From Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth, the same duo from design firm Pentagram that reissued the 1970 NYC Subway Graphics Standard Manual and the poster of all 468 subway stations in New York City, now comes a new Kickstarter campaign to reissue the 1975 NASA Graphics Standard Manual. This controversial manual, by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn of the New York firm Danne & Blackburn, was approved in 1974 to much fanfare, but as Reed and Smyth write, “over the next 18 years, some people at NASA will attempt to revoke their work. And they will succeed in 1992.” The team aims to highlight this moment in design history–one of the excellent examples of Modernist graphic design during a forward-thinking era.
This manual is the origin of that recognizable NASA logo (known as “The Worm”), with the dashes missing from the A. The rebranding is part of a directive from the National Endowment of the Arts, encouraged by President Richard Nixon, to raise standards of design at government agencies. NASA, facing declining interest after more than a decade of space accomplishments, seems a prime target for a new identity.
Reed and Smyth recount a humorous interaction Danne and Blackburn had with NASA administrator Dr. James C. Fletcher, and his deputy, Dr. George Low in 1974:
Fletcher: “I’m simply not comfortable with those letters, something is missing.”
Low: “Well yes, the cross stroke is gone from the letter A.”
Fletcher: “Yes, and that bothers me.”
Fletcher: (long pause) “I just don’t feel we are getting our money’s worth!”
—Excerpt from Dust Bowl to Gotham, Danne, 2011
Still, the manual was approved and printed as 8.5″ x 11″ binder. For two decades, the manual is expanded upon, added to, and challenged internally when in 1992 the manual is rescinded. The previous NASA logo, known as “The Meatball” is reinstated.
Reed and Smyth worked with Danne to reissue the NASA manual working off of Danne’s personal copy. The 5 pound book (noted in the Kickstarter that it will be 0.9 pounds in space), is 200 pages and will be packaged in static shielding pouch. As an addition to the original contents of the manual, there is a forward from Danne and an essay on the culture of NASA Christopher Bonanos (New York Magazine, Instant: The Story of Polaroid).
Here are some more image from the reissued manual:
Get the manual on Kickstarter (which is already funded).