News & Politics

Government Logos From Best to Worst, Ranked by Roman Mars

The host of 99% Invisible shares his thoughts on government agencies' occasionally lackluster graphic design.

Government Logos From Best to Worst, Ranked by Roman Mars
Roman Mars, the host of the design podcast 99% Invisible. (Photo courtesy of Burt Johnson.)

It would be easy to go a lifetime in DC without giving much thought to the government logos we see every day. Washingtonian recently asked Roman Mars to help change that.

As the creator of the hit podcast 99% Invisible, Mars makes a living obsessing over the stories behind the objects and sounds we tend to overlook. Episodes have featured toothbrushes, cul-de-sacs, and fire escapes. Another rhapsodizes the “moaning squawks” of DC metro escalators—comparing Farragut North to mating whales and Columbia Heights to taunting ravens.

Outside the radio world, Mars is probably best known for a TED talk that explained the humble joys of a well-designed flag. Though in our opinion, he deserves just as much credit for naming his kids Mazlo Rocket and Carver Atomic.

Below are his thoughts on a collection of government agency logos selected by Washingtonian. They’re ranked from best to worst.

In a win for graphic designers everywhere, Washingtonian later confirmed that Joint Team Andrews stopped using the logo pictured above.

Graphics by Manyun Zou.

Correction: Washingtonian presented Mars with an outdated version of the DARPA logo. Here’s the current one, which has been used since at least 2012.

Editorial fellow

Noah Lanard is an editorial fellow. Before Washingtonian, he freelanced for the Guardian, Fusion, and Vice in Mexico City. He was born in DC, grew up in New Jersey, and went to college in Montreal.