Bruce Blackburn, a graphic designer whose trendy and minimalist logos grew to become ingrained within the nation’s consciousness, together with the 4 daring crimson letters for NASA often known as the “worm” and the 1976 American Revolution Bicentennial star, died on Feb. 1 in Arvada, Colo., close to Denver. He was 82.
The demise, at a nursing residence, was confirmed by his daughter, Stephanie McFadden.
In a design profession of greater than 40 years, Mr. Blackburn developed model imagery for shoppers like IBM, Mobil and the Museum of Modern Art. But he’s greatest identified for the NASA worm, which has grow to be synonymous with house exploration and the idea of the technological future itself.
In 1974, his small New York-based design agency, Danne & Blackburn, was barely a yr previous and anticipating an enormous mission when he and his companion, Richard Danne, have been approached by the Federal Graphics Improvement Program to rebrand NASA’s basic emblem, which depicted a patriotic crimson chevron hovering throughout the celebrities.
Known as “the meatball,” the unique emblem wasn’t precisely leading edge, evoking as an alternative a classic Buck Rogers sensibility of house journey. With the eyes of the world abruptly on the company after the moon touchdown in 1969, NASA sought a extra forward-looking picture.
“They were totally unprepared for that kind of attention,” Mr. Blackburn mentioned in “Blackburn” (2016), a short documentary about him. “Their unpreparedness descended to the level of how they presented themselves to the public.”
NASA introduced the worm in 1975. A sleek sequence of winding red letters, it quickly became a symbol of a boundless space age that lay ahead.
“We did get what we set out to accomplish,” Mr. Blackburn said. “Anybody we showed it to immediately said: ‘Oh, I know what that is. I know them. They’re really great. They’re right on the leading edge of everything.’”
But in 1992, a few years after the Challenger explosion, NASA dropped the worm and revived the meatball in a decision that was said to be intended to improve agency morale.
Mr. Blackburn and other designers lamented the choice. “They said, ‘This is a crime, you cannot do this,’” he said. “‘This is a national treasure, and you’re throwing it in the trash bin.’”
“His design sensibility was offended by what happened,” his daughter said. “He thought the meatball was clumsy and sloppy and not representative of the future.”
Creating the symbol for the American Revolution’s Bicentennial celebration was another big federal commission for the Blackburn firm in the 1970s. The result was a soft red, white and blue star that applied a modern aesthetic to patriotic themes. By 1976 the logo was appearing on everything from stamps to coffee mugs to government buildings.
“They say in life there are moments that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Mr. Blackburn said. “And I got two of them.”
He also worked on logos for the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers. In the 1990s, he was a finalist in the International Olympic Committee’s design competition for a centennial logo. President Ronald Reagan recognized his work with a Presidential Design Award in 1984. He served as the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in the mid-1980s.
In the documentary, Mr. Blackburn described his style as “programmatic” — design that “fosters imagery in the public’s eye that is permanent.” He added, “The art in design is problem solving and then giving it visual life.”
Bruce Nelson Blackburn was born on 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, was a homemaker and real estate agent. As a boy, Bruce spent hours painting and drawing in his bedroom. In his teens he formed a Dixieland band and won state music competitions playing the French horn.
He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in design and served in the Navy as a communications officer.
By the late 1960s, Mr. Blackburn had moved to New York to work for the design firm Chermayeff & Geismar. He later left it to found Danne & Blackburn. He parted ways with Mr. Danne in the 1980s and started his own firm, Blackburn & Associates, on Park Avenue. He married Tina Harsham in 1979.
In addition to his daughter, Ms. McFadden, Mr. Blackburn is survived by his wife; two sons, David Blackburn and Nick Sontag; a sister, Sandra Beeson; and eight grandchildren.
He and his wife moved to Santa Fe, N.M., a decade ago, and they settled in Lakewood, Colo., in 2017. A project that became important to him was designing logos for two Episcopal churches of which he was a longtime congregant: Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Weston, Conn., and St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe.
Last year, Mr. Blackburn was surprised when NASA revived the worm logo and put it on the side of a SpaceX rocket that was launched into orbit in the spring. The fate of the worm had always remained a tender subject for him.
“I think he was glad to know that his design was finally back in space,” his daughter said.