Pitfalls of Color

Color seems to be an easy way of adding more dimensions to symbols. For instance, one could use the same symbol but in five different colors, giving you five symbols instead of one.

This is probably a bad idea.

The problem is that under adverse conditions, the color might not be capable of being distinguished. With the unhappy result of five different symbols that you cannot tell apart. Such condition include:

  • Emergency lighting is often monochrome instead of white. Chemiluminescence glow sticks commonly emit green light, radioluminescence tritium lights are also green, low-pressure sodium lamps give yellow light. And light designed to preserve night vision under emergency conditions is red. Any of these can make two different colors become indistinguishable. This was featured in the movie The Abyss. The diver at an absurd distance below sea level has his lamp implode. The only light left is his glow stick. Unfortunately the nuclear warhead he has to disarm uses color coded wires that all look alike in green light.

  • A person might suffer from impaired color vision. This is generally red-green color blindness, occasionally blue-yellow color blindness, and rarely total color blindness. There are ways to partially compensate for this. Red and Green are commonly used as opposites for people with normal color vision. For the most common color blindness (red-green) this is the worst combo, a better choice is Red and Blue or Yellow and Blue.

  • Alien species might have vision which can only see in the infrared band or something exotic like that. Not only can they not see color, they might not be able to distinguish the symbol from the cloth or other surface it is applied to.

Rob Davidoff suggested that such symbols be "double-keyed". In the US the road sign symbolizing "Stop" is red of color and has an octogon shape. Words and numbers can be used, but part of the advantage of using symbols is they are not language specific.

With respect to color, the Semotic Standard symbols might have a problem.

The symbol of the Third Imperium established by Cleon I (the first emperor) when the empire was proclaimed. Images show him standing before the original banner with a golden yellow sunburst against a black background, representing Capital’s type G star against dark space.

The original banner in the Imperial throne room is still black with a yellow sunburst. The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service uses a red sunburst; the Imperial Navy, yellow; the Imperial Army, black; the Imperial Marines, maroon.

In 247, the Eliyoh (a nonhuman minor race) joined the Imperium. To that race the symbology was unimpressive. The Eliyoh vision centered in the far infrared, which resulted in distinction between the official colors of black and yellow being impossible. So the Empress Porfiria declared that the symbol would have no official color.

From Imperial Sunburst entry of the Traveller Imperial Encyclopedia
Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate

Berlin and Kay also found that, in languages with fewer than the maximum eleven color categories, the colors followed a specific evolutionary pattern. This pattern is as follows:

  1. All languages contain terms for black and white.
  2. If a language contains three terms, then it contains a term for red.
  3. If a language contains four terms, then it contains a term for either green or yellow (but not both).
  4. If a language contains five terms, then it contains terms for both green and yellow.
  5. If a language contains six terms, then it contains a term for blue.
  6. If a language contains seven terms, then it contains a term for brown.
  7. If a language contains eight or more terms, then it contains terms for purple, pink, orange, and/or gray.

Astronomical Symbols

Astronomical Symbols
Celestial
Body
MoonSymbolUnicode
Symbol
Moskowitz
Symbol
Notes
Sol
(the Sun)
Circle with dot in center
MercuryCrescent over circle over cross
VenusCircle over cross
Terra
(Earth)
Cross over circle. More popular in non-geocentric contexts
Cross inside circle. Globe with equator and a meridian.
Luna
(Moon)
Crescent
MarsAngled arrow over circle
Phobos
Deimos
Asteroid
Belt
CeresCresent over cross
Pallas
Juno
Astraea
JupiterCrescent on horizontal bar of cross
Io
Europa
Ganymede
Callisto
SaturnCross above crescent
Mimas
Enceladus
Tethys
Dione
Rhea
Titan
Hyperion
Iapetus
UranusVertical arrow over circle with dot
"H" from Herschel.
Two crescents on horizontal bar of cross, over circle
Miranda
Ariel
Umbriel
Titania
Oberon
NeptuneCrescent over cross
"L+V" for Le Verrier.
Proteus
Triton
Nereid
Pluto"P+L" for Pluto and Percival Lowell
Circle over crescent over cross
Charon
Nix
Hydra
Kerberos
Styx
Varuna
Ixion
Quaoar
Sedna
Orcus
Eris
Dysnomia
Makemake
Haumea
Salacia

Moskowitz Symbols were invented by Denis Moskowitz. The vast majority of smaller celestial bodies in the solar system do not have official symbols. Mr. Moskowitz decided to remedy that.


A gentleman by the name of Jeff Love figures that in astrology the various planets are symbols for aspects of a person's psychology. He analyzed the planetary symbols into common sub-symbols.

Planetary Sub-symbols
DotThe Self
CircleInteracting with the world. A conscious as opposed to a subconscious process.
CrescentReceiving/Emitting information or energy
ArrowMovement, creativity, aggressiveness, response
VerticalThe Active
HorizontalThe Passive
CrossBalance or fixation. Abscence means unfixed.

These sub-symbols are combined to form the planetary/psychological symbols

Planetary Sub-symbols
SolDot in circle
MercuryVertical upward crescent over circle over cross, attached to vertical
VenusCircle over cross, attached to vertical
EarthCross in circle (dot in center?)
Cross over circle, attached to vertical
MoonCrescent
MarsArrow on circle
CeresHorizontal crescent over cross, attached to vertical.
JupiterHorizontal crescent on cross, attached to horizontal
SaturnCross over horizontal crescent, attached to vertical
UranusArrow on circle, with dot
NeptuneVertical upward crescent (with arrows) over cross, attached to vertical
PlutoCircle over vertical upward crescent over cross, attached to vertical

For measuring equitorial longitude (right ascension) around the solar system plane of the ecliptic, a rough system can be made by dividing longitude into 30 degree segments named after the 12 signs of the zodiac.

Zodiac Longitude
LongitudeSymbolSign
Aries
30°Taurus
60°Gemini
90°Cancer
120°Leo
150°Virgo
180°Libra
210°Scorpio
240°Sagittarius
270°Capricorn
300°Aquarius
330°Pisces

For relative angular measure there are colorful archaic terms originating from astrology.

Angle Symbols
AngleNameSymbolNotes
ConjunctionIn same sign
18°Vigintile360° / 20
30°Semi-sextile360° / 12
One sign apart
32.727°Undecile360° / 11
36°Decile360° / 10
40°Novile360° / 9
45°Semi-square
(Octile,
Semiquartile)
360° / 8
51.429°Septile360° / 7
60°Sextile360° / 6
Two signs apart
72°Quintile
(Bidecile)
360° / 5
90°Square
(Quadrature,
Quartile)
360° / 4
Three signs apart
102.857°Biseptile360° / 3.5
360° / (7/2)
Septile × 2
108°Tridecile360° / 3.333
360° / (10/3)
Decile × 3
120°Trine360° / 3
Four signs apart
135°Sesquiquadrate
(Sesquisquare,
Trioctile)
360° / 2.647
90° + 45°
Square + Semisquare
144°Biquintile360° / 2.5
150°Quincunx
(Inconjunct)
360° / 2.4
Five signs apart
154.286°Triseptile360° / 2.333
360° / (7/3)
Septile × 3
165°Quindecile360° / 2.182
Opposition - 15°
Undecile × 5
180°Opposition360° / 2
Six signs apart
Solar Jargon

(ed note: Each zodiac "sign" designates a 30° arc of right ascension. The 12 signs cover the entire 360°. In reality the constellations comprising the zodiac have a variable number of degrees they span. And one Earth month also covers 30°. The vertex of all the arcs is the center of the Sun)

"But you're going in the wrong direction. A.T. headquarters is in King sector, about five months from Belt City."

"Five months?"

Paulsen laughed this time; a free laugh. "Oh, that's orbital distance, not the time it would take to get there. It's a Beltish system of direction. We use Earth's orbital velocity as the standard of distance for an asteroid—the way you use a clock face as the standard of position for an airplane; or a globe of Earth for the standard of reference in a spaceship.

"For instance, in an airplane—the way it's going would be twelve o'clock. If somebody comes up on it at a ninety-degree on the right, say, above it, that would be three o'clock high. Tells a guy where to look.

"But that wouldn't do you any good in a spaceship. Which way's up? The way you're facing or the way you're going? And are you in an acceleration couch lying down, or a couch-chair like ours? But— well, you've got the 3-D Plan Position Indicator. It's a globe. You use it like a globe of Earth for your reference."

Paulsen pointed to the global PPI. The faint glow of orange grid reference lines made it look very much like a skeletonized globe of Earth. The navigation stars that the computer selected from the multitude of stars around them shown as bright yellow dots on the outside surface of the globe. In the center of the globe was one green spark that represented their own ship. Any outside object, Stan knew, would be represented by a red spot within the globe; or if it were a planet or other sizable object, it would intrude as a large red ball. The north-south axis of the globe was in line with the ship's axis; north the direction in which they were going, south the direction from which they were pushed.

"You're in a squadron, diving on the Earthies, and you want to tell the other ships which one you're taking. You use latitude—not many of them; about twenty, forty and sixty degrees of latitude. Then north and south is like in the scope here; north is the way you're going. East and west is a reference from where you're sitting—east is the right side of the scope from here. Then farside and nearside, meaning farside of the scope or near. So if the ship you're after is—well, I don't know how to describe it except to say 'north forty farside east.' That would mean ahead of my ship at an angle of about forty degrees on the far side of my PPI scope and on an east angle from me. Get it?"

"I think so."

"But an asteroid—well, A.T. is in a position that puts it in line with a spot on Earth's orbit that's five months Earth speed further along that orbit than Belt City. So they're five months apart." ( 5×30° = 150°)

"Then you just mean that's its relative position?"

"Yep. Wouldn't take more than two weeks to reach it in this crate. But now, if you want to say where an asteroid is in the Belt, not relative to you in distance, but just where it is, you use the zodiac sign. For instance, Belt City's just entered Taurus; and A.T. is in Libra. Distance is in months; position is in zodiacal sign. Right?"

"Sure. It's easy once you think about it. Makes sense."

"Then there's the other part, the sectors. They're named like a deck of cards—ace, king, queen, jack, ten. The Belt's not evenly spaced around its orbit, you know. It sort of divides up into five sectors, with a fair amount of fairly empty space between. So you've got the sectors to contend with too. Think you can manage?"

"I guess so. Distance, Earth orbit; position by zodiac. Sector's a card game: Is that what's immediate?" Stan asked happily.

From Phase Two by Walt and Leigh Richmond (1979)

Semotic Standard

Ron Cobb while working on the movie Alien in 1978, developed a set of graphic icons to be used in the interior of spacecraft. It was called the Semotic Standard for "all commercial trans-stellar and heavy element transport craft". They are surprisingly modern looking for graphics created almost forty years ago. They inspired similar icons in Duncan Jones's movie Moon.

The icons used symbolic colors:

  • RED : viable, sound, alive, alertness
  • WHITE/GREY : life supporting condition: pressure, temperature
  • BLACK : vacuum, death, hazard
  • YELLOW : harmful, active process: molecular (heat), atomic, chemical
  • BLUE : lowered thermal condition
  • GREEN : non-human biological substance, process (not used in standard)

Spacers Runic

Spacer's Runic is from Jovian Chronicles Spacer's Guide (which has other hard-science space travel details that are relevant to our interests).

In the world of Jovian Chronicles, Spacer's Runic is an ideogram based written language used as an emergency form of communication when speaking is not possible. The straight lined symbols can be drawn with all sorts of improvised tools and surfaces, and space suits carry vacuum rated marking pens specifically to write them. Morse code is considered to also be a part of Spacer's Runic.

Spacer's Runic is considered to be universal among spacers, understandable regardless of what language the spacers speak. This is much like the real-world International Code of Signals, which can be understood even if the sender only speaks Mandarin Chinese and the receiver only speaks Czechoslovakian.


A single straight line (the "orientation mark") is used to indicate the left side of the sentences, since otherwise the orientation of the message is ambiguous in the microgravity environment. The line should include at least two sentence rows, but most spacers draw the line to include all of them. If there is only one sentence, the orientation mark should extend above and below the sentence.

The runes are read left to right,top to bottom.

Each rune is drawn within an imaginary 3 × 3 grid of evenly sized squares. They are drawn with dots and straight lines. Dots are drawn in the center of a grid square or at an intersection. Lines are drawn from the side of one grid square to another, either from the intersection or the midpoint.

The reader should cut some slack to the writer, since the writer is probably trying to draw the runes under extreme stress during an emergency.

Sentences start at the orientation mark, with each rune added at the right edge of the sentence. A sentence should be on one row, or the "continue on next line" rune allows a sentence to be on several rows. It is not allowed to have more than one sentence on a row.

Runes should be spaced so there is from 3 to 6 grid square between them, it is allowed to space the digits in a number closer than 3.

There are thousands of runes, only a representative sample is shown here.

Discworld Mine Sign

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are satirical fantasy for thinking people. While they are comedy, many of the jokes require a bit of scientific knowledge on the part of the reader. Which explains why I find them so entertaining. My personal favorites are The Truth (the invention of the newspaper), Going Postal (post office vs the Victorian internet), and Raising Steam (the invention of the steam locomotive).

Anyway like many fantasy novels the Discworld has a race of dwarfs. They spend most of their time in cramped mines in very close quarters with other dwarfs. Things can get tense.

Much like spacers on a prolonged deep-space mission in a tiny hab module, actually. Or asteroid miners.

As a sort of social network to reduce tensions Discworld dwarves use something called "mine signs", a species of graffiti. I am wondering of the idea can be adapted to a rocketpunk universe. Imagine Banksy using Spacers Runic

THUD!

     'And talking of shapes, do you know what this means? I spotted it in the mine, and a dwarf called Helmclever scrawled it in some spilt coffee, and you know what? I think he was only half aware that he'd done it.'
     Carrot picked up the notebook and regarded the sketch solemnly for a moment.
     'Mine sign, sir,' he said. 'It means "the Following Dark".'
     'And what does that mean?'
     'Er, that things are pretty bad down there, sir,' said Carrot earnestly. 'Oh dear.' He put the notebook down slowly, as if half afraid that it might explode.
     'Well, there has been a murder, captain,' Vimes pointed out.
     'Yes, Sir. But this might mean something worse, sir. Mine-sign is a very strange phenomenon.'
     'There was a sign like it over the door, only there was just one line and it was horizontal,' Vimes added.
     'Oh, that'd be the Long Dark rune, sir,' said Carrot dismissively. 'It's just the symbol for a mine. Nothing to worry about.'

     'What are these mine signs all about?' he said. 'That Helmclever sort of drew one at me. I saw one on the wall, too. And you drew one.
     "'The Following Dark",' said Carrot. 'Yes. It was scrawled all over the place.'
     'What does it mean?'
     'Dread, sir,' said Carrot earnestly. 'A warning of terrible things to come.'
     'Well, if one of those little sods so much as surfaces with one of those flame weapons in his hand that will be true. But you mean they scrawl it on walls?'
     Carrot nodded. 'You have to understand about a dwarf mine, sir. It's a kind of—'

     —emotional hothouse, was how Vimes understood it, although no dwarf would ever describe it that way. Humans would have gone insane living like that, cramped together, no real privacy, no real silence, seeing the same faces every day for years on end. And since there were a lot of pointy weapons around, it'd only be a matter of time before the ceilings dripped blood.
     Dwarfs didn't go mad. They stayed thoughtful and sombre and keen on their job. But they scrawled mine-sign.
     It was like an unofficial ballot, voting by graffiti, showing your views on what was going on. In the confines of a mine any problem was everyone's problem, stress leapt from dwarf to dwarf like lightning. The signs earthed it. They were an outlet, a release, a way of showing what you felt without challenging anyone (because of all the pointy weapons).
     The Following Dark: We await what follows with dread. Another translation might mean, in effect: Repent, ye sinners!

     'There's the Waiting Dark that's the dark that fills a new hole. The Closing Dark I don't know about that one, but there's an Opening Dark, too. The Breathing Dark, that's rare. The Calling Dark, very dangerous. The Speaking Dark, the Catching Dark. The Secret Dark, I've seen that. They're all fine. But the Following Dark is a very bad sign. I used to hear the older dwarfs talking about that. They said it could make lamps go out, and much worse things. When people start drawing that sign, things have got very bad.'
     'This is all very interesting, but-'
     'Everyone in the mine is as nervous as heck, sir. Stressed like wires. Angua said she could smell it, but so could I, sir. I grew up in a mine. When something is wrong, everyone catches it. On days like that, sir, my father used to stop all mining operations. You get too many accidents. Frankly, sir, the dwarfs are mad with worry. The Following Dark signs are everywhere. It's probably the miners they've hired since they came here. They feel that something is very wrong, but the only thing they can do about it is sign.'

     'Captain, I'm getting a bit lost here,' said Vimes. 'I didn't grow up in a mine. Are these signs drawn because dwarfs think bad things are going to happen and want to ward them off, or think the mine deserves the bad things happening, or because they want the bad things to happen?'
     'Can be all three at once,' said Carrot, wincing. 'It can get really intense when a mine goes bad.'

From THUD! by Terry Pratchett (2005)

Scientific Laws

Space Suit ID

Once people are suited up, it does become hard to tell who is who. In Destination Moon, there were four spacemen, and each had a uniquely colored suit. Kind of like colored tooth-brushes. But this won't work if you have more than a few spacemen, er, spacepeople. The person's name stenciled in large letter across the front and back is a possibility.

In Piers Anthony's The Kirlian Quest, he notes that this problem has occurred before: knights in armor are similarly anonymous. The solution is coat of arms and heraldry. The knights wear their coats of arms on their shields, tabards, and horse barding, to identify themselves.

When a proposed heraldic "device" (coat of arms) is submitted to the college of heralds, it is compared with all existing devices. The new device must have at least one major and one minor point of visual difference from those already registered. Otherwise it would be too easy to confuse the two devices in the heat of battle. Mistaking a foe for a friend could be fatal. It is also a good idea if the device can be recognized at a distance.

As an amusing side note, a heraldic device has a "blazon". This is a verbal description of the heraldic device done in heraldic terminology. If you give a herald a blazon, they can reproduce the original device even if they had never seen it before. Just remember that the "blazon" is the verbal description and "to emblazon" means to draw, paint or otherwise make a graphic representation of the device (called an "emblazonment").

Heraldry developed as a way to be seen and identified across a battlefield, in the clash of war. This requires high-contrast designs whose elements are clearly recognizable.

The first step in recognizability is to use the stylized heraldic forms of things. The second is to make your charges as big and bold as possible in the space you have available.

Modern corporate logos usually follow the same rules that heraldic artists used, because they want their product logo to stand out, to be identifiable even at a distance, and to be recognizable. Consider the logos of Shell, Diamond Shamrock, BMW, Dodge, Purina, CBS — all of these follow the styles and rules of heraldry.

In Larry Niven's Protector, the Belters of the asteroid belt spend most of their lives inside their space suit. They have a tendency to paint their suits in extravagant colors. One of the characters had Salvador Dali's Madonna of Port Lligat on the front of their suit. In an interesting psychological quirk, Belters also tend to be nudists when in a pressurized environment.

And if you find any illustrations of the game Warhammer 40,000, you will quickly see that the Space Marines are big fans of heraldry. Even though you can generally idenifty the bad Marines by the tentacles, weeping open sores, and other Marks of Chaos. Otherwise, if the opponents look like skeletons they are Necrons; if they are tall, skinny, and distainful they are Eldar; if they are green with tusks they are Orks; and if they look like Giger's Alien xenomorph on bad LSD and are eating everything they are Tyranids. They are all enemies, so the basic rule is if it does not look like a Space Marine, shoot it with your bolter.

Most Belters decorated their suits. Why not? The interior of his suit was the only place many a Belter could call home, and the one possession he had to keep in perfect condition. But even in the Belt, Nick Sohl's suit was unique.

On an orange background was the painting of a girl. She was short; her head barely reached Nick's neck ring. Her skin was a softly glowing green. Only her lovely back showed across the front of the suit. Her hair was streaming bonfire flames, flickering orange with touches of yellow and white, darkening into red-black smoke as it swept across the girl's left shoulder. She was nude. Her arms were wrapped around the suit's torso, her hands touching the air pac on its back; her legs embraced the suit's thighs, so that her heels touched the backs of the flexible metal knee joints. It was a very beautiful painting, so beautiful that it almost wasn't vulgar. A pity the suit's sanitary outlet wasn't somewhere else.

From PROTECTOR by Larry Niven. 1973

(ed note: In the Cluster novels, the quotation mark symbols denote which species-language is being used. " is for humans, * is for Asts (looks like a mass of coils), / is for Slashes (looks like a living disk harrow, shooting laser beams), and :: is for Quadpointers (looks like a slug with four chisles on its nose). The protagonist Herald the Healer is a Slash.)

Whorl twined to another section of his convolute residence, and Herald followed. Here in the living rock bordering a corkscrew chamber was emblazoned in relief a creature-sized Shield of Arms.

It was beautiful. The outer shield was in the shape of an ellipse set at an angle, representing Galaxy Andromeda, bordered inside by a wreath of intertwining serpents to designate Sphere Ast. Within that were the Family Arms of Precipice, resembling an ornate overhanging cliff. Herald moved his loops across it, savoring its aspects. It had superior form, texture, and color, and was, in its fashion, a genuine work of art. The King of Arms of Ast was certainly a master!

*What do you find?* The query was urgent.

/I find an excellent and flawless emblazon./

*Did you not say 'blazon' before?*

The tedious questions of amateurs! But Herald repressed his annoyance, for courtesy was vital to his profession.

/I did, Whorl. The 'blazon' of a Shield of Arms is the precise linguistic specification of its elements. To 'emblazon' is to render this description into physical actuality./

*I comprehend. The one is the description, the other is the carving. I feared for a moment there was something wrong with it.*

/No, your Achievement is quite in order. Azurine, a cliff of thirty-seven rocks and forty-two rills, alternately thirteen, twelve, thirteen, seven, eleven, twenty-three, pearline, all within a bordure of the Serpents Rampant./

Herald winced inwardly as he communicated, for the old-style heraldic term "rampant" was restricted to certain quadrupedal beasts of prey, standing erect on the left foot raising the right foot in stride, balancing with the left forefoot outthrust, the right raised to strike. It was technically impossible for a legless serpent to be "rampant." But the broadening of the system to include diverse Cluster cultures had forced the fudging of some terms. However, as he had informed Whorl, the local Colleges of Arms defined legitimacy. So he had to accept it, nonsensical as it was in derivation. Regardless, this remained an excellent Shield of Arms, in concept and execution.


In a moment she was back on the subject. ::How did heraldry start?::

/Many species, in their pretechnical phases, wore special apparel to protect them from the attacks of physical weapons. This apparel was called 'armor,' and it was so encompassing that it became impossible to recognize the individual entity within it, the 'knight,' which figure is also represented in the Tarot deck. Therefore it became necessary to decorate his shield with some characteristic design, typical of his household and affiliation, so that friend could be distinguished from enemy. This eliminated the awkwardness of a knight lining up behind the formation of his enemy, supposing he was among friends. Or even attacking his friends, thinking they were enemies. The markings on the shield made everything instantly clear, even when the knights were not personally known to each other. This was the origin of heraldry. Today, all great families of all species in the Cluster have their registered Shields of Arms, even though they may never engage in combat./

::My family has a Shield! I never knew what it meant.::

/Come, I will explain what it means./ Following her directions, Herald located the Metamorphic Shield and placed it against the wall where both could view it. /Note that the shape of this Shield is elliptical, a kind of angled oval that signifies Galaxy Andromeda./

::But Andromeda is a spiral!::

/So it is. But from Milky Way it appears elliptical. (Since Andromeda lost the Wars of Energy, we suffer the additional humiliation of the ellipse. The Milky Way Shield is the fundamental shape, flat across the top, round or partly pointed across the bottom. Other Galaxies have other shapes.) Within this is the band of prints, the little four-point patterns, signifying Sphere Quadpoint. In Milky Way there are two bands, since that Galaxy is organized into segments and Spheres, but it is the same idea. Then the main design, the symbol of Family Metamorphic: a lump of edible rock superimposed on the geologic flowchart of its derivation. A distinctive Achievement—that is what the complete affair is called—recognizable anywhere in the Cluster./

::Can you recognize any Shield of Arms in the whole Cluster?:: she asked, a bit awed.

/Within certain broad categories, yes. It is my business. And this is true generally. Two completely alien sapients could meet on a barren planetoid, perhaps shipwrecked from different vessels, possessing no common language, form or status, and they could recognize each other by their Shields of Arms. That would provide their common experience. Each would know the other was sapient and civilized, and where he was from, and that he honored Cluster conventions of behavior./

From KIRLIAN QUEST by Piers Anthony ()

The tiger stripes on Jim's mask, the war paint on Frank's, and a rainbow motif on Phyllis's made the young people easy to identify. The adults could be told apart only by size, shape, and manner; there were two extras, Doctor MacRae and Father Cleary.


He poked his head inside, seemed about to leave, then came inside. He pointed to their outdoor suits, hanging on hooks by the clothes locker. 'Why haven't you removed those barbaric decorations from your masks?'

The boys looked startled; Howe went on, 'Haven't you looked at the bulletin board this morning?'

NOTICE TO STUDENTS

1. The practice of painting respirator masks with so-called identification patterns will cease. Masks will be plain and each student will letter his name neatly in letters one inch high across the chest and across the shoulders of his outdoors suit.

(ed note: headmaster Howe is a stupid little power-mad bureaucrat who does not understand the realities of life out on the frontier)

From RED PLANET by Robert Heinlein. 1949

Military Insignia

And don't forget the spacecraft, it might have nose-art. noted that typical US Navy ships have a squadron logo someplace, while cruisers tend to have the logo of their Group because in the US Navy cruisers are in Groups rather than Squadrons.

Christopher Weuve said that he is a big fan of DESRON-21's logo. As he puts it, just change "Solomons" to something else suitable (Orion? Arcturus?) and you're ready to go.

In a discussion about future military spacecraft paint schemes, Barry Messina says:

MacArthur (from Niven and Pournelle's THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE) is more likely to have some sort of Imperial or Royalist symbology, and might carry personal marks signifying the presence of senior leadership (like Counts) if the leadership was aboard in an official capacity. When the political leader was aboard in an active duty military role, serving as Lt Blaine rather than Count Blaine, then no distinguishing logos for the political rank would be shown. This is like Prince Charles, on active duty with the Royal Navy, being addressed as Lt Windsor, rather than Your Highness. The squadron commodore can tell Lt Windsor that Lt Windsor has done a bad job of getting his minesweeper ready for an inspection. When Lt Windsor's Mom comes by for HRH's birthday, then the squadron commodore had better be on the pier ready to salute. If MacArthur is in a "Royalist" navy, then I'd expect a different "style" from the Strategic Star Command "style".

(The Strategic Star Command cruiser) Leif (Ericson) seems to be stuck in a different storyline, so the SAC-type logos and more aircraft-like, and less naval, marking scheme makes sense.

Another sort of "political" consideration for you to think about: Military organizations with very centrally-managed information operations and publicity campaigns tend to have a consistent "style" in their graphics, and in the integration of their uniforms and symbols. This is most evident during peacetime. Military organizations operating far from HQ, and under combat pressure, tend to be more informal. For instance, German submarines have always (as far as I know off the top of my head) been U-XXX with no other official name. In WWII, many of the subs had unofficial names and a command graphic. Most of the graphics were done by the crew and did not have that polished, commercial "look". The personality of the sub CO had a lot to do with this. The same thing goes for command mottos: there's the official motto on the ship's logo, there's the crew's version of the official motto, and then there's the crew's version of the ship's actual motto. For instance, USS DEWEY DDG-45, official motto PAX PROMPTER VIM, crew translation S**T HAPPENS, crew motto WHY US?.

Barry Messina

An experiment in inventing the spacecraft colors for the science fictional Strategic Space Command.

The amazing Robert Lee Merrill of Hungry Lizard Studios has quite a few suggestions for the Strategic Space Command insignia

Empire Insignia

The floor of the hall had been cleared of seats. Above the stage at the far end were the three closed circles of the Federation - Freedom, Peace, and Law, so intertwined that, if any one were removed, the other two would fall apart. Under them was the Patrol's own sign, a star blazing in the night.

From SPACE CADET by Robert Heinlein (1948)

Chung Dragon

The author's father, Major Winchell D. Chung, (ret.) used to be the navigator/bombardier officer on a SAC B-52 aircraft. For his crew he painted insignia on their helmets. Years later when I saw the first Star Wars movie I wondered why the X-wing pilot's helmets looked oddly familiar.

I always wondered about the dragon emblem. Thinking back, I vaguely remembered it was based on a water-slide decal. After a bit of an internet search, I figured what I was remembering was the IMPKO dragon decal from 1960. It appears my father modified it to have four feet instead of just two.

Judging by the way RocketCat is eyeballing the dragon, I figure there will be a new emblem added to his space suit.

Atomic Rockets notices

This week's featured addition is Pulsed Solid Core Nuclear Thermal Rocket

This week's featured addition is Convair Electria spacecraft

This week's featured addition is the Lewis Research Center Mars Mission

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