This August’s total solar eclipse has prompted some impressive logo design and promotional work—while others are more generic.
On August 21st, the moon will move between the earth and the sun, creating the first total solar eclipse that the United States has seen since 1979. Unlike that eclipse, which was only visible in the northwest, this summer’s Great American Eclipse is cross-country. From Oregon to South Carolina, 200 million people live within a day’s drive of its path. And all of them are designing eclipse logos.
Well, not all of them. But the event does have the potential to bring 200 million tourists, so small towns across totality are turning to design to differentiate themselves. And like anything else in advertising, some of the art is better than others.
Before designing the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s eclipse logo, graphic designer Tana Rodriguez checked out the competition. “A lot of eclipse logos rely on black and orange,” she says. After all, both are easy choices: During a total solar eclipse, the moon fully covers the sun.
Morehead Planetarium is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Rodriguez says she had two goals: “1. [To convey] that there’s a solar eclipse happening” and “2. That this is taking place in the Carolinas.” So instead of using the same colors as everyone else, Rodriguez went with navy, yellow, and “Carolina Blue” (Pantone 542), the official color of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That’s not to say orange and black can’t work. Carolina Blue is custom to its region, but for North Platte, Nebraska, Barry Keller at Infuze Creative made variations work. Keller says the landscape around North Platte is “made up of grassland and prairie over rolling sandhills, mostly countryside with an occasional cattle ranch (windmill).” So he layered shades of gray “to represent the area in a simplified and creative way with some subtle definition of the landscape.”
The resulting logo gives tourists some idea of what the eclipse would look like were they to see it from North Platte. In a sea of generic eclipse logos where you could remove the town name and replace it with Anywhere, USA, Keller’s work stands apart. It is just as uniquely Nebraska as Rodriguez’s work is specifically Carolina.
In addition to developing brand identity through color, Rodriguez also used Gotham and Archer, the fonts from Morehead Planetarium and the North Carolina Science Festival’s larger brand identities. “Morehead produces the Festival,” Rodriguez says, “and the Carolinas Solar Eclipse Party stemmed from the Statewide Star Party, which is an annual Festival initiative.” (Coincidentally, Keller used Gotham Bold.)
Rodriguez also uses North and South Carolina’s state shapes for the “o” in solar. Intuitively, most people don’t look at the Carolinas and think they look like an “o.” The states’ borders have too many rough edges. But by placing the sun’s ring around them, Rodriguez creates a logo where the states and astronomy are one. Here, the eclipse is a natural part of the advertised event as opposed to something otherworldly that takes the states completely over. Compared to generic logos with the ring as largest part, Rodriguez’s minimalism is refreshing.
“The diamond ring effect isn’t totally new or original,” she protests. But she’s not giving herself enough credit. As she explains, “[The sun’s corona is] one of the only visual references people have for eclipses.” That’s why so many people have used it. During a total solar eclipse, the corona–a plasma aura surrounding the sun–is the only part of the sun people can see. By placing the ring around the Carolina state shapes, Rodriguez integrates the ring into her design instead of manipulating her design around the ring.
Keller’s logo may not use the ring to turn states into letters, but it is a beautiful example of how great design often takes a dominant image and makes it a subtle trait. In its depiction of Nebraska’s loose, rolling prairie, the North Platte logo feels three-dimensional. Its corona is freeform as well, its orange-yellow shade unglaring. Keller calls this color “intense” because it pops, but its brightness does not overtake you. Instead it creates, in Keller’s words, “highlights that helped define things.” Such as why you should come to North Platte instead of somewhere else inside the band.
In the 700s BCE, ancient Chaldeans were first to discover that eclipses come in cycles. There’s probably been good and bad design in the world for that long too. In addition to Rodriguez and Keller’s logos, St. Joseph, MO; Wyoming State Parks; and the Hopkinsville, KY, Fire Department have also put out interesting work.
But those whose logos are more on the generic side have until April 8, 2024 to improve. That’s when the United States will see its next total solar eclipse.