This is a strange and interesting twist of a story. About a week ago, a couple of graphic designers from NY City decided they wanted to crowdfund the republication of NASA’s 1975 Graphic Standards Manual as a tribute to Designers Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn who originally created the manual — and which was revoked in 1992 when NASA decided to change from the “worm” logo and went back to their old logo nicknamed “meatball.” I didn’t find any FDLP libraries with this manual in either WorldCat or GPO’s Catalog of Govt Publications, so it is indeed a rare item. The reissued manual will include a 500+ word foreword by Richard Danne and a 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) and will weigh “approximately 5lbs on earth, 0.9lbs on the moon.”
But now, 2 days ago on September 8, NASA published a PDF version of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual — and I’ve grabbed a copy for the Stanford digital repository and submitted it as a fugitive to GPO. There’s no mention from NASA on whether it is coincidence or if they decided to make the old manual available because of the interest generated by the kickstarter campaign.
Far from being ecstatic that NASA would make the manual freely available online, designers Reed and Smyth are vowing to go through with their kickstarter campaign — which has garnered 6,576 backers and $693,690 pledged of $158,000 goal — and print the book. “It’s great that they’re [NASA] making the guidelines available to the public, we think they should be. That said, we don’t think that having an online PDF is the easiest way to engage with the information.” And therein lies the rub. Here’s a public domain govt publication that’s currently only available as a PDF download from the NASA site, but the graphic designer community — and perhaps the NASA space nerd community too — wants this manual in physical book form because that’s the “best way to engage with the information”!
A little over a week and a half ago, New York-based graphic designers Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth, who are best known for their New York City Transit Authority Standards Manual project, took to crowdfunding giant Kickstarter once again to raise funds so that they can re-issue the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual.
Reed and Smyth wrote:
“[In 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? 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.”
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