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The well-known and celebrated New York Logo ‘I (Heart) NY’ which turns forty this year almost did not make it. Milton Glaser, the mastermind and design guru behind it along with all the others in the design team opened up on the occasion about the origin of the New York Iconic Logo and why it went on to become one of the most copied logos around the world.
In the year 1977, the Logo Design New York was made to order for the New York State’s Department of Commerce to be used for an advertising campaign. The main purpose behind designing the New York Logo was to attract out of states tourists to New York City, then famous for high crime rates, major blackouts, blazing fires, drug epidemics, abandoned buildings, homelessness crisis and a bankrupt government.
After Governor of New York Hugh Carey asked them to try and change the image of the city, along with his deputy William Doyle, Commerce Commissioner John Dyson consulted Wells Rich Greene advertising firm. They were already famous by then for the Alka Seltzer’s famous slogan ‘I can’t believe I ate that whole thing!’
Charlie Moss, Creative director of the company was the one who came up with the slogan “I Love New York.” Steve Karmen jingle writer, set the music for the slogan. The team, on a shoestring financial plan, started creating advertisements publicizing natural beauty of upstate New York and Broadway shows.
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Even though the campaign was up and running, it lacked the visual components required to spice it up and attract the required attention. Doyle and Dyson then chose a South Bronx native Glaser who had nearly a decade earlier co-founded the New York magazine.
The first attempt by Glaser that summer resulted in a halfhearted response from the team he was working with. Disappointed, a few days later, during a cab ride he scribbled four characters using a red crayon on the back of an envelope: “I,” a heart, “N” and “Y.” The envelope, at that time so insignificant, is now on display in the Museum of Modern Art.
Glaser, 88, stated “The big secret of that is replacing a verb with a noun. Change the language and make people solve a problem. The ‘I’ is a complete word, the heart is a symbol for an emotion, and NY is the initial for a place. So you have to figure it out, otherwise it’s impenetrable. It’s a puzzle that is easily solved.”
The advertising team, Moss included, believed that the New York Iconic Logo design was too cryptic and abstract. Doyle on the other hand disagreed. He had the Logo Design New York printed on two shirts, for his then girlfriend and now wife of thirty nine years, and himself, to wear to the beach on Bermuda Island during their weekend trip.
This was the turning point. “That was the moment of truth, I think,” Doyle stated. “Had there been no trip to Bermuda, there wouldn’t be any logo.” According to Doyle “People came up to us on the beach and said, ‘Oh, my God, I love it’,” Doyle said. “I can still see the ladies. It brought huge smiles, and people’s eyes were glistening. It really worked.”
Along with evidence, Doyle returned to New York and convinced the team the logo should be put to use instantly. And thus came into being one of the most iconic logos in the world. This not only changed the way people looked at NYC but also brought to life the best New York Logo to life.