Everyone knows the logo. Even those who have never made it to New York. The advertising mark has spread across the globe. Not only because it has emigrated to millions of posters, mugs, bags, baseball caps, T-shirts and hoodies all over the world, but because it is so ingeniously simple and immediately understandable. But not at all banal, but equipped with a message, with a – as one would say today – narrative that stands in the most reduced form for the city for which it was invented 46 years ago.
First of all, the “I” stands for the shortest word that the English language has to offer – I. However, the personal pronoun also represents the many millions of egos, all the subjects who, with their resistant egos, first formed New York into that urban society that not only dreamed and still dreams of, but also spurs many on to belong ("if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere; it's up to you..."). In addition, the mere letter stands upright, slim and elegant, as a sign of individualism.
The heart was broken in 1977 when graphic artist Milton Glaser designed the logo. New York, actually once the pump of America, suffered from circulatory disorders, angina pectoris and severe ventricular fibrillation. Not only cardiologists had already given up the city, the "failed city" in which not much worked anymore apart from the people who remained loyal to it. Glaser borrowed the red playing card heart for her, as a symbol of unconditional, unconditional love.
"New York, New York" was what Frank Sinatra sang about the city twice at the time, possibly also because it gave its name to the American state whose southern tip it is. And the designer Glaser was actually commissioned for a tourism campaign in New York. He is said to have written the logo on the back of an envelope with a colored pencil. As legend has it, he was in one of Manhattan's yellow cabs, but his thoughts were also with the people of Buffalo, Albany, and Schenectady.
I love New York – like you, my darling, like the most important thing in my life or like myself. That's what this logo wants to tell us on a purely semantic level. And that's not even talking about the typography. The three letters are punched onto the paper as if with a typewriter, you can literally hear every stroke.
Glaser has chosen a variant of the "American Typewriter" typeface that is firm but also a little flexible on its distinctive serifs. They give the logo a solid structure, even if it only needs three letters and a symbol, whether you write “I Love New York” in one or two lines. The three letters form an iconic unit with the heart, no matter how you twist and turn them.
New York has had a new advertising logo since Monday. The New York State Department of Economic Development intended to “break through a mood of division and negativity” but appears to have achieved the opposite. The city seems on the brink of turmoil. Glaser did not live to see it, he died in 2020 on his 91st birthday. His successor as city advertising artist Graham Clifford wanted to honor him with the new design – with “a more modern twist”. He couldn't have turned out worse, more pretentious, more unworthy.
WE ❤️ NYC - that's what it says now and, if you don't come to your senses in the Economic Development Authority, will probably be emblazoned on posters, mugs, bags, baseball caps, T-shirts, hoodies in the future. One could perhaps argue benevolently that all the I and egos, all the New York individuals and individualists of New York, had joined forces and would now, as a liberal collective, embody that urban society which, in their diversity, actually constitutes them. But in contrast to the proud "I", the most diverse "We" then gets lost in the anonymous crowd. Because love is a singular force, distributed among so many hearts, it must inevitably cool.
But who is actually being hugged now? NYC. As if the city suddenly had to be protected not only from the savages from upstate New York or commuters from Hoboken, New Jersey, like Frank Sinatra, but also from all the dreamers who have never been to Queens or Brooklyn but are full of anticipation "I ♡ NY” on your chest.
All that remains is, firstly: to dam typo. In the 1960s, a sans serif font from the Helvetica family, which the New York subway, for example, used to label its stops, was actually a “modern twist”. But now, in a particularly bold cut, it not only appears grotesquely unfashionable, but above all obtrusively unimaginative.
And second: this heart. It looks kind of bloated, three-dimensional like an emoji and it can certainly be animated in all sorts of ways in city marketing. But if you look at the new logo so unsuspectingly, you just think: Great, all of New York is donating blood. The city can no longer be saved.