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13 November 2020

The Title Fonts and Logos of Star Trek, Part I: Television and Film, 1966-95

Star Trek has had a variety of fonts used in its title, many of them iconic. But many of them are not iconic and, indeed, often forgotten, even by the franchise itself. I want to talk about all of them. Partially this post draws on the excellent work of Dave Addey's Typeset in the Future and Yves Peter's "Typography: The Final Frontier: The Fonts of Star Trek."

The original Star Trek (1966-69) featured a distinctive font that Addey says is called "Horizon" or just "Star Trek." I'm sure you know it:

For a long time, this font was only used for the original Star Trek; none of the films or spin-offs made use of it. But in 2009 it got brought back in a non-italicized form as the basis for the three reboot films:

I can't say why it wasn't italicized, or what effect that that has. Does it seem less cheesy or something? I'm not sure. I will note that the posters for Star Trek (2009) actually used the 1960s italicized version: 

But the posters for Star Trek into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond matched how it was actually used in the films. (One thing that was pretty neat is that some posters for Beyond actually didn't put the words "Star Trek" at all; just "Beyond" in the Star Trek font with the Enterprise zipping by. Though maybe that strategy meant no one knew it was a Star Trek movie, as Beyond had a disappointing gross.) 

Interestingly, the original "Star Trek" font was used for the "Star Trek" part of the title of Star Trek: Picard...

...but only in promotional material and tie-ins. The actual title sequence of the show used a different logo, which I'll get to in a future post.

When Star Trek returned in 1979, it brought with it a new logo:

The font here is called "Star Trek Film" or "Galaxy," and was custom created for the film. Peters says the type "embodies many of the ideas people had about futuristic typography in the late ’70s," and Addey says that, like Star Wars, the logo "follows an emerging seventies trend: Movie names beginning with STAR must have long trailing lines on the opening S." It looks pretty rad on the poster for The Motion Picture:

Look at that cool rainbow border!

This is the logo that would form the basis of most of the rest of the original series films. Here's a table I made of Star Treks II through VI, with the logo used in the film on the left, and the logo used on the film poster on the right:

Interestingly, the Galaxy font is not used in the film for Star Trek II, but it is used on the poster, and thence in the film for every subsequent one. Peters argues, "By then [the time of Star Trek VI] the original movie logo had gone through several rounds of small tweaks, losing some of its charm in the process. Gone are the quaint abrupt contrast in the ‘R’ and the interruption in the middle stroke of the ‘A’ and the ‘E’, and the tiny serifs have almost disappeared." I tend to agree; I don't think any of the implementations here are as successful as the the original one.

One thing the designers clearly don't know what to do is with the long horizontal line that originally came off the K. For some of the logos (poster for II, film and poster for III), the line on the K is integrated with the bottom line on the Roman numeral. I think this looks okay; it is probably most effectively done in the film logo for III... but for some reason that logo doesn't elongate the S!

In others, the Roman numeral is given its own horizontal line. The film logos for IV and V both do this-- and to my eyes, both look particularly ugly. Why does every downward stroke in "STAR TREK" have a different stopping point in IV's film logo? I think they're trying to give the top row sort of a triangle shape on its bottom, but it doesn't work for me. And the imbalanced V in Star Trek V's almost looks like a mistake. I like what they did with the poster logos for both of those films, which I think integrate the (probably innately difficult from a design standpoint) Roman numeral in more effective ways.

The film logo for Star Trek VI, on the other hand, looks to me like someone just gave up and typed out "STAR TREK VI" in a word processor and applied some shading to it. Which is a shame, because I do like the poster logo a lot for Star Trek VI, which I think succeeds by using the VI as a background element and a different typeface for the subtitle. (Peters identifies it as ITC Bolt. It has a quasi-Soviet look to me, which seems appropriate for VI's heavy-handed Cold War allegory.)

Also why for the poster logos of Star Treks IV, V, and VI did they add a horizontal line coming off the R of "STAR"?

Oddest of all of these is perhaps the film logo for Star Trek II, which features a typeface that has never been used before or since in Star Trek, as far as I know. None of the tie-in merchandising for Star Trek II used this logo, even. There's a fan-made recreation of it called "Montalban"; I'm not enough of type guru to know if it has some kind of previous existence, or is based on something older. Neither Addey nor Peters even mention it! It has a very 1980s vibe I am fond of. Like, I think it should have been used in the logo of Blade Runner or something. (A commenter on Peters's post identifies it as "Corporate URW.")

The end of the original series films with 1991 didn't mean the end of "Galaxy," however. Even though Star Trek: The Next Generation used a different logo (more on that in my next post), "Galaxy" transferred over to the tv shows with the 1993 debut of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

It's definitely the bulky, late-period form of Galaxy; it's also the first form (and only?) to feature a horizontal line dividing title from subtitle... one wonders why...

Star Trek: Voyager used a pretty similar logo in its 1995 debut:

Voyager brings back the long lines on the S and the K, hearkening back to the original use of this font for The Motion Picture. I don't think I ever noticed until now that it inverted the colors of the DS9 logo. The proportions are slightly different, too; I think this E is skinnier/taller than the E of the original Motion Picture logo. I like the thin elegance of the original better than this.

I'll talk about it more in a future post, I think, but to me this logo is the Star Trekkiest of them all, I guess because of its ubiquity when I was growing up in the 1990s... but for similar reasons, it also kind of feels like Star Trek at its most generic.

On to next week's discussion of The Next Generation tv shows and films and Enterprise...


  1. Thank you for the article Steve and apologies for being your typical 'What Font is that?' question.

    We know that the Star Trek Film (aka Galaxy) font is used for the 'Star Trek' title, but do you have any idea what is used for the subtitle 'The Motion Picture'? It's definitely not Star Trek Film and it's been one heck of a font to track down.

    1. I do not! It looks related to my eyes, and I think it's also used for the TSFS subtitle?