Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Best logo ever, military division

No disrespect to the honor and tradition of all military branches — and full disclosure, I'm an Air Force brat — but this is the best military logo going.

(Hey, no one disputed my last "Best logo ever" designation, so I figure I'm on a roll.)

Growing up at Vandenberg
Air Force Base, a missile installation,
I saw this ad nauseum without
really seeing it. The military is never
without its signs and wonders.
For one thing, it has passed the test of time — a sacrilegious declaration, I know, amid as many of two centuries of entrenched symbolism in the U.S. armed forces.

This has kicked around for 12 years. It passes my test: The logo caught my eye from the start, and made me stare at it like a work of art.

For another thing, it's a smart evolution from — and homage to — tradition.
The "'Hap' Arnold" wings

It nods to the force's founding, riffing off the "'Hap' Arnold" wings symbol used by the U.S. Army Air Corps before it split off to become a fly-alone armed force in 1947. Harold Harley Arnold was commanding general of U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

Graphically, it's complex in its simplicity, paring the image to the barest essentials.

Simple geometric shapes speak to me of the stealth age of air warfare, and in fact the logo was meant to attract young people to the force with a sleek, modern look. The bars suggest chevrons.

The two small triangles at the top ignite the logo for me, suggesting the swept wings of a raptor lifting, or steadying to grab its prey. The quadrangles that complete the negative space forming the star also create the raptor's splayed tail feathers. Since the falcon is the nickname of the Air Force's F-16 fighter jet and the mascot U.S. Air Force Academy, I figure it wasn't a random mistake that simply looked cool.

The Air Force has an explanation for each and every shape within the symbol — overkill, really — which you can read here, if you really want.

Together, the logo forms a V — or a military honor draped around uniformed shoulders. The wings are easy to spot at small sizes, a cardinal requirement of a good logo.

The logo works just as well in reverse (not easy to do in creating a logo) and with some pizazz.

I know a lot of Air Force personnel, particularly retired G.I.'s, hated the new logo. Change is hard. But this logo carries their legacy forward.

This is not a tract for or against military defense, simply a critique of a symbol. With fewer than a dozen simple geometric shapes so arranged, this one deeply embodies the mission of an entire military branch.

Disagree as you may. Also, clue me in to the logo's designer; I'm having difficulty tracking it down.



  1. I've always been a really big fan of military design. There's always a reason for every stripe, shape, color. It fascinated me a lot while I was enlisted. Can't help you on who did the Air Force logo, but you might want to check out the institute of heraldry http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/

  2. Since when is it spelled "division"?