• Transform magazine
  • May 26, 2024


Angus’ A-Z of logos: I ♥︎ NY

Angus Monthly Article I

In his latest monthly Transform column on the A-Z of logo design, Pentagram partner and creative director Angus Hyland explains his love for the iconic I ♥︎ NY logo.

If any logo ever deserved to be called iconic, then surely it must be this one? When in 1976 he replaced the word ‘love’ with the heart symbol in the I ♥︎ NY logo, its designer – the legendary Milton Glaser – inadvertently created the original emoji.

As legend has it, the logo was brought to life in the back of a yellow taxi, sketched by Glaser in red crayon on a piece of scrap paper. The I ♥︎ NY logo was actually in response to a brief for a campaign to promote New York State, but it has since become the city’s official logo, appearing across the New York (and beyond) and seemingly universally loved by tourists and locals alike. 

The work was done pro-bono so Glaser never received any payment, but ​​this doesn’t mean that anyone can use the logo — the design was trademarked by the NY State government, which by 2005 had filed nearly 3,000 objections against its unofficial usage.

There have been two significant changes to the logo in its 47-year history. The first of these was after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when Milton Glaser created a new version with a black spot on the heart representing the location of the World Trade Center, and an updated slogan ‘I Love NY More Than Ever’. Glaser designed this to show solidarity with the city and its residents; his reward was an over-enthusiastic person at the New York State Department of Economic Development (unsuccessfully) trying to sue him for copyright infringement.

The other update was not deemed quite so successful (in fact it was pretty much universally panned). Post-Covid, the Partnership for New York City introduced what was described as a ‘modern twist’ on the logo. Designed to cut through pandemic-era negativity, it changed pretty much everything that people loved about the original and made something that felt more MOR than NYC.

The classic and quintessentially 1970s ‘American Typewriter’ typeface has been replaced by a chunky sans serif (adapted from the NY Subway signage). NY is now NYC, an acronym that no native New Yorker would ever use, and ‘I’ has now become ‘We’, a reference to the city’s demographic and a handy nod to inclusivity that’s high on the corporate agenda in 2024. It’s not clear who this ‘we’ actually is though, and what started out as a statement of intent has lost the directness that New Yorkers are famous for.

But perhaps the most regrettable part of the redesign is the inclusion of a 3-D emoji-like heart. By completing the circle and replacing the heart with an actual emoji in the new design, the design has been devalued, and much of the charm of the original has been lost.

Instead of uniting New Yorkers in a rush of civic pride, by messing around with a logo that so many of them were so emotionally invested in, the new I ♥️NYC logo has definitely brought them together, but in the spirit of mutual animosity and/or disdain.

Next time: a sports logo that’s a bit bullish.


Angus' favourite 'H' logo can be found here.