New Yorkers express pride of place in a very specific, extreme way. Things here are either the best or the worst — but even the worst is kind of the best. That’s why the new and mostly universally reviled “We ❤️ NYC” campaign, unveiled this week, is getting a special kind of roasting from outraged denizens of the city and the internet alike — and there is nothing more scathing than a bad review from a city whose leading hobby is sarcasm (truly the only one everybody can afford).
That sarcasm doesn’t always translate, as one concerned citizen learned. This week, Dan Cassaro of the independent design studio Young Jerks in Brooklyn tweeted a hilarious send-up of the branding campaign, creating his own version using awkwardly placed emojis and absurd one-liners that reveal the dysfunction and illegibility of the original design. Some people didn’t realize his post was satire.
“I think people were already enraged at the new logo, so my joke version of the larger system perhaps escaped some scrutiny that should have been applied,” Cassaro told Hyperallergic. “But c’mon I literally wrote “AY I’M 🍕 ITALIAN” and people thought it was real. It’s wild.”
Most were in on the joke, however, and the thread soon spawned a delicious buffet of memes mocking the rebrand format — including a borough-specific “Crafted in Brooklyn” version featuring the ever-present Bushwick hipster, complete with a handlebar mustache and thick-rimmed glasses. There was also the “We Got Rats 🐀” remix, a design that reflects a much more immediate reality for New Yorkers: its growing rodent population.
Cassaro stayed busy throughout the day, churning out more and more iterations of the brand style, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. “I didn’t think so many people would take the bait,” he said. But take the bait they did, and the thread unspooling beneath Cassaro’s Tweet has taken on dimensions of conflict, disdain, and emotional warfare generally reserved for professional wrestlers.
Now, far be it for anyone to stir the pot further, but since New Yorkers take observable joy in being the best at everything, and since this is arguably the worst public graphic design campaign in recent memory (at least since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “You Do You” mask signage) … maybe “We <3 NYC” is the perfect rebrand for the city that is best at everything, even at being the worst. (Though as Bloomberg Opinion pointed out on its Twitter, I ❤️ NY is not the first legacy to be tainted by someone’s misguided need to get their hand in the works, citing the infamously botched restoration of a Christ fresco in Spain.)
For Cassaro’s part, his true feelings about the campaign, which is the lesser descendant of a successful and beloved design by Milton Glaser, are withering.
“It feels like a misguided attempt to build something ‘cool and new’ by trading on Milton Glaser’s iconic I ❤️ NY piece,” he told Hyperallergic. “It doesn’t even matter if it’s not meant to replace Milton’s piece, those are the optics, man! You’re in politics, you should think about this stuff!”
“Not sure how they didn’t see this coming,” Cassaro added. “The emoji thing is funny, too. You’re New York City, not Doritos. Have some self-respect.”