Space: the final frontier.
That’s how Spock described it years ago star trek. Here on earth, however, it has more recently become the field of operations for a new branch of the armed forces: the US Space Force (USSF).
The Space Force unveiled its official logo last week (not to be confused with the official seal released in January). Both have been called out for their similarities to the fictional Starfleet logo, but the Armed Forces insists it “honors…the Air Force’s proud history”.
The new logo uses a delta symbol as the main icon (the delta was first used in 1961, USSF noted on twitter). There’s a star at its center, which Space Force says symbolizes the North Star and represents how its core values guide its mission. It rests on a black field, embodying “the vast darkness of deep space”. This is associated with the Space Force’s official motto, “Semper Supra”, or “always on top”, which embodies its “role in establishing, maintaining and preserving the freedom of operations of the United States in the space domain.
But does it have the design chops to live long and thrive? We asked several design and branding experts to comment.
A missed opportunity to leave its mark
The delta shape is a design element that has been used by the armed forces as far back as 1942. Something as large, futuristic and expansive as the formation of a new branch of the military is a golden opportunity to push the boundaries of branding rather than re-employing expected tropes, similar to how the NASA Worm logo, introduced in the mid-1970s, featured a strong and unique technical design vocabulary. Unfortunately, this brand feels like it’s borrowing as much as it can from surrounding brands, so it can fit in and feel legit.
—Lawrence O’Toole, co-founder and head of design at The Working Assembly
A version of the future stuck in the 1960s
It is generally understood that if a logo needs so much explaining or defense against unveiling, the presenter is already on the back. That said, comparisons to TV’s “Starfleet Command” are natural and legitimate.
When Star Trek first launched, it was designed based on an idea of tomorrow that existed in the 1960s. We see it everywhere, from Disneyland’s Tomorrowland to the Jetsons – The Future was designed from our eyes from the 1960s. America fell in love. And maybe that’s the problem. We became addicted to this flaw, that tomorrow was best defined by the era of the jet, which was well over half a century ago.
We could do ourselves some good and the Space Force mission some good by moving away from the nostalgia of the 1960s. Brilliant ideas and ambition came from that time, but I don’t believe it was the limit of our capacity. As such, perhaps we shouldn’t define our future endeavors by this retro framework either.
The Navy’s mission is clear, as is its logo. The same can be said for the Army and Marines – we know why they are here and what they are doing. Between NASA, JPL, and the Air Force, we don’t look at Space Force with the same understanding of its capability and purpose, and ultimately the logo doesn’t really clarify things. The US Space Force claims that this iconography has been used by space organizations since 1961 . . . five whole years before Star Trek. That may be precisely the problem. I’m afraid we’re in a tractor-beam black hole of nostalgia.
—Lawrence Azerrad, founder of LAD Design and designer of Grammy-winning Voyager Golden Record
A Star Trek connection that dominates the logo itself
While the new explanation of the Space Force logo concept is solid, its connection to the Star Trek logo somewhat tops that sentiment. Whatever brand you are creating a visual identity for, you need to be responsible for the image of the brand and how you want it to be perceived. Without this connotation, the design and execution of the logo is clean and consistent with the logos of other branches of the United States Armed Forces in that its strong diagonal lines and movement show through. This is a great example of how the brand identity that has been created does not land as expected with the public and this disconnect will always be difficult to overcome.
—Nakita Pope, Brand Strategist and Head of Branding Chicks
A lack of nuance that highlights how pointless the branch is
We cannot evaluate this logo without reflecting on what it represents: a distraction from a grave and tragic moment in our country’s history.
The truly remarkable thing about the Trump administration is that it takes the worst parts of America and amplifies them to an extreme level. Instead of focusing on saving American lives and reforming the justice system, Space Force imagines another non-existent enemy as a pathetic attempt to win over an increasingly skeptical audience.
If the Trump administration was a cheap reality show, this would be the logo of its fake space army. Its gray gradients and sliced Futura typography look amateurish and unserious, and its sharp edges convey a cold, mean, and defensive demeanor rather than a genuine mission of safety, respect, and progress, values historically enshrined in American military institutions. The lack of nuance or detail further undermines any message of solidarity or seriousness. It would be menacing if it weren’t so ridiculous and cheesy.
—Waqas Jawaid, Partner, Isometric Studio
A confusing design that is not functional
I’ve always felt a personal affinity for the delta symbol; I immediately remember Star Trek watching it. But I think the problem with the Space Force logo is less about being derivative in its design and more about not having a clear vision of who its audience is, what its function is, and how it can deliver the seriousness of his effort. Strong logos are simple, scalable, and memorable.
The goal is to create a brand that not only immediately identifies the company, but can also resonate timelessly. The new US Space Force logo consists of graphic elements that do not prioritize functionality. The combination of gradients and bevels cuts an otherwise simple geometric shape into segments to imply an artificial layer of shine. Yet these extra edges only complicate the logo without adding anything meaningful or unique to the brand. Nor is it designed to translate well to a variety of digital platforms requiring scalability, which should be a priority for Space Force or any modern brand.
—Brian Nguyen, Head of Design at Work & Co.