I Love NY Logo By Milton Glaser
The year was 1977.
New York City went dark. It was the result of the city power grid sustaining two lightning bolts in the evening of July 13. By the end of the night – while the city laid powerless in more than one way – over 1,600 businesses were looted. Damages were estimated at a billion dollars and police were up to here in paperwork following a night which saw a total of 3,776 arrests recorded.
As if that wasn’t enough, The Big Apple took a huge bite out of its payroll at about the same time letting go of 50-thousand city employees in an effort to avoid total financial ruin.
But that was not all. A serial killer was loose in the mean streets of New York and was killing people before he was captured August 10.
To say 1977 was a bad year would be putting it lightly.
Media took hold of the misfortunes and turned New York into Fear City to anyone who did not live within the region. Tourists stayed away in droves.
But then City Hall decided that the city required an extreme makeover.
The pair of Dyson and Doyle (Commissioner John Dyson and Deputy Commissioner Bill Doyle) saw the need to focus on tourism marketing and fattened the New York Department of Commerce budget from $400-thousand to $4.3-million.
Doyle apparently told Dyson that the words that mattered in advertising were:
The next day, Doyle came back to Dyson with the slogan, “I Love New York” and commented that it had two of the four most powerful advertising words in it.
No one argued.
The slogan was short, sweet, easy to remember and had a real uplifting and positive tone to it. Now it needed a visual rendering to give it life.
New York Magazine founder Milton Glaser zipped off a quick logo. Dyson and Doyle did not hesitate to approve it and the wheels were in motion. Well, that was until Glaser thought about it a little more in a cab the next day. Then inspiration hit and the “I Love New York” slogan became ‘I () New York.”
Above: The original I Love NY logo Sketch
The design was not immediately a hit at City Hall. Then it went to the test when Doyle wore a custom t-shirt on vacation in Barbados where people repeatedly stopped him and asked where they could get their own “I (heart) New York” t-shirt.
By 1978 New York was revitalised. Vibrant. The Big Apple was now rebranded with something that was so simple that everyone in NYC took ownership of the fact that they really did love their city.
When a logo has the power to transform something more than a product – New York City – then you know that you have struck gold. In fact, the whole concept of “I Love (fill in the blank)” has appeared in various versions where other cities, regions and products have stolen – okay, borrowed – the original concept.
A complete radio network in North America is branded with the “I (heart) Radio” logo and they actually say it as “I heart…” rather than “I love…” which, as far as I’m concerned is probably their way around copyright issues. However, as a marketer, I also see the value in jumping on such a powerful message and twisting it slightly to use the word ‘heart’ in place of the word ‘love.’
That truly explains the nuts and bolts behind successful marketing and branding.
If you create something simple, easy to remember and that can be adapted for your purposes without changing the meaning, you have a winning brand. Plus, if it is highly recognisable, easy to identify as connected to the product it represents and crosses all formats without need for alteration, then you have the perfect logo.
Many businesses and product developers forget that sometimes inspiration comes from a need to create an identity. In the case of “I Love New York” the tragic events of 1977 forced a revisit of the marketing vision. The efforts from City Hall at that time were to transform a negative into a positive. In effect, they had a re-branding task ahead of them.
What made “I Love New York logo” such a success was that it was inspired by the need to make a change and as a result, the idea was born by residents who were part of the existing culture.
Do I think an ad agency based outside of NYC could have scored such a home run with this?
Sometimes you need to be so connected to the brand that you understand what needs to be done without having to explain to an outsider what the goal should be.
The best way to describe this comes from Glaser. When asked about the legacy of the I Love New York logo he stated, “It’s most profound effect was inward. It reminded New Yorkers of their own commitment to life in the city.” He added that reality is conditioned by belief.
That is what made this iconic image stand out.
Glaser pointed out that if you felt NYC was a wonderful place and that you wanted to live there, then that would be your belief.
In a way, that’s what makes all advertising tick. In order to believe in a product, the branding has to be appealing and reflective of the item it is attached to. Nothing phoney. Just real.
And from my point of view, I couldn’t describe the inspiration behind the I Love NY logo campaign as anything less.
It was real.
A real desire to turn a corner in the history of the city.
A real focus on what New Yorkers really thought about their city.
A real example of brilliant marketing that saved the day.