New Yorkers are very passionate when it comes to their thing. There is nothing that motivates them more than to rise up as if it were the tiny Gallic village of Asterix and Obelix against the Roman Empire when someone tries to modify one of their emblems. And when it comes to something as iconic, timeless and personal as the logo I ❤️ NY Created by Milton Glaser in 1977, possibly the most recognizable and copied brand in the world, the reactions can be furious.
That’s what happened this week after the city’s mayor, Eric Adams, and state governor, Kathy Hochul, unveiled their new ad campaign with a reinvention of the famous logo called We ❤️ NYC. It is part of a campaign to reactivate tourism after the pandemic. “It is literally the worst design I have ever seen in my life”, sentenced a Twitter user, where memes multiplied. “If there is going to be a riot in New York, it will be because of this,” wrote another, ironic with the rumors about a possible imminent arrest of Donald Trump that has not disturbed the peace of the city, despite the calls for the protests of the former president. “Don’t mess with perfection,” another tweeted alongside an image of the original logo.
It is not the first time that someone tries to intervene this classic. Glaser himself already did it after the terrorist attacks of 11-S of 2001 against the Twin Towers with a I ❤️ NY more than ever (‘I love New York more than ever.’) In August 2021, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s city council hosted We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert (‘We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert’), a megashow musical in Central Park to say goodbye to the pandemic. Nobody complained then.
The feeling now is different. The city is in full post-traumatic liberation and nobody wants to hear about that “pessimism” about the future that the campaign tries to counteract, according to the mayor’s words. If Glaser created the logo to promote tourism at a time when the city was ravaged by debt and unemployment, now the city is in full display of its famous resilience, despite high rental prices and inflation.
Since the campaign, they have taken it with humor. The creatives have reacted quickly with a big ad on the screens in Times Square directed at their detractors. “We love critics, even if they don’t like our logo.” You already know what the writer Oscar Wilde said about talking about one even if it is bad.
“We are NOT replacing the classic logo”, the designer insists in capital letters Graham Clifford to ICON Design. “We wanted to pay homage to the old logo, and as you can imagine, it was a delicate balancing act,” he acknowledges. The choice of the new font that replaces Glazer’s typescript is inspired by the typography of the New York subway signs. The new heart abandons the flat style of the original to give it a new dimension in order to adapt to the idea of ”using emojis as part of the graphic language,” explains its author.
It is precisely this new aspect adapted to the eye of social networks that squeaks experts. “It gives me the impression that it will not last long, it is like a TikTok in version branding”, explains the Spanish graphic designer Pablo Delcan, who has lived in the city for more than 15 years and publishes his work in media such as The New York Times, New York Magazine o The New Yorker.
The new digital version logo gradually replaces the heart with emojis of local symbols such as a hot dog, the Empire State or a Yankees cap. “Milton’s survived time for being beautiful and iconic. Not because of the campaign behind it, but because of the power of design itself”, adds Delcan, who recalls that in the seventies designers were listened to more without the intervention of the great marketing machines that now surround graphic art.
harder is Steven Heller, graphic designer for 30 years The New York Times, critic and university professor, who recalls how Glaser’s creation, sketched on a paper napkin in the back of a taxi, “moved” with its ability to capture the aspirations of New Yorkers in “a way so rare and powerful” that even if there are innumerable copies, it continues to have meaning.
Heller considers the new logo a “bad imitation” that lacks “the nuance and freshness” of the original, intoxicated by the tendency to adapt designs to the ephemeral digital environment. “The heart is more of a cliché emoji than something sincere,” he says, after interpreting it as a raised fist signal against some threat, rather than a call to welcome. This 72-year-old native —whose son is Nicolas Heller, better known as @newyorknico, through his Instagram account With more than 1 million followers where he supports small businesses and discovers the city’s most curious characters—he sends a last message of poisoned encouragement to its creators. “I wish them the best, but that they learn that a classic cannot be improved without losing the loyalty of those who are represented by it.”
You can follow ICON on Facebook, Twitter, Instagramor subscribe here to the Newsletter.