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By The Way
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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New Yorkers bond over new city logo: They hate it

‘We ❤ NYC’ is bringing New Yorkers together, but not the way organizers planned

The new New York City logo. (Partnership for New York City)
4 min

In the 1970s, graphic designer Milton Glaser brought a New York state tourism advertising campaign to life with his I ❤ NY logo, changing souvenir shops forever. About 50 years later, a new ad campaign is trying to leverage some of its magic, with a few changes — and it’s rubbing New Yorkers the wrong way.

“It’s not just a slogan,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) at the campaign’s Times Square news conference, introducing “We ❤ NYC” to the public and wearing a big We ❤ NYC sticker on her lapel. “It’s a spirit.”

According to the slogan’s website, “‘We ❤️NYC’ is a 21st Century version of the 70’s campaign” and will include advertisements (naturally), a city cleanup drive, volunteer opportunities, an Earth Day celebration, an Instagram account, a competition for musicians to play in subway stations “and much more.”

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But what people seem to be bonding over the most is their disdain for the aesthetic. “Corny” and “inexcusably bad in so many ways,” one Twitter user wrote. Another called it an “affront to this great city.” New York Magazine proclaimed: “NYC’s New Promotional Logo Kinda Sucks.”

New York native and writer Cindy Augustine said even though she could get behind the “we” sentiment of the campaign, it was ultimately embarrassing. Between the “ugly bubbly heart” and “weird proportion,” it looked like a rushed design, she said.

“I hate it,” said Benjamin Liong Setiawan, a lifestyle writer who has lived in New York for more than 20 years. “If they want to do something, they should have gone in a completely different direction versus trying to update a classic.”

Non-New Yorkers had strong opinions, too. “It’s a fix no one asked for,” said John Beeler, president and founder of the travel company Altitude Luxury Experiences. “Why would you modify a brand that is identifiable around the world?”

Most of the hate was directed at New York officials trying to update a beloved design, like so many brands have done in recent years. (See also: Pepsi and Snapple.)

“That’s what the optics are,” said Brooklyn resident Dan Cassaro, a partner at the brand and packaging design studio Young Jerks, whose parody of the logo has been racking up retweets. “I think people are especially upset because it feels like a sort of replacement of the Milton Glaser ‘I love New York,’ but, you know, without any sort of soul to it or artfulness.”

But the new logo is not meant to be a replacement. It’s intended to be a contemporary complement, said Maryam Banikarim, an adviser to the Partnership for New York City through her collective, NYCNext.

Banikarim said each tweak of the logo was intentional. Graham Clifford, the campaign’s designer and art director, “came in to really fine-tune the logo and has a deep legacy in design. In fact, his father was a typographer,” Banikarim said.

“He says the lettering of the subway is what inspired him,” she continued. “And that was an interesting thing for us, because we believe the subway is the artery of the city; it’s what connects us.”

The campaign’s creators wanted to swap “I” for “We,” “because we believe this is the time for we and not me — or I,” Banikarim said. The emoji heart reflects the digital world we live in and the use of emoji as a universal language. They added the C, because the campaign is New York City-focused, not a New York state initiative.

Banikarim said “We ❤ NYC” is aimed at New Yorkers, not tourists, but Hochul acknowledged its wider impact.

“It’s a way to remind people what our $85 billion tourism industry is all about,” Hochul said at the news conference. “People come here for that connection with other people, the finest restaurants in the world, the electricity, what Broadway’s all about.”

There are people who aren’t offended by the new logo, though. Sother Teague, beverage director for the Manhattan bar Amor y Amargo, says the logo looks a little lopsided but still supports “anything that promotes the greatest city in the world.”

Banikarim isn’t surprised by the negative reactions. After 20 years in marketing, “this is not my first rodeo,” she said. “And what we love about New Yorkers is they all have opinions.”

But if you’re going to criticize the campaign, “that’s great, but what we hope you also do is help your neighbor pick up the litter, join a volunteer opportunity, start a business that you think will help your neighbor,” she added. “That’s what we’re focused on.”