The Iconic ‘I Love New York’ Logo

Distinguished Magazine - - CONTENTS - KOEL CHAT­TER­JEE

The iconic “I ♥ NY” logo was cre­ated more than four decades ago on an en­ve­lope in the back seat of a yel­low taxi in Man­hat­tan.

Graphic de­sign has per­me­ated the ur­ban life­style and cul­ture since the 20th cen­tury. The logo of Ap­ple.Inc, the cap­i­tal M of Mc­Don­ald’s, the sign of the Lon­don Un­der­ground, all have be­come recog­nis­able sym­bols through­out the world. But none have pos­si­bly been as pop­u­lar and ubiq­ui­tous as the iconic “I ♥ NY” logo cre­ated more than four decades ago on an en­ve­lope in the back seat of a yel­low taxi in Man­hat­tan. It was a love let­ter to New York City, which at that time was en­gulfed in crime and fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and des­per­ately needed a push to re­in­state it to its for­mer glory. It went on to be­come one of the most widely dis­trib­uted and imi­tated im­ages in the world.

Back in 1977, New York was on the brink of com­plete fi­nan­cial in­sol­vency. More than fifty thou­sand work­ers had been laid off, the largest num­ber in the his­tory of the city. As a con­se­quence there was a series of homi­cides, rob­beries be­came a daily af­fair, there was a his­tor­i­cal surge in drug us­age, and to add to all the woes, there was a se­rial killer on the loose. And the ‘City of Dreams’ had been tagged as “the Fear City” by the unions of New York City.

An ar­ti­cle in the TIME Mag­a­zine said, “Scarcely any­one to­day needs to be told about how aw­ful life is in nerve-jan­gling New York City, which re­sem­bles a mis­man­aged ant heap rather than a com­mu­nity fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion.” Dur­ing such tu­mul­tuous times, the city ad­min­is­tra­tion had to take some im­me­di­ate mea­sures in or­der to boost the morale of the crowd, gen­er­ate tourism and re­store the rep­u­ta­tion of the city.

In or­der to do that, Wil­liam S. Doyle, the Deputy Com­mis­sioner of the New York State De­part­ment of Com­merce, and Mark Don­nelly, a staff of the Gover­nor, hired Wells Rich Greene, an ad­ver­tis­ing firm to im­ple­ment a state-wide mar­ket­ing cam­paign. The ex­tremely sim­plis­tic phrase, “I Love New York” was cre­ated by Mary Wells Lawrence and Char­lie Moss, the prin­ci­pal and cre­ative di­rec­tor of the firm, re­spec­tively. Along with an up­lift­ing jin­gle by com­poser Steve Kar­men, and a TV com­mer­cial fea­tur­ing ac­tor Frank Lan­gella, the slo­gan was put out to the world and just the logo was left.

Doyle hired Amer­i­can graphic de­signer Mil­ton Glaser for the task. Glaser had al­ready made a name for him­self as the co-founder of the New York Mag­a­zine and cre­ation of a psy­che­delic por­trait of Bob Dy­lan which was in­serted into the singer’s 1967 great­est hits al­bum. The story goes that Glaser doo­dled the “I ♥ NY” on the back of an en­ve­lope while sit­ting in a taxi on his way to meet the agency. Ac­cord­ing to Glaser him­self, “I felt ex­cited. My de­sign had a sense of in­evitabil­ity. The form and the con­tent were united in a way that could not be taken apart.”

In the ini­tial de­sign, “I ♥ NY” was in a sin­gle line. As he pro­ceeded to de­velop the de­sign fur­ther, he stacked the let­ters in a square, with “I” and the heart sym­bol at the top of the let­ters “NY”. He later con­ceded that this style might have been un­in­ten­tion­ally in­flu­enced by the steel sculp­ture of Amer­i­can pop artist Robert In­di­ana, called Love. Glaser did the en­tire de­sign pro bono and he did not ex­pect it to run it for more than two weeks. Doyle tested the de­sign, while he was on his trip to Bar­ba­dos, by wear­ing it on a cus­tom-made t-shirt. After a num­ber of en­thu­si­as­tic queries from strangers about the same, the mar­ket­ing cam­paign was fi­nal­ized and fully en­dorsed. The rest be­came his­tory.

The de­sign gained in­stant pop­u­lar­ity. By 1978, “I ♥ NY” had be­come “the most talked about and suc­cess­ful tourism pro­gram in the na­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the city’s De­part­ment Of Com­merce. The state’s vis­i­tor ex­pen­di­ture rev­enue had tripled within a year, and the cam­paign and de­sign had won sev­eral awards. But ac­cord­ing to the de­signer him­self, the pop­u­lar­ity was a re­flec­tion of the af­fec­tion and com­mit­ment that the New York­ers them­selves had for their city, which the de­sign had re­minded, “I think its most pro­found ef­fect was in­ward, which is to say it re­minded New York­ers of their own com­mit­ment to life in the city.”

Over the last four decades, the logo has been imi­tated all over the world nu­mer­ous times. It has been adopted in var­ied forms and on di­verse medi­ums in al­most every city of the world. Till to­day the brand con­tin­ues to reap in an as­ton­ish­ing amount of rev­enue every year, more than thirty mil­lion dol­lars an­nu­ally, a por­tion of which is trans­ferred to the New York State Em­pire State De­vel­op­ment, who holds the trade­mark. It has also cre­ated some prob­lems for the de­part­ment, which has filed thou­sands of trade­mark ob­jec­tion cases. Though Glaser him­self has never made any fi­nan­cial profit out of his own de­sign, he has left his mark all over the world. His first state ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign be­came one of the most suc­cess­ful cam­paigns in the his­tory of ad­ver­tis­ing.

Mil­ton Glaser was awarded Amer­ica’s Na­tional Medal of Arts in 2009. He be­came the first graphic de­signer to re­ceive this award, largely due to the suc­cess of his logo. The logo alone might not have been sin­gle-hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for the turn-around of the city, but it sure was a medium through which the world started to love New York City again, and that by it­self, can­not be a mean feat.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.