“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said no one in the cohort of New York State and City decision-makers who launched the new “We ❤️ NYC” design on Monday, March 20. Partnership for New York City Foundation, a nonprofit composed of business leaders and organizations, unveiled the logo as part of the campaign to inspire civic engagement and volunteerism throughout the five boroughs. Organizers have succeeded in uniting New Yorkers, inspiring agreement across the boroughs that the new design is awful.
“New York City enjoys the greatest concentration of diverse talent in the world,” Partnership for New York City Co-Chair and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “This campaign intends to channel the energy and resources of millions of New Yorkers into projects that reaffirm that we are the safest, cleanest, most vibrant city in the world.”
The brand mark updates the iconic “I ❤️ NY” design Milton Glaser created between 1975 and 1976. For many New Yorkers, the economic hardships experienced early during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the months when NYC was still the epicenter of the virus, brought forth memories of the financial crisis in the ’70s. William S. Doyle, then the deputy commissioner of commerce for New York State, had commissioned Glaser’s logo for a tourism and branding campaign launched in 1977 to encourage New Yorkers as the city nearly experienced bankruptcy in 1975. Similarly, the “We ❤️ NYC” campaign hopes to inspire a “post-pandemic resurgence of the city and its neighborhoods” through different initiatives and partnerships with various NYC departments such as Parks, Sanitation, and Small Business Services.
Marketing executive Maryam Banikarim and others leading the campaign sought permission from the New York State Department for Economic Development (Empire State Development) — which controls the original “I ❤️ NY” and “We ❤️ NYC” trademarks — for the redesign. They decided to change the “I” to a “We” and focus the campaign exclusively on NYC. Banikarim told Hyperallergic that the updated logo is meant to live alongside the iconic original and specifically address the city.
“This is a moment for we, not I,” she said. The ad agency, Founders, suggested converting the flattened heart into an emoji to reflect a modern age, and designer Graham Clifford lifted the new lettering from the typography the Metropolitan Transportation Authority uses for subway signage.
Reactions on Twitter range from shocked and confused to angered. Many wonder why the state would allow the design change when the original works just fine. LA-based visual artist Dewey Saunders replied that the logo was “literally the worst design I’ve ever, ever seen,” while another Twitter user said the design had “zero swag.” Politics reporter Grace Segers noted that “We ❤️ NYC” could have been made using Microsoft Paint. Some expressed concerns with the readability of the new square-formatted design, pointing out that viewers could interpret the text as as “We NYC ❤️.”
However, writer and reporter David Colon reminded Twitter users that nothing is more beautiful than New Yorkers uniting against bad art or graphic design. Colon wrote, “It’s the first day of spring, and everyone in New York is getting together to throw garbage at the WE NYC HEART logo like it’s the Green Goblin.”