Thinking outside the globe

Originally published on Design Think

Is there a need for graphic designers in space?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to go into space. For me it is the ultimate travel destination. Recently it’s come to the forefront of my mind again, from watching Around the world in 60 minutes, in which one of the astronauts describes his surreal first experience of stepping out into the nothingness, and also witnessing Endeavour taking off for its final mission. I feel the need to experience this mind-bending feeling of being outside of our home; outside of Earth.

So it got me thinking, if there was a need for graphic designers in space, perhaps it would be more likely that I could go.

So how could a designer contribute to a space mission? Well there are the obvious ones, designing signage, logos or printed matter etc, but these contributions would be from the comfort of the office, firmly held in place by gravity. Perhaps there are more lateral ways in which our skills could be put to use. I’m going to suggest some ways in which designers could help on board.

Ideas / problem solving

Something that sets designers apart is our constant stream of ideas. Yes anyone can have ideas, but designers are trained to hold on to and harvest these ideas. It would be useful to have a creative mind to suggest new ideas, pose questions that arise from experiments and find better ways of executing tasks.

Designers also have the advantage of the transferable skill that is problem solving. We’re good at seeing another way of doing something that isn’t always obvious. Sometimes when an outcome in design is requested (a poster) it isn’t always the best way of communicating the message (maybe a booklet could be better). This would be useful day to day, but in emergencies, could make all the difference.

Documenting / creating

A vital part of the creative process is documenting research and ideas. Expertly trained at documenting, designers do this not only instinctively, but beautifully. It would surely add depth to any mission to have a designer that could document information or occurrences not only with style, but interestingly in the form of information graphics.

At the very least someone with a photographic eye and editing skills would be indispensable, to produce high quality images of events and scenery. Perhaps these events could be visualised with illustration or typography. Even blogging as events happen is well within the realm of designers’ abilities.

It looks as if graphic design may not be appreciated by NASA though (just look at their rejection of the rebrand and “Worm” logo), as on their website they specify a preference for science qualifications.

‘Want to Work at NASA?

The most important steps that I followed were studying math and science in school. I was always interested in physics and astronomy and chemistry, and I continued to study those subjects through high school and college on into graduate school. That’s what prepared me for being an astronaut; it actually gave me the qualifications to be selected to be an astronaut.’

But then they continue,

‘I think the advice that I would give to any kids who want to be astronauts is to make sure that they realize that NASA is looking for people with a whole variety of backgrounds: they are looking for medical doctors, microbiologists, geologists, physicists, electrical engineers. So find something that you really like and then pursue it as far as you can and NASA is apt to be interested in that profession.’ 1

So perhaps there is hope yet, and, later on in my career, I could be working from space. And if that doesn’t work, what the hell, I’ll save up for Virgin Galactic flights.


  1. Source: NASA.