Now more than ever, the private spaceflight industry is filled with diverse companies looking to make their mark in the realm of space — either by launching rockets, mining celestial rocks, or building space habitats. But as these companies work to distinguish themselves, there’s one thing that seems to be tying them all together: their branding.
A quick glance at the logos of some of the most prominent spaceflight companies, including SpaceX and Orbital ATK, show just how similar their branding has become. “There are usually dominant blues, dominant blacks, all going with this rocket swoosh and a pointed star,” says Andrew Sloan, a graphic designer and specialist in brand development. That’s a problem, he says, since it makes it hard for these brands to differentiate from one another.
“These are the mega lifts of the commercial space sector, but as the commercial space sector starts to mature, the need to stand out is going to become more important,” Sloan tells The Verge. “At least from a differentiation standpoint, these new companies have such a beautiful opportunity to stand up and try new design conventions that are a little more friendly; something that suits your core values a little bit more than defaulting to a swoosh.”
That’s something that Sloan wants to help emerging space businesses with. He’s started a company called Cosma Schema, geared toward helping those in the spaceflight industry develop branding that’s a bit more unique. Sloan already has an easy tip: embrace more vibrant colors. “Space is vibrant,” says Sloan. “Look at an image from Hubble; close-ups of Jupiter are gorgeous. Space is a vibrant place and there are no reasons we should be limited to sky blue or the black of the void.”
Also it’s time to get rid of the rocket swoosh — a nod to the curved path rockets take to get to space. Sloan says all his clients to date have asked for the swoosh or a crescent moon shape. He tries to push his clients to think of something else that might be more accessible to people. “In the end, their customers are people who live on Earth, who are comfortable with themes that are regularly repeated on Earth,” says Sloan. “So bringing these space companies down to Earth and remembering your customers are still Earthlings is going to go far in making decisions about aesthetics.”
For instance, Cosma Schema has been working with World Space Week, an annual public space event that focuses on the world’s involvement in space. The advocacy group is trying to promote inclusivity, says Sloan, but he notes right now the group’s logo looks like clip art. Cosma Schema is working on making an aesthetic that promotes what World Space Week is all about. “If your core value is inclusivity, you better be damn sure that logo carries that message along,” says Sloan.
Of course, rebranding can be a daunting task, especially for spaceflight companies. When NASA rebranded in the 1970s, the process entailed replacing the original logo, known as the Meatball, with a completely new one known as the Worm. The Worm then had to be added to all of the the agency’s documents, as well as many technologies and even various spacecraft. NASA eventually went back to its original Meatball logo, but some of the agency’s vehicles still operating in space sport the Worm logo.
But now, with enthusiasm higher than ever surrounding the private space industry, Sloan says companies should seize the opportunity to take a risk with their looks. “So many people are watching, and everyone is just sitting there looking at this rocket,” says Sloan. “It’s just a cool opportunity waiting to happen.”