I went to New York City for the first time when I was in high school, as part of a trip planned with our yearbook club. I remember driving through Times Square and thinking, this place is amazing.
I did it all. Lunch at Planet Hollywood. Dinner at a Japanese restaurant where they cook in front of you. I bought makeup I didn’t need at Henri Bendel. I proudly bought Dr. Dre’s 2001 at the Virgin Records Megastore. I stood outside TRL in hopes of seeing the curls atop Justin Timberlake’s head as NSYNC stopped by the studio. And at the end of the trip, I bought an iconic piece of art: an I Heart NY shirt.
Milton Glaser’s “I Heart NY” logo is iconic. So when I saw that a “We Heart NYC” logo was unveiled this week, I was prepared for the worst.
Anyone remember The Gap logo redesign fail? Not to my surprise, my first instinct was to hate it. But as I learned more about it, my thoughts changed.
According to logo creator Graham Clifford’s website, the “We Heart NYC” system is not meant to replace Milton Glaser’s “I Heart NY,” but to expand on the original and act as its sequel for part of an advertising campaign.
Let me break that down.
Logos often evolve over time. They usually become streamlined and more simplistic, an exercise to keep up with the company’s vision and stay relevant. So when I thought about the intention behind the update—a message of inclusivity focusing on “we” instead of “I”—I do think that idea is relevant in today’s society. Does it “inspire optimism and civic action” in me? No. But I like the new perspective it takes on.
Learning that it’s an advertising campaign and not a logo rebrand is key. A logo is more timeless and foundational to a brand—whereas a campaign is not as permanent.
In the org chart of a brand, the logo sits at the very top, whereas a campaign sits off to the side. A campaign is prominent for a set amount of time, but it can change.
From this designer’s perspective, campaigns are valuable (and fun) because they exist in a nice little package. And because a campaign is an offshoot of a brand, there is more room to be playful with the supporting visuals and messaging choices.
In this campaign, there are a few building blocks to work with. The phrase ‘We Heart NYC,’ the heart, different emojis, and many different extensions of headlines.
Graham Cliffords states: “We needed to make it as versatile as possible: not just boldly expressive in all media and environments, but also making the phrase modular, with emojis replacing the heart to express all the vitality and variety of the five boroughs.”
Does a Broadway playbill emoji, a Yankees hat emoji, and a subway emoji express the vitality and variety of the five boroughs to me? No. But what I do appreciate is the flexibility, playfulness, and extensibility all of these pieces give the campaign.
As for the visual style, I prefer Milton Glaser’s classic look and feel. But this is also coming from someone who doesn’t use emojis and questions anyone that does.
I’m familiar with messing with a classic. That same year I took my first trip to NYC with the Yearbook Club, I made the decision to change the order in which the classes appeared in the yearbook. The theme for the yearbook was “Becoming,” and to support that theme, I decided to start the layout with the freshmen class and end with seniors, instead of the status quo of having the senior class appear first.
When the yearbook came out, everyone hated it. But I still stand by my decision. Not only did it support the theme, but I was way ahead of my time, as 17 years later, Michelle Obama wrote her own “Becoming.”
Designing in the same realm as something iconic is an uphill battle. And sequels? We all know the first is always better.
So while I may not align with every part of the aesthetic choices of this campaign, I do appreciate the intention behind the message, and the flexibility and playfulness that comes through in the advertisements.
But enough from me. What does my friend who lives in NYC think of it?