It was brought to my attention not long ago that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) makes its immense library of photographs available to the public copyright-free. There are a few restrictions in some cases, so you’ll want to read the fine print, but if you’re a space buff, this discovery is right up there with finding life on Mars. The archive is fantastic.
So much is here, from the earliest days of the space program through the moon landings, the Space Shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, the Mars missions, interplanetary probes, and everything in between, up to the minute, at high resolution. The gamut runs from the famous to the prosaic (like press-conference shots) to deep-space images so spectacular they seem like phantasms.
What to do with all this stuff? First thing I did was make a nice calendar for my desk.
Its pages fit into one of those purpose-made, fold-back CD cases (below). Run card stock through the office printer, cut to size with a razor and straightedge, and stack them in the case. It’s inexpensive, good-looking, and easy.
The calendar can be designed in countless ways, but the subject matter lends itself perfectly to sharp-edged minimalism, cold and spare, like outer space. I used the Helvetica Neue type family in three similar weights — Ultra Light, Thin, and Light — plus bold. The purpose of using three is so the type looks the same in every size — the smaller the size, the heavier the weight (below). Without this adjustment, the large sizes would appear too bold, or the small sizes would appear too light. For a similar reason, the letter spacing of the smallest size has been increased (tracked) by 20%.
Limiting the calendar to five rows of dates meant occasionally doubling up some dates, for which I used carefully sized super- and subscripts. I set special days, from national holidays to family birthdays, in bold plus color; green for St. Patrick’s Day, for example. And I chose to include NASA’s captions, which are very instructional, often quite long, and obviously written by space enthusiasts. All required editing for length, which for looks I made identical for every month. This in some cases required rewriting.
Below are the specs:
The NASA site is not the most intuitive you’ll ever see, but everything you’ll want is within a link or two. I hope you find it as interesting as I did!