Speculative Identities
Speculative Identities

Speculative Identities
Research

Exploring the Frontiers of Visual Identity Design as Envisioned by Science Fiction

Original Entry 01.18.2018

UK-7

Category

Commemorative, Event, Space Settlement

Scenario Date

YEAR 2088

The United Kingdom, 7th Union, existed from 2088–2102 and came to be known as the “3 World Empire” with the establishment of U.K. settlements on Mars and Titan. The UK-7 symbol commemorates this event.

Identity Designed by

Ron Cobb

Source

  • Alien (1979 film)

Overview: The UK-7 Symbol


Analysis: Design and Usage

The UK-7 symbol is one of two commemorative symbols designed by Ron Cobb for the 1979 film Alien, that were worn as patches by the crew of the USCSS Nostromo, along with being used in a few other applications.

Interestingly, both feature triangular designs that have something to do with founding events, but for different reasons. The other symbol, commemorates the United States Tricentennial, hence the three points. But the UK-7 commemorates the establishment of colonies on Mars and Titan by the United Kingdom. So here's what appears to be the rationale…

Cobb evolved this symbol from the Union Jack, which represents the present day UK as a flag, dating from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801. As described on Wikipedia, the Union Jack “consists of the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England), edged in white, superimposed on the Cross of St Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which are superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland).”

So with the Union Jack representing the unification of those Earthbound nations as the United Kingdom, the UK-7 symbol represents the “7th Union”, bringing together Earth’s UK with colonies founded on the planet Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan. This earned it the title of the “3 World Empire”, and is likely the reasoning behind the symbol’s three arms spiralling together in unity.

I’ve included Cobb’s original drawing, Figure 1.1, as it appeared in the Authorized Portfolio of Crew Insignia. I found the description for the mark in his handwritten note accompanying that sketch, along with a mention in the Company Memo issued with the Portfolio. The memo outlined acceptable usage of insignia by the crew of the USCSS Nostromo, and for the UK-7 patch, it read as follows:

“UK-7 patch: Issued to all active members of the Third World Empire Space Fleet, Military and Commercial, to commemorate the establishment of U.K. settlements on Mars and Titan. Wear restricted to personnel transferred from U.K. Fleet. Display on left breast. Triangle should point up. NOTE: Issuance discontinued, but remains acceptable to Company.“

So this explains why we see it worn by Executive Officer Kane, the only member of the crew who was not born in the United Americas (the U.A. referenced in Cobb’s sketch notes). It also attempts to nail down the correct orientation of the mark as point up. This is how it is worn in the film — on the buttocks of Kane’s space suit (Figure 1.2). You can barely make it out, if you look carefully at the scene where they board the elevator to descend from the Nostromo to the surface of LV-426. And costume designer John Mollo discusses the symbol as it was applied to Kane’s suit, and gives a closer look at the patch, in his interview seen in The Alien Legacy.

Contrary to that application, in Cobb’s drawing the symbol points down. And in a few instances that aren’t really seen in the film, on props, the mark is used with the point facing down as well. In one of these, it is sewn onto Kane’s death shroud (Figure 1.3), and the other is when it is applied as a decal to the cat carrier Ripley uses to ferry Jones to the lifeboat shuttle (Figure 1.4).

The flip in orientation is probably just a continuity error resulting from so many people working on the project, at different points and times, with no established guidelines to adhere to. It’s interesting to think, when seeing this sort of thing, that even a fictional identity for a story can benefit from a graphic standards manual.

If an identity is going to be believable, it should be recognized within that world as something that is applied and understood uniformly. For example, what if in a movie we saw instances of a present day symbol we are familiar with, like the US flag, but it was turned upside down for certain applications. It would be odd, because it breaks from the accepted appearance of a symbol and how it used, and introduces the possibility of an alternative meaning being communicated due to the change — for instance, an upside down US flag is a signal for distress. So, for the sake of solid world-building, it's worth sticking to some established rules, and only breaking them with good reason.

<p><strong>Figure 1.1</strong> Ron Cobb’s original drawing for the UK-7 patch. Source: <em>The Authorized Portfolio of Crew Insignias from The UNITED STATES COMMERCIAL SPACESHIP NOSTROMO Designs and Realizations</em></p>

Figure 1.1 Ron Cobb’s original drawing for the UK-7 patch. Source: The Authorized Portfolio of Crew Insignias from The UNITED STATES COMMERCIAL SPACESHIP NOSTROMO Designs and Realizations

<p><strong>Figure 1.2</strong> This production photo offers a good view of Kane’s UK-7 patch, as it was worn on his space suit (right). Source: Production Image Gallery, <em>The Alien Anthology</em> </p>

Figure 1.2 This production photo offers a good view of Kane’s UK-7 patch, as it was worn on his space suit (right). Source: Production Image Gallery, The Alien Anthology

<p><strong>Figure 1.3</strong> The UK-7 symbol appeared on Kane’s death shroud, although it wasn’t seen in the final cut of the film. Source for image on the left: “The Funeral,” <em>Strange Shapes</em></p>

Figure 1.3 The UK-7 symbol appeared on Kane’s death shroud, although it wasn’t seen in the final cut of the film. Source for image on the left: “The Funeral,” Strange Shapes

<p><strong>Figure 1.4</strong> From the collection of Bob Burns, the original cat carrier prop, which features a UK-7 decal on the side. Source: <em>Aliens in the Basement</em></p>

Figure 1.4 From the collection of Bob Burns, the original cat carrier prop, which features a UK-7 decal on the side. Source: Aliens in the Basement