The Worm is Back!
April 3, 2020 4:30 AM   Subscribe

The "worm" has returned. The futuristic redesign of the NASA logo introduced in 1976 was retired in 1992 with the agency reverting back to the classic "meatball" logo. While the "worm" logo is returning to use, the press release suggests both logos will co-exist and they are "still assessing how and where [the worm] will be used".
posted by Fortyseven (60 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
These logos give me feelings.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:41 AM on April 3 [27 favorites]


If you ever get a chance to visit Kennedy Space Center, don’t pass it up. Somehow, the further we get from the 1960s, these feats of engineering and insight become even more and more impressive.
posted by gnutron at 5:00 AM on April 3 [20 favorites]


meatball

Why must people make stupid names for everything? The only similarity is, roundness. If blue meatballs arrived at your table, you'd send them back to the kitchen, wouldn't you?
posted by thelonius at 5:05 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]


Thought #1: "It seems an odd choice to announce this sort of thing on the 2nd of the month. Why not the 1st?"

Thought #2: "Ah. Right."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:13 AM on April 3 [20 favorites]


Did not quite get the context and started googling about some important zero-g experiment with worms, or maybe a genetic oriented experiment with giant mutant worms that will be teraforming Mars on one of the next launches.
posted by sammyo at 5:13 AM on April 3


I can see someone has been watching Parks and Rec, specifically S4E08 which is about Tom & Gerry being tasked with redesigning the Pawnee Park logos.
TOM HAVERFORD: "So we take the old logo from the 1970s, and we make limited-edition hats, posters, t-shirts, everything. People love limited editions, plus parents will get swept up in the nostalgia and want to go to the parks to recreate the fun they had growing up."
posted by Fizz at 5:23 AM on April 3 [17 favorites]


Saying the worm logo was a futuristic redesign of the meatball logo is like saying brutalist architecture is futuristic. The worm logo looks dated in 2020. Former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin sure hated the worm logo. (See Keith's Note on this NASA Watch post)The NASA insignia is where it's at in my opinion.

I wonder if this means they're going through all of the Mission Operation Centers and replace all the 2 foot meatballs with worms now. That guy who makes them is going to be really busy if they do.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:44 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


The worm logo looks dated in 2020.

It's very 70's. Very very.
posted by thelonius at 5:47 AM on April 3 [5 favorites]


I think the problem, as we move forward and these become the main agencies marshalling human activity, was that the current NASA logo is too similar to that of Space Force.
posted by Flashman at 5:50 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


The worm logo is a triumph of design. So happy to see it back!
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:51 AM on April 3 [27 favorites]


Seeing the worm logo on those space suits makes me happy.
posted by romanb at 5:55 AM on April 3 [6 favorites]


I still think the logo should say "NA&SA". Mostly because I want to see a worm ampersand.
posted by phooky at 5:58 AM on April 3 [8 favorites]


I think they should just use the NACA logo if they want retro.
posted by scruss at 6:07 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


The worm is one of the greatest logos evar. Glad to see it back.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:33 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


The "meatball" logo calls back to the hat-in-the-ring logo of the US Air Service. It represents continuity in America's dedication to flight. The "worm" logo is like a bad phone app: MoonLandr or something.
posted by SPrintF at 6:36 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Time to buy a new T-shirt.
posted by mkb at 6:39 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


worm > meatball
posted by entropicamericana at 6:44 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


I still think the logo should say "NA&SA". Mostly because I want to see a worm ampersand.

Wormpersand.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:44 AM on April 3 [5 favorites]


NASA should just adopt Lego's classic space logo.
posted by HiddenInput at 6:48 AM on April 3 [22 favorites]


It's very 70's. Very very.

It is not a million miles removed from the logo for Omni magazine, which could only be more seventies if it was doing the Hustle while thinking about macramé potholder projects.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:48 AM on April 3 [18 favorites]


I for one wish they took the risk and did something truly new instead of just wrapping themselves in the safety blanket of nostalgia ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by mit5urugi at 6:57 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


The Worm logo IS futuristic. Brutalist architecture IS futuristic.

There's no predestined timeline where a certain kind of logo, or architecture emerges at some point in the future and becomes the standard. However, Brutalism and the Worm logo was entirely about that CONCEPT... In other words, the designers of those things specifically set out to create stuff intended to look like something that was meant to appear as "from the future."

It doesn't matter if those "predictions" made by the designers became wildly popular in the future or not. The INTENT was to make things look Futuristic—at the time those things were created.

I also agree that these revivals are entirely about nostalgia. But nostalgia is a powerful concept, and should not be immediately discounted. I'd like to see something new and different as well.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:00 AM on April 3 [18 favorites]


Meatball works best as a patch. Worm works best on the side of a giant rocket.

Rockets are inherently long, thin objects. The circular logo is really limited in its ability to scale up. It looks okay on the payload fairing, but I really like to see a huge, red N A S A running down the side of the rocket.
posted by thecjm at 7:04 AM on April 3 [21 favorites]


Design is always about communication. And in the case of NASA, design is about propaganda. I do not mean "propaganda" in a "oooh, scary government=EVIL" sense necessarily. When the Meatball and the Worm were created, they were created to look like something from an imagined future. These designs were meant to inspire feelings—at a glance—that what you are seeing is progress, a leap into the future.

Now we see them as nostalgia for futurism. They harken back to a day when we humans were looking forward.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:12 AM on April 3 [17 favorites]


SF's Municipal transport had a much-loved worm logo in 1975. They paid homage to it in their recent rebranding and it's pretty good.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Saying the worm logo was a futuristic redesign of the meatball logo is like saying brutalist architecture is futuristic.

Granted, "futuristic" isn't as grounded in history as "modernist," but it's a word with a meaning in design/art, a meaning that's somewhat detached from the dictionary definition.

"Modern" isn't the same as contemporary, and "futuristic" isn't the same as speculative.
posted by explosion at 7:14 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


I have a NASA meatball sticker on my laptop. I won't be putting the worm logo on it.
posted by cooker girl at 7:17 AM on April 3


(I should say, I love the worm logo for rockets, as someone above said. Just not for my laptop!)
posted by cooker girl at 7:21 AM on April 3


Worm + Meatball = Wormball
posted by rh at 7:23 AM on April 3 [18 favorites]


My dad was an engineer in what he called the "little a" (aka aeronautics) division of NASA. When funding was in doubt, he said if you turned the worm logo upside you got the real name of the agency: VSVN (very soon, virtually nothing.)
posted by vespabelle at 7:25 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]


To all talking about the superiority of the meatball, how they will not replace the meatball, etc:

And don’t worry, the meatball will remain NASA’s primary symbol.

But on the side of a rocket, the worm is nice, because it's long.
posted by timdiggerm at 7:28 AM on April 3


My son and I just watched Flight of the Navigator and the prominence of the worm logo (which I always knew as "the NASA logo") was the subject of some discussion.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:37 AM on April 3


I really like the worm logo. It somehow still manages to look like the future to me, not the 70s. And it's kind of associated in my head with the EPCOT Center font, which has a similar curviness.

The Space Force logo is just too Star Trek though.
posted by Foosnark at 7:45 AM on April 3


N̶̨̙̼̱̮̲͈͆̏̊͠Ą̵̾̈̀̑S̸̗̲̺͍͙̲̼͎̫͛̅̈́̏̈͂ͅA̴̱̻͎͋̕
posted by clavdivs at 8:17 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


That's not a worm logo, this is a worm logo.
the agency recruits Slimey for a mission to the moon.Staffed by a training officer and several highly trained worm technicians, they oversee the testing of a team of brave astronauts.

The roster includes Spaghettini from Italy, Squishta from Romania, Legusano from Colombia, Squashimi from Japan, Slogoshki from Poland, other worms from Puerto Rico and Zambia, and Selma Worm, who is actually a chicken dressed as a worm.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:35 AM on April 3 [8 favorites]


Worm + Meatball = Wormball

I see that wormball is not a 21st century joke, it was a serious attempt in 1992 to end the logo war by bringing everyone together.

I think Wormswoosh is an even better hybrid.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:36 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


I have a ROGUE Meatball on my laptop. But I like the Worm. It's what I put on all of those model rockets back in the day.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:40 AM on April 3


The Worm style manual flickr set from this previously is worth having another look at now
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:48 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]


Ever notice that NASA is the only space agency that doesn't have the name of the country in it? They just expect you to know.
posted by BeeDo at 10:22 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


It's very 70's. Very very.

The first thing that came back to my mind was my 1974 Supergraphic kit, which my parents used to paint a large double-strip swoop on my bedroom wall.

The worm redesign came 2 years later. Coincidence?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:35 AM on April 3 [8 favorites]


The CN logo and the NASA logo have always reminded me of one another.

Speaking of which, if you're looking for something to watch, Design Canada is a documentary that looks at the CN logo (among others) in the context of graphic design history.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:38 AM on April 3 [5 favorites]


If you ever get a chance to visit Kennedy Space Center, don’t pass it up. Somehow, the further we get from the 1960s, these feats of engineering and insight become even more and more impressive.

The launch room recreation/show drove me to tears...

Fuck you Richard M. Nixon. Fuck you.
posted by mikelieman at 11:00 AM on April 3


The worm logo looks dated in 2020.

It's very 70's. Very very.


70s Design Trends, especially in typography, are VERY in right now.
posted by The Whelk at 11:31 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


It is not a million miles removed from the logo for Omni magazine, which could only be more seventies if it was doing the Hustle while thinking about macramé potholder projects.

It's too bad the OMNI logo hadn't happened to be NASA's - - it would have been very apropos for a space agency when viewed standing on its side.
posted by fairmettle at 11:49 AM on April 3




Looking at the NASA seal and the shadow cast by the wing shape on the sphere (the wing shape which also appears in the meatball logo minus the sphere/globe) I found myself thinking "I'll bet that they built a 3D model to get that right" and sure enough there are photos of the model on page 62 of the gigantic PDF scruss linked to above. Evidently it was originally a NACA design for a supersonic wing, according to the subsequent pages.
posted by XMLicious at 12:48 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


In the Nineties and Early Two-Thousands, I read an article complaining about the "retro" ballpark trend--all the new fields that were designed to look like they were from the "early days" of baseball. This was to appeal to the nostalgia of boomers. The author, a Gen-Xer, suggested that his ballparks (and thus, nostalgia), were the astroturfed domes that graced the televised games of the Seventies and Eighties.

That's kinda how I feel about the worm logo. I remember trying to draw it as a grade-schooler on the wings or doors of space shuttles. I'm glad to see it back.
posted by MrGuilt at 1:06 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


> 70s Design Trends, especially in typography, are VERY in right now.

You say this like every hipster wasn't 70s cheesing it for a hot minute a few years back before that horrible 80s/90s kick. Everybody wants to be their mom or gramma or dad or grampa, back when things were cooler, beer was worse, men with generous beards and mustaches wore flannel shirts and fleece-lined denim while driving muscle cars and old pickups and NASA used the Worm. You'll see That Dude wearing this on a t-shirt hot soon.

I feel this is Peak Millennial and really points out how NASA leans into the nostalgia business as deeply as Disney or Hallmark.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:09 PM on April 3


Why must people make stupid names for everything? The only similarity is, roundness. If blue meatballs arrived at your table, you'd send them back to the kitchen, wouldn't you?

Very Terracentric of you to assume that all meatballs are brown. Related: Bill Shatner and blue food. (Scroll down to the pictures just before "Farewell.")
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:54 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


/\/ /\ S /\
posted by straight at 3:23 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


You'll see That Dude wearing this on a t-shirt hot soon.

Look at me. I am the captain now.
posted by thelonius at 3:33 PM on April 3


Worm, meatball, worm, meatball

Am I the only one thinking that there was a missed opportunity involving the word spaghetti instead of worm??
posted by McNulty at 4:37 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


The CN logo and the NASA logo have always reminded me of one another.

That had been my take on it too. Perhaps meant (by design) to work with the marketing of the Space Shuttle as a space transportation system.
posted by rochrobbb at 5:24 PM on April 3


This is probably a good place to mention that if any of you have AppleTV+ you should watch For All Mankind.

Worm logo 4evr it is the FUTURE
posted by Fleebnork at 7:35 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Jim Bridenstine's solidly Gen-X. This is my generation's nostalgia.

Ever notice that NASA is the only space agency that doesn't have the name of the country in it?
I just realised that UKSA should be the Royal Space Agency.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:13 PM on April 3


Meh. Despite having grown up in the '70s, I never thought much of the worm, and I'm not thrilled to see its return (or any other portion of that era's design aesthetic). That said, I do understand the advantages of having a logo that can take up less space in either a horizontal or vertical use. Letterhead design comes quickly to mind. Business cards, too, although if I worked for NASA I would sure as hell want the meatball on my card.
posted by bryon at 8:15 PM on April 3


If you are old enough to remember the 70s, you are not the target demographic for this.
posted by speicus at 12:56 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


I just thought that dance from the Gong Show was back.
posted by boilermonster at 12:18 AM on April 5


This is one of the many reasons I love metafilter.

1. Take note of this thing that, arguably, is arcane!
2. But, it matters dammit!
3. Since it matters, I prefer [x] over [z]
4. Totes understand, that you prefer [z] over [x] and thank you for being here because you are awesome!
4a. It really doesn't matter, does it?
5. But, we all need our hills to die on, so GOTO 2.

I live just a little south of Johnson Space Center (near Houston) and know several people who work there and communicate with them regularly. But, of course, I heard about the return of the logo here instead of through any of them. Because... Metafilter.

Love you all.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:03 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


I like them both? I never thought this would be a controversial stance.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:16 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


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