Starfleet Decals - A Chronology of Starship Hull Markings

- Article and Diagrams by Stephen L.

This article is intended to show the progression of Starfleet symbols and hull registry markings throughout Starfleet's history, from it's inception to the timeframe of Star Trek: Nemesis.

The chronology will be divided by era, where significant changes in hull markings of Starfleet vessels have occurred. It will also be noted where changes in typeface have occurred. Note that the diagrams below aren't necessarily scaled with one another; the size was determined by the clarity of the diagram. All of the markings are vector drawings from Adobe Illustrator.

"Enterprise" Era (2139-2160)
 




The first Starfleet starships displayed a hull typeface known as Machine Extended. The registry number and the vessel name were among the only identity markings on the vessels. The vessels did not display the red striping that would become prominent on every other Starfleet ship to come. The auxiliary vessels assigned to the ships displayed a red stripe along their hulls. There was no common Starfleet emblem on the ships at the time.
 
 
Early Federation Era (2161-2244)
 




After the formation of the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet hull markings were changed. The typeface was changed to Microgramma Bold Extended. There was still no common Starfleet emblem for the ships, such as the Daedalus Class markings shown here, but red striping was prominent on the secondary hull and warp nacelles. Note that only the term 'United Federation' was used rather than the UFP's full title.
 
 
"Original Series" Era (2245-2270)
 




At some point, by the time the first Constitution Class vessels were built, the typeface on Starfleet ships reverted back to Machine Extended. In addition to the now commonplace red striping, a standard Starfleet symbol was introduced to starships and auxiliary vessels. The symbol was a bent arrow shape, yellow-gold in color. There was no reference to 'United Federation of Planets' on vessel exteriors.
 
 
Movie Era (2271-2339)
 




The 2270s marked a time of extensive technological upgrades to Starfleet. The outstanding success of the starship Enterprise led Starfleet to utilize the Enterprise's symbol as the new symbol of Starfleet Command. It was stylized with a circular disk; the shape of starship saucer sections. A new typeface was developed to adorn the new breed of vessels being produced and refit: Starfleet Bold Extended. It was characterized as a variation on the Microgramma font with an offset red outline. A modified Microgramma typeface was used for other hull markings. The difference was the number '1'. A shortened serif replaced the larger, regular one. The nacelle markings were either right- or left-justified, rather than centered. The Starfleet arrowhead was an orange color on the first vessels of the 2270s.
 




By the 2280s, slight modifications to the hull markings of Starfleet vessels could be seen. The main vessel name and registry were still rendered in Starfleet Bold Extended, but some changes were made to other vessel markings. On Miranda Class ships, the unmodified Microgramma font was used for nacelle registries. Also, the nacelle registry and UFP title were centered. The Starfleet emblem became a pale gray color rather than the orange shade of the Constitution Class There were only a few classes of ship that inverted the aspect of the Starfleet emblem.
 




Minor changes were again evident when the Excelsior Class Development Program reached the trial-run stage. The saucer name and registry remained Starfleet Bold Extended. The red striped pennants on the side of the secondary hull had a small inner stripe, making it more ornate than previous classes of vessels. The Starfleet arrowhead was changed to a gray color and slightly tilted upward from horizontal. The experimental markings of the Excelsior bore centered nacelle registries with the UFP title on them. When the Excelsior's trial runs were complete and she was a commissioned vessel, several yard changes had taken place and some of the markings were adapted. The nacelle registries now displayed the vessel name centered under the registry.
 
 
"Next Generation" Era (2340-2368)
 




By the mid 24th century, Starfleet was still using Starfleet Bold Extended as the primary typeface for starship markings. The letter 'D' was altered to have serifs. There was a long hyphen from the regular font that separated the prefix from the registry, and in the specific case of the USS Enterprise, a shortened hyphen was used between the registry and suffix. The Starfleet emblem was changed to have an ellipse instead of the circular disk used previously. The ellipse reflected the primary hull shape of vessels designed in this era. The first known use of the elliptical symbol was for the Galaxy Class Development Project logo, begun in 2340. As ship hulls were designed more contoured than before, pylon registry markings, still using the modified Microgramma font, were slanted left or right to accentuate the sweeping contours of the ship.
 




Some Starfleet vessels eventually changed the Starfleet striping from a diverging striped pennant to a parallel style. In the case of the Danube Class Runabouts in particular, the ship's name was placed within the stripe. Both the name and registry were rendered in Microgramma Bold Extended, more common with smaller vessels.
 
 
"DS9/Voyager" Era (2369-2379)


By the late decades of the century, the Starfleet pennant was altered once more. This update accompanied a change in Starfleet uniform and communicator design. A touch of nostalgia seems to have set in. The same Starfleet arrowhead, begun with vessels in the 2270s remained, but the disk was discarded and the emblem was colored yellow, an homage to the yellow-gold Starfleet arrow shape of the previous century. The red stripe remained two parallel lines. With some vessels, the only typeface used on the starship exterior was Microgramma Bold Extended.
 




Around this time, some vessels did retain the use of the red-outlined Starfleet Bold Extended font for the ship's registry. Registries sometimes were now within the red striping in the Microgramma font. With most late century classes of starship, the vessel's name was rendered in Microgramma.
 


An exception to the starship markings of the period, the prototype for the Prometheus Class displayed a Starfleet symbol quite unlike its contemporaries. The symbol was a very stylized Starfleet arrowhead, entirely red, with parallel red stripes. The ship name was rendered in Microgramma, but the registry did not use Starfleet Bold Extended. It was the Microgramma typeface with the familiar red outline applied to the former registry font. It is unclear if other vessels commissioned after this one will follow this scheme, or if the USS Prometheus is unique.
 
 
References
 

"Enterprise" Era:

Photographs of the CGI Enterprise and the Shuttlepod set.

 
 

Early Federation Era:

Photograph of the USS Horizon model built by Greg Jein, from 'The Art of Star Trek' book. Model seen in Captain Sisko's Office on Deep Space Nine. Daedalus Class photographs also used in the Star Trek Chronology and Star Trek Encyclopedia.

 
 

"Original Series" Era:

Photographs of the USS Enterprise filming miniature.

There is a difference between the hull markings from the pilot episode Enterprise to the series version Enterprise. The pilot version appears to have been labeled with a font called Amarillo USAF. The series version was labeled with Machine Extended. The major differences between the fonts appear to be the numbers 1 and 7, and the letters E, F, and Z. The diagram below illustrates the letter differences:

Amarillo USAF (Left) Machine Ext. (Right)

 
 

Movie Era:

Photographs of the USS Enterprise, USS Reliant, USS Bozeman, and USS Excelsior filming miniatures.

The Microgramma font number "1" was altered for the 'Motion Picture' USS Enterprise and several other instances of ships using the Microgramma font. Perhaps the serif on the unaltered Microgramma "1" was considered too pronounced, and may have been easily confused with the number "7" from a distance. The diagram below illustrates the number differences:

Original Microgramma "1"  (Left) Modified Microgramma "1" (Right)

 
 

"Next Generation" Era:

Photographs of the Enterprise-D filming miniature. Photographs of the Runabout filming miniature.

The serifs on the "D" for the Enterprise was likely added because the producers didn't want the audience confused as to the letter suffix of the Enterprise-D. The original Starfleet Bold Extended "D" could easily have been confused with "O", "Q", or "0". The diagram below illustrates the letter differences:

Original Starfleet Bold Ex. "D"  (Left) Modified Starfleet Bold Ex. "D" (Right)

 
 

"DS9/Voyager" Era:

Photographs of the USS Defiant filming miniature. Photographs of the USS Voyager filming miniature.

Photographs and diagrams of the CGI USS Prometheus.

 
 

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