Studio Ostendo operates in multiple creative fields including photography, design, and education.
We'll start formally, as that's often the simplest entry point to any design critique.
The new "We ♥ NYC" logo attempts to enfold a "modern" typeface with a contemporary heart icon that is reminiscent of an emoji. It's bold, it's pseudo-3D. and it's a joke—at least I wish it were.
As the campaign expands, there's one point of interest, which is the interchangeable "Heart" for other New York City icons. Folded pizza, the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, etc.
Now for the tea. What was the city of New York thinking?
It's not uncommon to draw inspiration from the past. In fact, many lessons can be learned from the greats of design, and even more can be learned by looking at a broad history and spectrum of the field. In this case, independent designer Graham Clifford and Founders helped develop the new campaign as a play on the 1977 "I Love NY" campaign and slogan drafted by designer Milton Glaser, who sketched it using a crayon and envelope in the back of a cab. Glaser’s logo remains the ubiquitous symbol of the city, emblazoned on T-shirts and souvenirs—people across the world are not only familiar with, but proud of the original. I have no doubt he's turning over in his grave (RIP June 26, 2020).
This new iteration, which targets New York City, rather than New York the state, is clunky, unbalanced, and downright offensive to design history. Not only does the stacked mark disregard all of the formal qualities that made the original iconic, but it also steps on the toes of the great Massimo Vignelli, designer of the New York City Subway System signage: unlike the rounded typewriter typeface used by Glaser, the font for the new logo is the same one employed in the city’s subway system. Another design icon rolling in his grave (RIP May 27, 2014).
Aside from the horrific composition, choice in typeface, and utter disregard for design principles, the underpinning message has good intentions, with foreseeable problems.
Let's all come together no matter if it's volunteering to clean up parks, volunteering at a homeless shelter. It's about all contributing together because this is the city we love" — New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Agreed. 'We' is indeed an important sentiment when building community. It's also important when building a brand, campaign, and getting people on board (something paramount to public politics). 'We', however, also has the strong potential to cause the Bystander Effect. As defined in Psychology Today, "The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person in distress."
What does this look like in practice? Well, imagine that you are in a large city on a bustling street (say, NYC). You notice a man fall to the ground and start convulsing as if having a seizure. Many people turn and look at the man, but no one moves to help or call for medical assistance. Everyone looks around and diffuse responsibility onto the one another—so much so that no one person feels responsible enough to take action.
While the policy-maker in NYC might have the right intentions, the new campaign is ultimately a slap in the face to campaign-makers everywhere. It's not original, doesn't elevate the previous design, and is a sad excuse for professional graphic design. Something that would appear on a little-league softball poster, yes, but not the caliber of New York City.
Greg Young and Tom Meyers of The Bowery Boys podcast summed up this critique in a clear, concise, and accurate response:
(That's not quite the original heart, but I'll let it slide.)
Yes, New York Line, a font from the scum of all font websites, is being used as the primary font for the campaign. No, it's not the font in the logo, and no, it's not a font used in body copy. Its just an awkward, poorly drawn and terribly kerned font almost meant to antagonize designers further. Perhaps best of all is that the font wasn't even inspired by New York. No, its inspired by lettering on the Hotel New York in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, which was named so in 1896. At least the campaign seems to know people don't like it:
Plus, this is the best way to take critique in stride. Take notes in case your rebrand goes as poorly:
Above: Mayor Eric Adams Delivers Remarks Kicking Off "We ♥ NYC" Campaign With Governor Hochul.
From Gwynne Hogan, General assignment reporter covering NYC:
Agree, Gwynne. The old logo was, and still is, an icon.
Via Founders Agency instagram account: