1972: Neil Armstrong has uttered his famous words. The Apollo era has come to an end. Public interest in space exploration wanes. After all, how do you top a man on the moon?
1974: Designers Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn—of the New York firm Danne & Blackburn—walk into a room at NASA with a portfolio. Inside is a presentation that will change the face of NASA and their careers with it.
The presentation is a hit. The work is approved. But what Danne and Blackburn don't know is that over the next 18 years, some people at NASA will attempt to revoke their work.
And they will succeed in 1992.
This Kickstarter campaign is a celebration of Danne and Blackburn's work—brought back to earth 41 years after it was designed, and 23 years after it was lost.
Introducing the NASA Graphics Standards Manual Reissue.
Note: While NASA is the source of the Manual, the publication and distribution of the NASA Graphics Standards Manual on Kickstarter is not sponsored or endorsed by NASA and is an independent project undertaken in an effort to preserve and disseminate an archival record of graphic design from the era.
What is the NASA Graphics Standards Manual?
1972: With President Richard Nixon's push, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) initiates the “Federal Graphics Improvement Program," to raise the standard of design and communications of US government agencies.
At the time, the NASA's graphics and communications were fragmented, old fashioned and had no clear, unified voice. NEA chairman Nancy Hanks identifies NASA as a prime candidate for a big win for the program.
1974: The small and young design firm Danne & Blackburn—led by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn––receives a request for proposal (RFP) from NASA.
“There were very few NEA guidelines for this phase of work, but we had really knocked ourselves out... going the extra mile.” —Danne
Of the dozen or so RFPs, they are awarded the project, and set about designing their vision for the agency.
October 1974: Danne and Blackburn present their work to then NASA administrator Dr. James C. Fletcher, and his deputy, Dr. George Low.
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
Some time after the presentation, a call comes through from their contract coordinator:
“It's a go!”
But instead of making a formal announcement, the staff are alerted about the new identity with new stationery, which is sent to every center director, without prior warning that the logo is changing.
1975: After the initial phase of work, the NASA Graphics Standards Manual is released as a 8.5 x 11" ring binder.
1975–85: Over the next 10 years the manual will be added to, culminating in an extensive document that includes instructions on designing every aspect of NASA’s new identity—from letterheads to space shuttles.
The new identity, which is spearheaded by a logotype that becomes known as the “Worm,” works to unite NASA’s many departments through a single and cohesive visual language.
1992: After almost two decades, and many challenges along the way, the Worm is rescinded by NASA. The previous logo, known as the "Meatball" is reinstated.
2015: Months after the completion our campaign to reissue the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual, we contact Danne to ask about getting a copy of the NASA manual to potentially reissue it. He says yes.
Our Kickstarter will support the printing of a reissue of the manual. It will be printed and bound as a hardcover book, using high quality scans of Danne’s personal copy, who is in full support of the campaign.
Each page of the manual will be scanned and printed using CYMK + 5 Pantone® spot colors.
The manual contains three basic page formats: section dividers, standard pages, and gate folds. The standard sheets will be printed on the right side of each spread, with the section dividers including the front and back sides—this is consistent with the original ring-binder format.
The following images are high-resolution scans from the original pages in the manual. Beyond color seperations to reproduce the red, blue, and grey spot colors—the pages will not be altered in any way.
Why is the NASA manual worth reissuing?
As design nerds, we think the Worm is almost perfect, and the system behind it is a wonderful example of modernist design and thinking.
But for everyone, we think the Worm and its design system represent an agency whose goal is to explore space and push the boundaries of science. Where the Meatball feels cartoon-like and old fashioned; the worm feels sleek, futuristic, forward-thinking. All good things for a space agency at the bleeding-edge of science and exploration.
We think this manual and others like it—regardless of the organization—are a beautiful example of rational, systematic design. The NASA manual is one of those examples that sets the standard for design excellence—a document well worth preserving for the future as a learning tool, a gorgeous object, and a moment in design history.
Specifications of the reissue.
- Approximately 5lbs (2.3kg) on earth, 0.9lbs (2.3kg) on the moon
- 200 pages including 10 gate folds
- 93 plates printed from high-resolution scans of Danne's personal copy of the manual
- Images from the original presentation to NASA by Danne & Blackburn
- 9.5 × 11.5" (241 × 292mm)
- CYMK + 5 Pantone® spot colors
- Hardcover with soft touch lamination and two-color silkscreen
- Printed in Italy
- 100 gsm Yupo Original and Perigord Matte 135 gsm
- Stochastic printing
- Red head and tail bands
- Individually packaged in static shielding pouch
500+ word foreword by Danne, who has provided never-before-seen materials from the DanneDesign archive.
2000+ word essay on the culture of NASA at the time of the manual by Christopher Bonanos (New York magazine, Instant: The Story of Polaroid). The essay will include interviews with NASA employees, Danne, and rare photographs scanned from their original 4×5 transparencies.
When we launched our first project on Kickstarter to reissue the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual, we said that using this platform would allow us to control the production of the book closely, distribute it faster, and keep the cost lower.
Logistics aside, we were amazed by the reach of the audience around the first reissue, and wanted to bring communities together again for this reissue.
Printing and shipping
We will also be using the same excellent printing facilities based in Italy and our local shipping partners. Both delivered a beautiful product for our last campaign.
European orders will be shipped from a distribution center in Central Europe.
Each book will be individually packaged in a foil or translucent static shielding pouch (still under testing), and enclosed in a custom made cardboard box taped shut.
International backers please note: we are currently negotiating better shipping prices for backers outside of the US/Canada/EU. We're hoping to add this to the campaign on Wednesday, Sep 2nd.
Vann Alexandra, vannalexandra.com
Edited by Julian Muller
Concept by Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed
Written by Kurt Weill
Performed by Richard Danne
Richard and Barbara Danne
Risks and challenges
Having designed and produced the reissue of the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual successfully and other books before, we feel confident we can deliver a great product.
As we did with our last project, we will be reviewing hard copy proofs of every page before printing. When the book is being printed, we will be visiting the printing plant to conduct a press check to ensure the reproduction is faithful to the original.
We plan on working closely with our printer to ensure the smoothest production possible and, if funded, we plan on updating backers regularly on each step of the process, as we have done in the past.
On the distribution side, we will be working with the same logistics partner that fulfilled the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual. Last time, we did not have tracking for many international shipments. We have corrected this—tracking information will be retrievable for all shipments.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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