The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to see its logo on your next t-shirt, cap or collectible.
The intergovernmental organization, which is comprised of 22 member states, has now made it easier for individuals and companies producing merchandise to gain permission to use the ESA brand. The new process, which is essentially agreeing to some terms and submitting an online form, marks the first time that ESA has allowed branded products to be produced without the manufacturer first needing to enter into a collaborative agreement with the agency.
"This move is another step in trying to raise awareness and general visibility in Europe about ESA and the great space work we do, work for which we all can be proud," Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director General, wrote in a social media postannouncing the new program on Friday (Jan. 27).
Individuals and small companies that do not need extensive support from ESA for the development or promotion of their products can now visit the agency's new online Brand Center to request use of the ESA logo, astronaut insignia or mission patches. In doing so, they need to agree to abide by some basic design standards.
For example, only certain color backgrounds are allowed to be used with the ESA logo, depending on the hue — black, white or "deep space" — chosen for the logo itself.
Or for those wanting to use ESA's various astronaut or robotic probe mission patches, the designs can only be used as is; they cannot be altered, nor can they be reproduced such that they appear tilted, stretched or edited in any way. Further, the artwork featured on the emblem can only be used in its patch format; it cannot be used as a stand-alone illustration.
From the Brand Center, individuals and companies can find the high-resolution and vector artwork for more than 65 ESA mission patches, as well as the astronaut patch, which features the flags of all the ESA member states, as well as the cooperating and associate member flags.
Previously, the selection of ESA-branded merchandise has been limited to the apparel and other items offered through the ESA Space Shop, which opened in 2017, or through large corporate partnerships, such as with Mattel, which in 2021 produced a Barbie doll in the likeness of Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, or Playmobil, which released a "Mars Expedition" playset that same year.
ESA's new approach to merchandising is similar to NASA's, which also requires permission and sets certain color and usage restrictions for the space agency's identifiers and artwork. The U.S. agency's process has led to both mass marketers and luxury brands incorporating the NASA logo into their product lines.
In fact, the U.S. program has been so successful that it is now not uncommon to see people wearing NASA-branded shirts or hats out on the streets, and not just domestically, but around the world.
"My personal hope is that this will lead to seeing more Europeans wearing a t-shirt from their own space agency," wrote Aschbacher of the new ESA effort.