Blackburn, Bruce: NAPOLI [Poster]. Lissone, Italy: Arti Grafiche Meroni, [1984].

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NAPOLI

Bruce Blackburn

Bruce Blackburn [Design]: NAPOLI. Lissone, Italy: Arti Grafiche Meroni , [1984]. Original impression. 39 x 26.75 - inch [99.06 x 67.945 cm] trim size image printed via offset lithography on a semi-gloss sheet. A fine, fresh example.

39 x 26.75 - inch [99.06 x 67.945 cm] poster designed by Bruce Blackburn: “A poster commissioned by Napoli ’99 Foundation as a contribution towards the cultural image of the city.”

The Naples NinetyNine Foundation sponsored a series of 25 posters from 1984 – 1986 with the primary objective of contributing to the knowledge, promotion and enhancement of cultural heritage of Naples and Southern Italy.

The 25 participating designers were Walter Allner, Stuart B. Ash, Saul Bass, Bruce Blackburn, Pierluigi Cerri, Ivan Chermayeff, Giulio Confalonieri, Heinz Edelmann, Gene Federico, Alan Fletcher, Jean-Michel Folon, André François, Milton Glaser, Tomás Gonda, F H K Henrion, David Hillman, Takenobu Igarashi, Mervyn Kurlansky, Italo Lupi, John Mcconnell, Armando Milani, Art Paul, Tullio Pericoli, Arnold Schwartzman, and Massimo Vignelli.

Their interpretations of the city cover a wide range of themes: architecture, poetry, music, the earthquake, pollution, Vesuvius. The 25 posters have been exhibited in Naples, Rome, Los Angeles, Dundee, and Lahti. The project won the award for the best social graphics at the 1987 Lahden Biennal Exhibition. Collect them all!

In spring of 1974, a request for proposals for the NASA redesign had landed at the office of Danne & Blackburn, a firm that Mr. Danne had started with another designer, Bruce Blackburn. The National Endowment for the Arts had started a program to encourage federal agencies to clean up and update their appearances and communications. NASA was one of the first in line to get a visual makeover. “All of the U.S. agencies put out bad stuff,” Mr. Danne said. “No one had a clue.”

For a small, young firm, it was an opportunity for attention, and NASA was still basking in the glow of the Apollo moon landings. “Even though the money in it was minuscule, we had to go for it,” Mr. Danne said. “We knew it was high profile.” Mr. Blackburn, who also designed the logo for the country’s bicentennial celebration, set to work on a logo. Since 1959, the year after its founding, NASA had used what was affectionately called “the meatball” — a blue circle filled with stars, a red swoosh that represents an airplane wing and a spacecraft orbiting the wing. “The meatball was something that was contrived by jet pilots, and it went all the way back to Buck Rogers in terms of its sophistication,” Mr. Blackburn said. “It didn’t look like a modern space agency.”

Mr. Blackburn tried pictorial approaches, but concluded that the best embodiment of NASA was its recognizable acronym. The linear treatment that would become the worm was a simplification of letter forms that embodied “the technological base of the agency and had some future orientation as well,” Mr. Blackburn said. “It was extremely simple. It was direct.” In the logo, the two A’s lack crossbars, suggestive of a rocket nose cone or an engine nozzle.

When Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Danne presented it to NASA’s leaders, they made sure to show how it would look “applied to a lot of real things,” Mr. Danne said. “We knew in the presentation maybe it would be too abstract, too theoretical.” But James C. Fletcher, then NASA’s administrator, was skeptical about the missing crossbars. Mr. Danne recalled Dr. Fletcher saying, “I just don’t feel we are getting our money’s worth!”

Mr. Blackburn said he had returned to the office and tried to make a more conventional A. “You kill the baby when you do that,” he said. “They ultimately caved in.” — $79 for an Out-of-Date Book About a Modern NASA Logo by Kenneth Chang, the New York Times, Sept. 1, 2015

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