Allyson Marrs
Mar 26, 2023

The We ❤️ NYC campaign which didn't get much love

Brand creatives and New Yorkers alike wonder who truly owns a mark that’s become emblematic of the city itself.

The We ❤️ NYC campaign which didn't get much love

It’s been 45 years since Milton Glaser created a logo that would become as iconic as the city it stands for.

This week, that logo underwent a redesign — and was met with confusion and anger of the people it’s meant to represent.

On March 20, New York City officials unveiled a new tourism campaign that focuses on how New Yorkers can support the resurgence of the city post-pandemic. 

The We ❤️NYC campaign—led by the state governor, city mayor and other political and business leaders in partnership with marketing agency MaryamB, ad agencies Founders and Grain Group and media company Intersection—included an updated logo designed by independent brand designer Graham Clifford. 

The new mark is described as a modern refresh of the I ❤️NY logo, created as part of the original 1970s campaign by the firm Wells Rich Greene to promote tourism across New York state. 

But its new look caused a flurry of criticism within minutes of its debut, as Twitter flooded with backlash. 

“The thing that's strange to me is the misguided attempt to trade on the cultural value of Milton Glaser's cherished I ❤️NY logo. People love that thing! It's a part of New York,” Dan Cassaro, partner of Brooklyn brand and packaging studio The Young Jerks, told Campaign US.

Grievances have been aired about everything from the san-serif font (a riff off New York City subway signs) to the new lockup (lost in translation), to the color and size of the heart (strikingly similar to an emoji) to the change from the personal “I” to the collective “We” (a supposed call to action). 

“The I ❤️NY logo and its history belong to the people of New York,” said Ellis Verdi, president of New York ad agency DeVito/Verdi. “‘I’ expresses something a person feels. ‘We’ assumes a bunch of people feel the same way. That transition is not taken lightly.” 

The new campaign aims to lift spirits and encourage people to come together. Part of that mission seems to be working as New Yorkers, creatives and most of the internet come together in protest of the effort to rebrand the city’s spirit. 

“I ❤️NY is more than a design or campaign; it’s a piece of culture and a point of pride for New Yorkers that they themselves have ownership over,” said Jason Apaliski, executive creative director at bi-coastal agency Pereria O'Dell. “So when you change something as iconic, beloved and globally recognized as that, there is no way you can escape controversy.”

The We ❤️NYC campaign is now in full swing and will include several partnerships with public agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses. 

For creatives, it’s a cautionary tale of refreshing a logo or identity that has become iconic and intrinsic to the brand. 

Campaign US

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