Sky Fighter is a crowd-funded sci-fi short film written and directed by Lukas Kendall. Lukas is the creator of Film Score Monthly, which was both a print publication (it lives on as FSM Online) and a record label specializing in vintage film scores. I e-mailed Lukas early on offering my services; he was appreciative and said we could chat once they hit their crowdfunding goal...
The Patch
...and thankfully they did so we were off to the races. We discussed what kind of graphic design would be needed and eventually Lukas asked if I could come up with a uniform patch for a "United Earth Navy." It had to be somewhat militaristic (think the MACOs from Star Trek: Enterprise or the MCRN from The Expanse) and the color scheme couldn't pop too much. In other words, "a reasonable projection of the real-world 'military industrial complex' into outer space."
For research, I looked at various patches and logos from the Star Trek franchise, mission patches from NASA and SpaceX, and even aerospace and airport branding projects. One great source of inspiration was a book uploaded by PRINT, 1942's United States Service Symbols. My first pass is below.
The first one (top left) is actually a re-creation of the real logo of the US Naval Space Command, an agency that disbanded in 2002. I included the anchor even though it would be completely incongruous in an outer space setting. For mottos, at first I wasn't given any specific instructions but I couldn't resist. (Of course, any motto I included would be more or less illegible on screen.)
“Courage. Strength. Conviction.” — Dick Jones, RoboCop
“Non sibi sed planeta” (“Not for self but planet”) — this is a play on the US Navy’s unofficial motto “Non sibi sed patriae” (“Not for self but country”)
“Planeta Fidelitas” (“Loyalty to Planet”) — this is a play on the US Army 8th Infantry Regiment's motto “Patriae Fidelitas” (“Loyalty to Country”)
“Any time. Any place.” — motto of the US Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing
“Nihil Obstat” (“Nothing Stands in Our Way”) — motto of the US Army 557th Artillery Group
“Aut Vincere Aut Mori” (“Conquer or Die”) — motto of the US Air Force 1st Tactical Fighter Wing
Lukas liked the hexagonal design (bottom left) but asked if I could add one more color and perhaps a motto in Chinese. I settled on a salmon color. Regarding the motto, I honestly can't remember what it is. I submitted another round of concepts and this is the one selected by the filmmakers. The typeface is DDC Hardware.
For more about the UN logo, click here. And for more about science fiction and hexagons, click here.
The Signage
Up next on the agenda was signage. Inspired by Ron Cobb's work on Alien, Lukas wanted some basic graphics for the set. I went back to the research I had gathered for a school project where I designed a series of pictograms for the International Space Station. This included work by Cobb, Gavin Rothery (Moon), and Star Trek veterans Mike Okuda and Lee Cole.
I decided to do a handful of decals, some with specific warnings and others with instructions for executing a specific procedure. At one point, the lead character tries to see what's outside the ship so a radiation warning would be needed. All the text would have to be in English and Chinese. The header text is accurate to the best of my ability while the smaller text is just filler.
For typography, I knew I did not want to use Futura or Eurostile. I settled on T.26 Carbon Bold for the header text and DIN Alternate Bold for the smaller text. For more about Eurostile and its use in science fiction, check out Dave Addey's wonderful website. My first pass is below.
Lukas liked the concepts but felt they were too, well... 21st century Earth. He asked me to do another pass. I was encouraged to use odd colors, fool around with alignments and margins... anything to make the signage look more like it came from a futuristic pan-Earth culture. I did a second pass but they were still too conservative. Lukas then supplied me with a rough sketch which proved to be quite useful.
For the third pass, inspired by the sketch, I cut off one corner since cutting off two would result in the Best Buy logo. I added more graphics including some of the pictograms from my school project, a circular stock image representing a thumbprint scanner, and a hexagonal stock image representing a futuristic QR code. And since the "Radiation Hazard" decal would be featured more prominently than the others, I replaced the filler text with actual text from the CDC's website.
After these were approved, I also came up with a smaller series of labels which could be placed throughout the set, which was designed by the talented Benjamin Ralston. And in the grand tradition of Star Trek's designers, I had to supply some inside jokes.
47 — a recurring number in the Star Trek franchise, supposedly based on a Pomona College professor's theorem that all numbers are equal to 47 (of course, your mileage may vary)
327 — a recurring number in the Star Wars franchise
THX-1138 — the title of George Lucas' first film
NCC-1701 — the registry number of the USS Enterprise and its successors
CRM-114 — a fictional piece of equipment in Dr. Strangelove
AE-35 — a fictional piece of equipment in 2001: A Space Odyssey 

The Film
I couldn't be there to print, cut, and mount the labels, but I was able to pay a brief visit during principal photography. I spent most of my time just watching the monitor, but it was all pretty cool! Here are some screenshots from the finished film.
My heartfelt thanks to Lukas, Ben, and costume designer Megan Lian. This project was a dream come true! Incidentally, when I posted some set photos on Facebook, long-time Star Trek designer Mike Okuda chimed in with "Very nice!" It's not every day you get complimented by one of your heroes. Scroll down to watch the completed film!
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