fragments to create the iconic design. Upon seeing the new design, a chief administrator of NASA reportedly said, “Where’s the cross strokes in the A’s? Feels like we’re not getting our money’s worth.”
After the Challenger accident in 1986 and other morale-deflating incidents at NASA, the decision was made to bring back the meatball. There was an uproar in the design community. Blackburn had not only designed the logo, but an extensive Graphic Standards Manual — a stellar example of information design in and of itself — and now all that would be rendered useless.
But, such is the way of the world. At least appears that the Mars Rover 2020 logo pays homage to Blackburn’s work.