The NSA's PRISM surveillance program got lots of press lately and the story has an interesting angle for us logo designers.
I'm not talking about the redesign of the attrocious powerpoints redesigned by eager folks ready to show off their design skills.
I'm also not referring to The Daily Show segment where the PRISM logo was compared to a Chinese bootleg Pink Floyd album. See below starting at 3:18.
I'm talking about the The Guardian article explaining the logo's meaning. Read below.
The freaky Dark Side of the Moon-style design looks like something a Bond villain would use – but it does sum up the surveillance program pretty neatly.
What does a top secret surveillance program need, aside from the ability to spy on virtually every internet user, and the sense not to mention it to anyone? If you answered: "a really freaky logo", there may be a job for you at the National Security Agency.
Some people may question the wisdom of going to a lot of trouble to create a design – especially one that owes a tremendous debt to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover – for a $20m spy initiative that no one is meant to know about. But the Prism logo certainly illustrates the programme's undisclosed mission: we collect the white light of the world's personal data – all of it – and refract it into an array of information we can use to keep America safe. One colour is evil foreigners plotting terrorist atrocities, the other is your Facebook photos and your internet dating profile. We never get them mixed up. The whole logo is surrounded by an irregular polygon that vaguely resembles a key. It's like something a Bond villain might put on his website.
The Prism logo is slightly more opaque than the one used by the US government's Information Awareness Office (see below), which boasted an all-seeing eye atop a pyramid, casting a golden light across an adjacent planet Earth. They might just as well have used the motto "We Spy on Absolutely Everybody". It's more than a little disturbing to think that someone of influence within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency once looked at a rough sketch of that and said: "Yeah, cool."
The eye-on-the-pyramid scheme came from the Great Seal of the United States – it's on the back of the dollar bill – and is still beloved of conspiracy theorists all over the world. It's meant to be the all-seeing eye of God, but it's also commonly associated with freemasonry, the occult and a shadowy New World order presided over by the Illuminati. To deploy it in a logo for a creepy-sounding spy agency simply justifies the paranoia of people who think the world is run by lizard-shaped aliens. David Icke's next podcast will write itself.