This week, Mayor Eric Adams, flanked by Gov. Kathy Hochul and president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde, unveiled a new “We [Love] NYC” logo, set to update the famous, almost 50-year-old “I [Love] NY” one. It has led to quite a bit of controversy. On the one hand there are many who are simply annoyed that Adams and Hochul seem to be wasting their time on frivolous redesigns of something people already like, and on the other hand—it’s a redesign.
Responses to the new design have been, on the whole, negative. Some people have offered up other options for a rebranding in its place. The logo, done by Graham Clifford designs, holds very closely to the original. But there are three major differences: the language is pluralized and the C in NYC is added. The new font was pulled from New York City subway signs for inspiration, and gone is the rounded serif of the old American Typewriter font. Finally, the original heart logo, a pre-emoji stroke of genius by original designer Milton Glaser, has been made more three-dimensional with shading, is larger, and promises more digital uses (i.e. using other icons or emojis in its place).
The fact of the matter is any design rebranding is received with a bias, regardless of one’s personal aesthetic. That bias consists of one thing: Did I like the way it looked before enough that I’m not interested in seeing things changed? If you didn’t care for a design before, you are more likely to be enthusiastic about any change to that design. The reverse is frequently true as well, with the caveat that sometimes if you did like an old logo and don’t mind the new logo, you will say something like, “It’s fine—but why did they need to change it?”
In the case of New York City and Mayor Adams, there are a few things at work here.
This process has been in the works since the pandemic hit and New York saw huge losses in its tourism industry. Not unlike the 1970s, the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown, and instead of working to fix that economically, it might be easier to create a ‘we love each other’ campaign. But there are also less cynical reasons for a redesign. We are living in a digital age now, with more awareness of design and two-dimensional design, and branding must work in a variety of media that was not around during the days of Milton Glaser’s original envelope-sketched idea.
The licensing for the original New York logo pulls in tens of millions of dollars every year, which is not nothing, and creating a new design while also retaining the rights to the old design is an old merchandising trick to boost or (in some cases) reinvigorate sales. It is also usually an important part of a campaign to roll out new things that people can see, that they can attach to an idea they will hopefully coalesce around. Creating a “new” logo can be a reminder to everyone that the old logo was about something that maybe is now just a logo.
In 1977, New York City was reeling from bankruptcy, a lack of federal support, dwindling tourism, and a bad reputation. As part of a plan to change the public perception of the Big Apple, the New York State Department for Economic Development commissioned top advertising firm Wells Rich Greene to help create a campaign to bring back tourism.
It was during that time that graphic designer Milton Glaser was brought in for a meeting where “Glaser pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket with a doodle he’d done during a recent cab ride. On the back of an envelope, he had scribbled the logo that we know today.” That famous logo, in American Typewriter font, has pulled in tens of millions of dollars every year in licensing revenue for the state of New York.
Here’s the old logo:
And here’s the new logo:
What do you think?