General Discussion > Historical Spaceflight

The return of "Meatball".

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I cannot easily find the very interesting and informative discussion of the worm logo that I remembered, but here is a decent discussion of the worm logo:

It has this interesting anecdote:

"Danne remembers NASA’s administrator, Dr James Fletcher, and deputy administrator, Dr George Low, having the following exchange:

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.”
Low: “Why?”
Fletcher: (long pause) “I just don’t feel we are getting our money’s worth!”"

Hi, you're maybe thinking of this discussion from 2009 on the NASAWatch forum, posted by "Joey Ponthieux". Here it is in it's entirety:

"I've never posted here but I guess there is a first time for everything and this could not be more appropriate. I'm a graphic artist/animator with over 20 years experience in animation and 5 years in printing and broadcast television prior to that. Prior to that, as a high school student I enthusiastically followed NASA's endeavors with the Space Shuttle, Hubble, and other activities. But my first memories regarding NASA goes all the way back to the Moon shots in the early 70's while an elementary school student.

In a nutshell I'm just young enough to remember the Worm but old enough to remember the Meatball in its use at a time prior to Goldin's full resurrection of the Meatball in the 1992 time frame. Personal opinions aside for the moment, historical precedent sets the Meatball as the Worm's predecessor and therefore sets the Meatball's age. It cannot be argued that the Worm looks older or feels older than the Meatball because it is not. It can neither be argued that the Meatball looks more modern that the Worm, because modern is set by its age, pop-culture, and how we perceive modern style at the time something is conceived or created. I know that a lot of people are not interested in hearing that pop-culture drives modernity but it is an unfortunate fact of life.

In a nutshell, The Worm came after the Meatball and the Meatball was resurrected after the Worm, so it's a case of Forward to The Past as opposed to Back to The Future. Whatever reason this all occurred I am not certain. I know that rumors regarding Goldin's reasons for this abound, but Goldin's reasons are no longer relevant to this discussion. What was done is done. But that does not change the fact that there are good reasons for both logos as pertaining to graphics styled and standards or pop-culture acceptance.

The Good
The NASA Meatball is a color logo. These colors as well as the icons within the logo have meaning and they stand out. It contains many iconic elements relevant to NASA. It is not a frivolous logo by any stretch, meaning it does not posses anything which is irrelevant within its makeup. Further, it loosely mimics a monument on site here at Langley which is almost as old as NASA itself. This, unfortunately, does a lot to date the Meatball's style even older than most people might have realized since there appears to be roots beyond that of just being a “logo”.

The Worm is single color. It is inexpensive to reproduce. It can be printed as black and white with much ease which ironically is not always the same as being single color, a single color can be any color, but monochromatic printing has special requirements to maintain high quality within a logo’s reproduction. It can also be printed as small as 6(six) points high without losing it's detail(a notably significant feature of this logo which rivals the abilities of most modern logos). It is an extremely simple and modern logo(note that I did NOT say modern typeface as this argument over whether serif or san-serif typefaces are modern has been raging several millennium). It is an instantly recognizable entity from a distance.

The Bad
The Meatball is a color logo. It cannot be easily printed over many printing conditions because of its strict color requirements. When printed in black & white it loses much of it's character, largely due to the fact the red and blue of the logo are hard to replicate correctly in monochrome. This is a result of saturation and value levels being too close to each other resulting in the requirement of an outline logo in single-color. It is extraordinarily complicated as an icon. It contains too many, or at least a lot, of elements which complicate the logo design. This is not to say the elements are not relevant, it’s just that they produce an over-complex icon, when icons by their nature, should be as simple as possible. It is not recognizable from a distance. In fact it often looks like a mish-mash blue blob when viewed at a distance and especially at an extreme angle. Why? Because it is too complex. The Meatball is not a modern logo as benchmarked by current times and pop-culture.

The Worm is single color. It possesses little to no chromatic appeal.

Now, while both logos are instantly recognizable, and both have direct and sustainable appeal, both also have their advantages and disadvantages. The design disadvantages to the Meatball greatly outweigh the design disadvantages of the Worm. In general the Worm is more modern primarily because it's style is driven by it's age compared to the age of the Meatball. Some 40 years old versus 60 or more for the Meatball. Why? Because we don’t perceive modern styles by any set of established style rules. We perceived modern styles by what is popular at that time. These rules change, sometimes dramatically depending upon the era because modern pop-culture dictates it. For example review some of the most recognizable, popular, and modern logo styles of the last 2 decades, especially as they relate to science or science fiction in pop-culture and you find this to be fact. Most of these most modern logos in recent decades, especially those which suggest space or the future, such "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", have san-serif or mildly seriffed fonts. In fact both "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" have remarkable similarities to the NASA Worm. San-serif style with a stylized continuing string or worm-flow design. A coincidence, I doubt it. Pop-culture sets the standard, and NASA is as much a factor in today's pop-culture as either "Star Wars" or "Star Trek".

The point? Well first my opinion. Given all of the excellent positive design reasons for the Worm logo, and all the poor design reasons for the Meatball(that's not a criticism of NASA, that’s a criticism of design principles and application) the Worm logo when it was created made a lot of sense, and it still does. It's my opinion, as a professional graphic artist and for all the design and modern popular culture reasons listed above, and there are more reasons than this to be sure, that the Worm should have never been abandoned. Having said that, I do also realize the value of the Meatball logo as it relates to NASA. The Meatball is an excellent example of how pop-culture can and does turn good design principles on its head. Retaining that logo in some way should have been in NASA's highest priority back in the 70’s. Yes I know, it's easy to judge in hindsight, but there are good, real, and extremely positive reasons from the vantage points of design and popular culture to have retained both logos when the Worm was introduced.

The point is that it never made sense that they did not produce a hybrid logo as illustrated here. It was my first reaction to the resurrection of the Meatball back in the 90s. It's been my opinion to this day. There are just too many highly functional reasons to have a good, simple, clean, highly reproducible, and highly readable logo for NASA. The Meatball can't do these things, the Worm can, could and did. But abandoning the Meatball should have never happened. There's the dilemma."


...That pretty much sums it up.

In 2007 I bought an arm load of black worm logo hats with the golden wings on the brim for friends and family (for Christmas presents), from the  KSC gift shop.  Trouble was, I didn't save one for myself.  I was at the Houston tourist center the next year, and they didn't have them, and the Internet convinced me that they no longer make them.  Does anyone know differently?   Are they out there?



--- Quote from: carmelo on 03/20/2012 11:46 pm ---Incorrect,the meatball,togheter the worm is on astronauts flight suits until STS-9

--- End quote ---

Not quite.

ASTP thru STS-6 all have crews sporting just the worm on their right arm. Starting with STS-7 the meatball returned to flight suits, with the worm staying on the right arm.

Near as I can tell, STS-76 was the last time Astronauts walked out with the worm on their right arm. STS-77 the crew wasn't sporting the worm on their pressure suits.


--- Quote from: carmelo on 03/20/2012 11:46 pm ---Incorrect,the meatball,togheter the worm is on astronauts flight suits until STS-9

--- End quote ---

The fact is that from STS-7 (sorry,not STS-9) the meatball come back on the Astronauts flight suit.
In 1983 the official logo was still the "worm",so who asked for the old logo on flight suits?
John Young?


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