The internet went wild over President Trump’s “Star Trek” redesign of the Space Force logo (top right), which was unveiled on Friday, January 24. Reactions to the design deemed it a hilarious rip-off of the fictional Starfleet logo (top left), and it’s true that the Space Force’s new insignia is extraordinarily similar to the ones found on the uniforms of the Starfleet personnel. is it really that simple?
We’re somewhat disappointed to point out that the logo redesign might not be as ridiculous as we first thought. Or at least it looks like Trump wasn’t the first to imitate the Star Trek logo, anyway. (Check out our logo design tips on how to create a unique logo that won’t be accused of plagiarism.)
For those excitedly tweeting that Trump stole the Star Trek logo!!!!, the patch on the left was the existing Air Force Command logo. The same one I wore as a lieutenant in 2005. pic.twitter.com/mYb60YioBPJanuary 24, 2020
John Noonan tweeted the above just after the Space Force fury started, alerting the Twittersphere to the fact that the logo already looked many like that of Starfleet Command from Star Trek. The Space Force emblem is the same as it has been since 1982 (when the government department was called Air Force Space Command – the name was changed to Space Force in 2019), the starry background is reminiscent of the original, and there are still loops encircling this.
Reducing the number of buckles from four to one definitely mimics the Starfleet logo design, that’s for sure. But there are more precedents for this design in the history of the American space brand, which may let the current incarnation get away with it.
The image above (taken from this SlashGear article that takes a closer look at the origins of the different incarnations of the logo) shows that the single loop is a proud part of the NASA logo. And different numbers of loops can be found in all US Space Command insignia, dating back to 1985.
Circular typography is also in the Space Command logo, although the font and placement are decidedly more Star Trek than before.
So who copied whom? Well, the Starfleet logo was actually first found in… drum roll please… 1996. In fact, according to Ex Astris Scientia, the Star Trek sticker book contains an inscription by Mike Okuda (a graphic designer who worked on Star Trek and created the insignia) which states: “The Starfleet Command sigil was first seen on ‘Homefront’ (DS9) and later in ‘In the Flesh ‘ (VGR), although the agency itself, of course, dates back to the original Star Trek series. The symbol was intended to be somewhat reminiscent of the NASA emblem.”
US government branding existed first, and Star Trek intentionally emulated it. However, the current incarnation of the Space Force is clearly the one that most closely resembles the Star Trek insignia of all previous versions, and one could certainly argue that Trump and his team should have taken notice. The design definitely takes parts of previous logos and puts them together in a decidedly Star Trek fashion.
Maybe it’s a deliberate branding decision (note: the government says it’s not). Playing with connotations of futuristic space travel and strengthening the connection between popular culture and government is sure to invoke strong public sentiment, whether positive or negative. Either way, it’s one of those controversial hallmark moments that gets people talking – and right before an election too.