290. The Missile Defense Agency's New Look.
Feb 25, 2010 at 07:25AM

Who doesn't love a little design controversy? Add to that international politics, elected officials turn design critics, and missles...well it's just too much for us to ignore any longer. Last fall, the US Missile Defense Agency launched (oh yes, pun intended and immediately regretted) a new brand after collaborating with TMP Government, a marketing company that manages numerous government websites.

First, the agency—a part of the Department of Defense—was chartered as far as I can tell in 1999. Here's the official wording, "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for National Missile Defense." – National Missile Defense, Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-38). I feel safter already.

Now, let's just set aside how crazy it is that we have a missle defense shield and any and all arguments for and against. Maybe it's necessary or maybe it's another example of the industrial-military complex run amuk, but that's the topic of someone else's blog. Let's talk design. The new brand features what appears to be a missile trailing stripes of red as it circles the earth and explodes into a wonderful (sic) starburst in the blue sky. The design itself is pretty bad but is amazingly an improvement over their old mark which also featured a missile shooting up into the sky. The previous design was looking pretty outdated for such a cutting-edge entity and the old color palette, mainly red and black was definitely too aggressive. It's the DEFENSE department, remember. The old combination mark is something right out of a video game. An original nintendo-era video game that is. I can't help but make the sound of a missle exploding when I see these logos, the same sound that boys learn to make early on when playing in the sandbox with their toys. (I haven't meant too many girls that can make this sound.)

The Missile Defense Agency's Old & New Identity:


So, when you look at the new identity, it does kind of remind you of a certain presidential campaign and that's just what is bothering some right-wingers. I don't have a problem with them being influenced by Obama's now famous campaign symbol, my problem is that they did a very bad job of ripping it off. The O is strong, balanced, and graphically well rendered. This identity is weak, sickly thin at certain points, and wobbly. (One could argue that this is appropriate given some of the system's test results over recent history.) The red stripes are mushed together with no apparent rhyme or reason and the exploding starburst gives more of a 'nativity scene' vibe rather than a precise missile strike. I'm also bothered by the patriotic scheme, when a more formal, crest or seal would have been appropriate. It's all too casual for my tastes and a good old-fashioned seal would give me sense that they are doing their job and not necessarily taking any misplaced joy out of it. This is not the logo of duty or necessity, it's the logo out of Star Trek. 

Aesthetic flaws aside, here are some of the ridiculous comments this identity is getting from a general perspective via sources like the Washington Times, BigGovernment.com, and others as reported by The Telegraph in the UK:

"I'm having trouble seeing past the crescent and star in the new logo," one critic posted on WashingtonTimes.com. "Is this our signal to the Muslim world that we're not going to shoot down their missiles?" Oh boy.

Frank Gaffney wrote on BigGovernment. com: "The new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo ... Team Obama is behaving in a way that – as the new MDA logo suggests – is all about accommodating that 'Islamic Republic' and its evermore aggressive stance." And one more goodie:

"It also looks a bit like a sickle. Maybe they couldn't figure out a way to get the hammer in without being too obvious."

Obviously, people are reading way, way too much into this. Nobody in their right minds really thinks someone is trying to get away with putting secret symbols into their design. I guess that's just the sad political climate in Washington these days. Personally, I don't think the design entities at play here have that kind of strategic thinking at hand.

The Telegraph also interviewed Brian Collins to answer the calls that it's too close to Obama's mark (not that there is anything wrong with that). Collins is chairman and chief creative officer at COLLINS:, a New York-based design and innovation firm.  He said the new logo used the "same visual language" as that of the Obama campaign, complete with two circles and three stripes. "The Obama logo is filled with messages of hope, it's about looking toward an optimistic future," he said. "They've taken those exact elements and they've made them more technical."

Wow. And you thought the Michigan State Logo fiasco was getting out of hand. Maybe we should all pitch in and design some alternatives?

While we're on the subject of the Missile Defense Agency, you must visit their website and dig around. You'll find plenty of wonderful little things like wallpapers and screensavers as well as The Interceptor—an online game where you can shoot down missiles just like in real life! Oh to joy! Not to be missed if you are into that type of thing.

Article originally appeared on Graphicology (http://www.graphicology.com/).
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