WHAT’S THE POINT OF CITY LOGOS?
Perhaps the most famous modern city logo is the iconic “I ♥ NY” emblem, created in 1977 by the graphic designer Milton Glaser on behalf of New York State. With New York City having nearly filed for bankruptcy two years earlier, the logo was part of a strategy to revive both the state and the city’s image and, in turn, their economies, according to Miriam Greenberg, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the author of “Branding New York: How a City in Crisis Was Sold to the World.” The juxtaposition of stark letters with a soft heart captured both the toughness and vulnerability people loved about New York City, she said—and their deep affection for a place on the verge of collapse.
“It is possible for an artist or designer to tap into the zeitgeist and create an image that resonates at a particular moment,” Greenberg said, “but they have to be knowledgeable about what the underlying fears and issues are.” A new logo probably won’t transform a city, in other words, unless it’s part of a package of initiatives to address a city’s challenges.
Amsterdam, too, has a much-praised logo. Its “I amsterdam” campaign and matching giant letters found at various points in the city—with “I am” in red and “sterdam” in white—has come to symbolize the city’s inclusiveness. One promotional video shows a rotating cast of diverse people accompanied by the captions “I am passionate,” “I am curious,” “I am inspired,” and so on. In an academic article, Mihalis Kavaratzis and G. J. Ashworth suggested that the impetus behind the “I amsterdam” launch in 2004 was a desire to re-highlight positive aspects of the city, as a counterpoint to Amsterdam’s international reputation of having a liberal attitude toward drugs and prostitution.
Read full article on The New Yorker here.