Apollo 11

For the 50th Anniversary of Man on the Moon I Picked Up the NASA Graphics Standards Manual

On July 20th, 1969 I was seven and a half years old and I still remember being glued to the TV as the first live broadcast from the lunar surface was beamed back to Earth. The family was downstairs in our family room/office. Walter Cronkite was giving the play by play and then they cut to a grainy picture of Neal Armstrong as he stepped off the ladder and spoke his now famous line. ” That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I have always been a bit of a space nut. I think being born at the beginning of the space race helped solidify that in me. I’ve been fascinated with everything from the space flight itself to the amazing illustrations produced for NASA.

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, I decided to break down and pick up a copy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphic Standards Manual. It’s been out for a few years and has been on my short list so I finally decided to pull the trigger and pick it up.

For a designer and self-professed space nerd, this is pure heaven. This is a few hundred pages of the design systems put in place by Richard Danne, Bruce Blackburn, and the staff at Danne & Blackburn in 1974.

This reissue is a modern spin on the original which was a series of bound documents designed to be distributed to internally and externally to coordinate the NASA brand for the world. The reissue book is all about faithfully reproducing what Danne & Blackburn while infusing history and additional details. Details like the anti-static foil sleeve that it arrives in.

The book is an authoritative reference compiled from scans of 35mm slides presented to NASA in 1974, normally shielded from those without clearance.

The manual covers everything from spaceship graphics to brochures, including specific details on how to type a letter using the NASA letterhead.

This is the ultimate “brand bible” for the formidable application of a graphic identity system in an otherworldly institution. The NASA Graphics Standard Manual is a meticulous facsimile of Danne & Blackburn’s 1974 re-branding of the agency. An authoritative reference compiled from scans of Danne’s own personal copy, the book also includes an introduction by Danne, alongside an extended essay on the culture of the agency by Christopher Bonanos.


Design Find of 2009 Taschen Brings It, I wish I could Afford It.

I love Taschen. They are truly one of the best book publishers in the world, taking risks that others don’t and publishing limited edition books that are always raising the bar. I own a number of large format books that they have put out, and if I had an extra 95,000 Euros (136,000 American) lying around I’d buy a copy of this.

Limited to a production run of 12, Taschen brings us Norman Mailer’s “Moon Fire” Lunar rock edition. The book comes with an actual moon rock which probably accounts for most of the cost here, but true to Taschen’s ability to take things to the next level they give you much, much more.

Limited to just 12 copies, numbered 1958–1959, the Lunar Rock Edition of Norman Mailer’s MoonFire has been designed by Marc Newson. The concept was inspired by the Apollo 11 LEM (Lunar Excursion Module). Each book is contained in a case made from a single piece of aluminum where the surface an actual 3-D topographical map of the Moon, and each edition comes with a unique piece of lunar rock.

The Lunar rocks are actually meteorites from the Moon which are exceptionally rare. To date there are fewer than 70 lunar meteorites known to exist, and their  total combined weight is approximately 55 kilograms ( roughly 2 ounces), making them millions of times rarer than the highest quality gem grade diamonds. Most lunar meteorites however reside in museum collections and research facilities, leaving only 15 kilograms or so available to individual collectors worldwide. Since acquiring an Apollo moon rock is virtually impossible, the only realistic way to own a piece of the moon is by acquiring a lunar meteorite which Taschen provides for the individual that is actually in a position to own this book.

Almost more than the Lunar rock, I am absolutely blown away by Newson’s design of the case. The legs that extend from  the bottom of the container look like the landing gear of the LEM. The case itself is laser etched with the title of the book and the edition number. From the photos it has a dense and substantial look to it, and there appears to be so much detail in  the topographical surface. In addition to the case, the book contains a Plexiglas-framed print, signed by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Oh and based on the images below, the content and page spreads look pretty amazing as well.

From the Taschen website.

Marc Newson is one of the most accomplished and influential designers of our time. He has worked across a wide range of disciplines to create everything from chairs, household objects, a concept car to restaurants, interiors of private and commercial jets and a spaceplane, designed for EADS Astirum, the fulfilment of a lifelong personal ambition.

The design concept for the Lunar Rock Edition is inspired by the Apollo 11 LEM (lunar excursion module). Each book is contained in a LEM-inspired case whose surface is an actual 3D topography of the Moon made from a single piece of aluminum, and is accompanied by a separately packaged, authentic and documented piece of lunar rock, all ranging in weight, size and coloration.

The Lunar Rock Edition is limited to 12 copies only (edition no. 1958-1969). Copy no. 1969 includes a complete Lunar Meteorite weighing in at 348 grams. One of the largest lunar meteorites ever found on Earth, this is an extremely rare item as nearly all meteorites have been cut into smaller portions for sale or for study.