Iconic Ads/Logos: I Love New York – Milton Glaser

The “I Love New York Logo”—consisting of an upper-case “I,” a red heart symbol, and then the upper-case letters “N” and “Y,” set in the rounded slab serif typeface The American Typewriter—is one of the most commonly copied and replicated graphics in the world. 

In the 1970s, New York City was going through a rough patch. In 1975, President Ford refused federal assistance to preserve New York City from bankruptcy, and in 1977, a citywide blackout resulted in major looting and 4,500 arrests, with crime at an all-time high and tourism at an all-time low. Because of the unfavourable news, tourists avoided New York. Wells Rich Greene was hired in 1977 by William S. Doyle, Deputy Commissioner for New York State Department of Commerce, to develop an advertising strategy that would attract tourists to New York City.

The campaign’s core elements were quickly established by Wells Rich Greene. They had a catchphrase (“I Love New York”), a jingle, and a TV commercial promoting Broadway shows. But they were still without a logo. Enter Milton Glaser! For the New York City campaign’s logo, the Department of Economic Development sent Glaser to meet with Wells Rich Greene. At this point, his resume featured the cover of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits record, the logo for the New York magazine that he started in 1968, as well as the visual identity for a restaurant located inside the World Trade Center.

During the discussion, Glaser brought out of his pocket, a crumpled piece of paper with a doodle from a recent cab ride. He sketched the current logo on the back of an envelope. After the concept struck a chord with Wells Rich Greene, who later claimed that Robert Indiana’s LOVE pop art may have had a “subliminal” impact on his design decisions. Glaser volunteered his services to the city to assist it in recovering and designed the logo pro bono.

The “I Love New York” trademark is owned by the New York State Empire State Development (ESD), the state’s primary economic development agency, and it is licenced for usage. Official products, such as t-shirts and mugs bearing Glaser’s image, reportedly produces more than $30 million a year, with a major percentage of the proceeds going to the ESD.

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