Worm vs. Meatball

When NASA was founded in 1959, the organization’s first logo featured a blue planet, stars, an orbiting comet, and a red flying V. It served NASA well, landing on the moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969. A few years later, a NY design studio named Danne & Blackburn was hired to redesign the NASA logo, affectionately called the meatball. Their solution, four customized letters, eliminated interstellar symbolism by rationalizing that NASA could be anything it wanted to be in the future. Partner Blackburn says they set out to create something “very simple, very direct; otherworldly, unexpected, something that you would remember.”

When the new logo was unveiled, referred to as the worm, it was met with disdain. Part of it had to do with reluctance to give up something beloved. But it also suffered from a mismanaged rollout, as only a few people at NASA knew about the redesign, seeing it for the first time when new letterhead was shipped to them from headquarters.

The worm logo was retired in 1992 by a newly appointed NASA administrator, who thought the resurrection of the meatball would help boost morale. Apparently his disdain for the new logo was so notorious that NASA staff would go on “worm purges” before his visits.

NASA’s current administrator, Jim Bridenstine, announced the return of the worm in April. He views the logo differently, having grown up “inspired by NASA missions during the era of the NASA worm.” As of this writing, the meatball’s reign continues, in the upper left corner of the NASA website. The logo battle rages on.

Author Jacopo Prisco wrote an excellent article about the ongoing logo war: “NASA’s ‘worm’ logo is back. But why did it disappear?

Taylor Design Blog

By Dan

President / Creative Director