At it’s core, my project comes from a passion of both space and sci-fi movies. I am the sort of person who is proud to sport a NASA t-shirt and the first to gawk at the stupidity of those who are deluded into thinking the Moon Landings were fake (FYI, they weren’t). I love how a lot of what we have in science to day once used to be fiction. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to make a complete icons set consisting of spaceships and satellites both real and fictional. My overarching hope was that through these icons the viewer might be able to see the similarities of between what we have accomplished and what we have dreamed. Consequently, I decided to make six icons of real spacecraft and six of fictional ones.
I don’t typically consider myself a huge “sketcher” by any means. However, I was a bit amazed at the number of sketches I ended up doing by the end of this project. For some reason I sketched in pen. I would guess that most people use pencil for things like this but I do most all my writing in pen and I like the permanence of pen. If I mess up a sketch, it forces me to either make a small correction if I can or more often than not, I will simply start a new sketch. I find that I make more iterations while using a pen as opposed to a pencils since there is never the temptation to erase and make the sketch perfect. It became obvious to me while sketching these different icons that some of these spaceships were much more complex than others (I eye Darth Vader’s TIE fighter with more respect now). Both the X-wing and the TIE fighter took some of the most time sketching and the most time in Illustrator to compose. Sputnik proved MUCH easier by comparison.
Sputnik, here above, was really not too difficult when I started to draw it out in Illustrator. It is basically just a grey circle with another circle for highlight and four straight and thin legs. In real life, Sputnik’s body is about the size of a large beach ball. I found it fitting to start with Sputnik as it was the first man-made satellite to ever enter Earth’s orbit from the ground. I placed the Red Star as a nod to the USSR which pushed the United States to shoot into space in the following years. The Sound wave was originally smaller, but after getting some feedback that my noise was “too noisy” I decided to make the stroke larger and more prominent.
The Eagle taking off from the Moon’s surface was actually one of my favorite icons to make in this set. I had a couple of rough sketches and some blurry reference photo (the Astronauts weren’t shooting in HD in the late 1960’s) In actuality, this icon is very simplified from the actual Eagle. There were so many exposed hoses and wires and other odd angles that I figured would detract from it being an Icon. I kept things simple but added enough detail to make it recognizable. I placed the earth behind it to give some perspective and depth to my icon which I tried to incorporate throughout the set.

I don’t think a spaceship set of real spaceships would ever be complete without a United States Space Shuttle. This one is modeled after the Discovery mid take off. I think that of all the real life spaceships man has created, this one looks the most like it would fit in in a sci-fi movie. I love it all the more for that reason. This compared to an X-wing almost could be from the same universe, which inspires awe in me. The shadows were a bit more difficult on this icon compared to others and it is one of the few spaceships that isn’t in space (quite yet). However, I found it important to show a ship in take off and this is a great one to show that.
Although, perhaps not technically a spaceship, I did an icon representing Voyager 2 passing Jupiter because as of today, Voyager 2 is the only man-made thing that has technically exited our solar system. From Voyager, we have benefitted with excellent quality pictures of the gas giants in the outer reaches of our solar system. As an Icon, this one was fairly easy. The shadows and highlights didn’t take much time and I felt that this icon was well composed and clean looking.
It should be a given that the USS Enterprise is among my icon set. If you are surprised then these icons are probably not for you. This ship symbolize discovery at its purest form. This ship explores “the Final Frontier” and is a symbol of the possible future for human kind. As an Icon, this was easy to sketch but hard to execute in Illustrator. For the most part, I just didn’t know where to begin really. The main upper part of the ship is a strange disk-like shape and showing that in a 2-D medium wasn’t easy. I used a series of ellipses placed behind the rectangle in the middle and got to work with the shading to make it look real and full of depth. The rest of the ship was a piece of cake after that.
You know what this is. If you don’t then shame on you. Luke’s X-Wing taking off from Dagobah to go and save his friends. This icon took me a LONG time to get right. Even after I thought I had everything figured out, I was given some critique about the back wings up top. They were too close together so I had to raise the top one a little bit to make it look right. I had a lot of tinkering with the angle of this spaceship. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t look right until I finally realized that the body and the tip of the wings were not parallel as they should have been. Once I corrected that, the icon looked right and I managed what you see above.
The Apollo 11 Rocket. Majestic. Bold. Daring. Use whatever adjective you want. This icon was actually pretty simple. I originally had the Moon more behind the red tower but was given some advice that it became too crowded having the white behind the bars of the tower. So, I moved it a bit and left a part of it behind but not so that it can be seen through the tower. 
This is the part where “The Imperial March” should start playing. In doing this icon set, I had to brainstorm different spaceships. The first problem I ran into was that every ship I was naming came from Star Wars. Unfortunately, no matter how much I love Star Wars, this was a SPACESHIP icon set and NOT a Star Wars icon set. So I kept the two I thought would be the most interesting (the X-Wing and Vader’s TIE Fighter) and left Star Wars be from there. This icon took the longest by far to do. I sketched it to death. I slept on it and came back to it. I dreamed about it. I was seeing it everywhere I went. This Icon was SO HARD! I wanted the ship to be at a cool looking angle. Unfortunately for me, Cool Angle = Really Difficult. I do think that what I ended up with isn’t half bad. The shadowing was it’s strong suit I think. It may not be the most perfect TIE in the world, but it does have depth and that was what I have been working on the most with this set. I can’t look at this icon without hearing theTIE fighter noise screeching in my head, which I take for a good sign that this icon, imperfect as it may still be, works. At any rate, I really learned how to sketch it.
Fun fact: this is the only icon of mine that has parachutes in it. The rope that connects them to the Apollo 11 Capsule was actually a bit annoying to work with but with some tinkering I was able to get it to line up without any unwanted points. The capsule itself wasn’t very difficult for me, it is a fairly simple shape. I made use of my shadows again which I think work well and I was sneaking and reused one of my clouds at a different angle here.
This ship may not be as recognizable as some of the others. It is the main ship from the movie Galaxy Quest. I must admit that I am not very familiar with the movie or even the ship but I was drawn by its elegant design and immediately wanted to make it one of my icons (didn’t want just Star Wars ships represented). I used the shape builder tool a lot to create the highlights and shadows (I used it throughout all my icons actually but to great effect here).
Maybe you’ve played Super Smash and had King Deedede wack you out of existence on this ship. Maybe you’ve gone over to a friends and seen him play a some game with this ship in it. Maybe YOU were that kid who owned “Starfox” and remember that annoying side character always screeching at you to “do a barrel roll!” This is the Great Fox, the only icon in my set that is only from a video game (fictional nonetheless). I had to do a lot of sketches to get the head right and the rest of the body came naturally once I figured out how to do the wings. I don’t normally use the pen tool but for the Starfox symbol I had to use it to get the right curves on the shape of the fox. I think it was the only time I didn’t use the shape builder tool for my icons. 
Duuuuuuuuuun. Duuuuuuuuuuuun. DUUUUUUUN. DUN DUN! (BAH BOM BAH BOM BAH BOM) This space ship doesn’t get as much love as the others, and to be fair, it isn’t the most striking in this set. But this spaceship from “A Space Odyssey” is still a classic. Creating it only took like 2 sketches and a few reference photos. To be fair, it mostly is comprised of three main shapes. I enjoyed the ease of this icon. After 11 others before it, I was in my grove and able to wrap up fairly quickly.

 I felt that it was a good capstone to represent the idea of mankind journeying out into the stars. I doubt I will ever live to see the day where we travel space like we do in the movies, but I sincerely hope that these icons show the concept of how our achievements and our dreams are really not so different. These icons all have a similar feel. Many look similar. I look at the discovery and the ship from “Galaxy Quest”. They really are not terribly different looking in icon form. I feel that these icons do represent how our science and our science fiction are not so far apart at times.