Bruce Blackburn, a graphic designer whose modern and minimalistic logo is ingrained in the national consciousness, includes four bold red letters for NASA, known as the “worm”, and Bicentennial’s star. American Revolution of 1976, passed away on February 1 in a nursing home in Arvada, Colo., Near Denver. He is 82 years old.
The death was confirmed by his daughter, Stephanie McFadden.
Mr. Blackburn’s illustrious design career over 40 years involves image development for clients such as IBM, Mobil and the Museum of Modern Art. But he is best known for the NASA worm, which has become synonymous with the exploration of space and the technological concept of the future itself.
In 1974 his New York-based small design company, Danne & Blackburn, was only one year old and excited for a big project when he and his partner, Richard Danne, got the Innovation Program. Graphics Federation approaches to rebrand the classic NASA logo, which depicts a patriotic red chevron soaring through the stars. Called “meatballs,” it’s not exactly too stellar, instead evoking the classic sense of space travel seen in science fiction comics like Buck Rogers. With the eyes of the world suddenly seeing the agency in 1969 after landing on the moon, NASA wanted to capture a modern image.
“They were completely unprepared for that attention,” said Mr. Blackburn in “Blackburn” (2016), a short documentary about him. “Their unpreparedness diminishes to the point where they present themselves to the public.”
In 1975, NASA introduced the worm, a sleek, curling red string, and the logo quickly became a tangible symbol of the era of boundless space ahead.
“We have achieved what we set out to accomplish,” said Blackburn. “Whoever we showed it to immediately said, ‘Oh, I know what that is. I know they. They are really amazing. They are right next to the forefront of everything. ”
But in 1992, a few years after the Challenger explosion, NASA released the worm and resurrected its meat students in a decision that was supposed to improve the company’s morale.
Mr. Blackburn and other designers have lamented the choice. “They said, ‘This is a crime. You can’t do this, ”he said. “‘This is a national treasure and you are throwing it in the trash.”
“His design sensibility was outraged by what happened,” said his daughter. “He thinks this meatball is clumsy, sloppy, and doesn’t represent the future.”
In addition to designing the worm, Mr. Blackburn worked for another major federal committee in the 1970s, creating the emblem for the American Revolution’s Bicentennial celebration. His design – a soft star consisting of red, white, and blue stripes combining modern aesthetics with patriotic themes – became ubiquitous in 1976, appearing on everything from stamps, Coffee mugs to government buildings.
“They say there are moments in life that are once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “And I have two of them.”
Mr. Blackburn has also worked on logos for the US Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers. In the 1990s, he reached the finalists of the International Olympic Committee’s centennial logo design competition. President Ronald Reagan recognized his work with the Presidential Design Award in 1984. He served as president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in the mid-1980s.
In the documentary, he describes his style as “programmatic” – the design “that fosters a lasting image in the public eye.” He added, “Art in design is about solving problems and then bringing it to life.”
Bruce Nelson Blackburn was born June 2, 1938 in Dallas and raised in Evansville, Ind., On the Ohio River. His father, Buford Blackburn, was an electrical engineer. His mother, Ruby (Caraway) Blackburn, is a housewife and real estate broker. As a boy, Bruce spent hours drawing and painting in his bedroom, and as a teenager he formed the band Dixieland and won state-level music competitions playing the trumpet. France.
He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Design in 1961. In the Navy, he served as a communications officer.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Blackburn moved to New York to work for design firm Chermayeff & Geismar, and then left to found Danne & Blackburn. He married Tina Harsham in 1979. Mr. Blackburn parted ways with Danne in the 1980s and founded his own company, Blackburn & Associates, on Park Avenue.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Blackburn is survived by his wife; two sons, David Blackburn and Nick Sontag; one sister, Sandra Beeson; and eight grandchildren.
He moved to Santa Fe, NM, with his wife a decade ago and they settled in Lakewood, Colo., In 2017. One personal project that became important to him was the logo design for the two Episcopal Churches. and you are a longtime layman, Emmanuel. The Episcopal Church in Weston, Conn., And The Episcopal St. Bede is in Santa Fe.
Last year, Mr. Blackburn was surprised when NASA revived the worm symbol to appear on the face of a SpaceX rocket that launched into orbit that spring. The worm’s fate has always been a tender topic for him.
“I think he’s happy to know,” said his daughter, “his design has finally been brought back into space.”