Worm designer receives NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal

Worm designer receives NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal

NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana presented Richard Dunn with an award on Monday for his outstanding achievement in creating NASA’s worm logo and inspiring the world through the medium of design for the benefit of humanity.

The Exceptional Public Achievement Medal was presented to Dan following a panel discussion at NASA Headquarters in Washington in which the designer, as well as NASA and industry design experts, participated to discuss the iconic logo and its cultural impact. The award recognizes non-government employees for a specific accomplishment or significant improvement in contribution to NASA’s mission.

“Making the impossible possible through innovation, inspiring through discoveries that transform our knowledge of the universe and our place in it, and delivering benefits for all of humanity, is what we do at NASA, and what people think of when they see this simple, amazing logo,” said NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. “Thank you for giving the agency an image that is timely and also continues to live alongside NASA’s iconic meatball as one of the most recognizable and popular symbols of what we can achieve when we work together.”

A simple, unique red pattern of the word NASA, the worm replaced the agency’s logo for several decades starting in the 1970s before being retired. It has since been brought back for limited use to complement the agency’s official insignia, known as the Meatball.

“This event, the culmination of a 50-year journey, has been extremely rewarding. Creating the worm for NASA was a unique achievement in my career and in the history of design. It wasn’t always easy but it was a glorious experience and I feel lucky to have Part of the NASA family and that I helped the agency achieve its missions and goals.”

NASA was strategically selected to implement the first new commercial identity as part of the Federal Design Improvement Program. The agency appointed New York firm Danne & Blackburn, which delivered its innovative worm design accompanied by a detailed manual that made it available in all centres. In that time, the worm has won some of the industry’s biggest design awards, including the first Presidential Design Award in 1985.

In 1992, the worm was retired. However, in 2017, NASA began allowing the worm to once again be placed on commemorative merchandise, and in 2020, nearly 30 years later, the agency used the worm logo again to celebrate the return of human spaceflight on American rockets from American soil. In November 2022, NASA also used the worm logo on its first lunar rocket in more than 50 years as part of its Artemis program.

Since its launch, the worm’s logo has reappeared on the agency’s banners, spacecraft, and spacesuits. Recently, NASA opened its own Earth Information Center at its headquarters, which features a giant NASA worm statue right outside its front doors. As part of his visit to Washington, Dunn saw the statue for the first time.

NASA’s original badge, designed by James Modarelli in 1958, remains a powerful global symbol and is the official emblem of where the agency innovates, inspires and explores for the benefit of all. NASA’s cargo team receives hundreds of requests each month for permission to use its drawings.

“Thanks to the worm and the meatball, the NASA brand has become one of the most recognizable brands in the world. These symbols have inspired countless students in the past, and now they are inspiring the future generation of Engineers, scientists, innovators – the Artemis generation.

To rewatch the panel discussion, visit NASA’s YouTube channel at the following link:



News media contacts:
Claire O’Shea/Stephanie Shierholz
Headquarters, Washington
claire.a.oshea@nasa.gov / stephanie.schierholz@nasa.gov

(tags for translation) NASA history

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