August 30, 2009

Branding New York: New NYC Logo | Viren Brahmbhatt


Does the new NYC logo by Wolf Olins define a new “low” in logo/identity design? It was bewildering enough to see it replace the original - unassuming, and ridiculously simple stenciled letters on NYC Taxi with (NEW), stalky, chunky, clunky and crude letters NYC accompanying the hideously encircled T. The original simplicity and crudeness was more acceptable than this pretentious “design-ed” identity that New York City hardly needs. But now the City has decided to replace individual logos for each New York City Agency that proudly adorned their websites, letterheads and such. Now the City has started changing those previous logos and will incorporate the new NYC logo as a prefix to their agency names. So here is in response to this self-induced identity crisis that I offer this lament.





The NYC logo on New York City Taxi

New York City identity, the NYC logo was designed by Wolf Olins for the city’s tourism and marketing body NYC & Company, the result of a blending of three organizations (NYC & Company, NYC Big Events and NYC Marketing). Then in 2008, it was clumsily applied to NYC Taxis without any thought or consideration for how it might add rather than integrate city’s visual clutter.

New York City identity, the NYC logo was designed by Wolf Olins for the city’s tourism and marketing body NYC & Company, the result of a blending of three organizations (NYC & Company, NYC Big Events and NYC Marketing). Then in 2008, it was clumsily applied to NYC Taxis without any thought or consideration for how it might add rather than integrate city’s visual clutter.

Under the auspices of the Mayor’s office, the new NYC logo is to be adopted and used by all New York City agencies. Cities need identity, as branding is part of how cities sell themselves to the world; but they also leave their mark on people’s lives and city’s visual landscape. It is always a contentious issue however, as to what might constitute or represent a city’s identity. It gets even harder when it is about branding New York City, which by all comparisons is a tall order. For a city like New York that claims a unique status in the nation and the world as a global city, its identity as a place of diversity and a logo that represents it cannot afford to be divisive… Furthermore, the challenge is a tough one in face of highly opinionated New Yorkers…


The New York Yankees logo “I Love New York”

New York is a divided city, in more ways than one. However, the apparent divisions are what provide the city its identity. How does one reflect that visually and typographically in a logo or symbol? How could it be achieved? The lived-through and tried symbols have come about without much pretense. Take for example the NY symbol of the Yankees, or the simple graphics of I Love New York campaign… or the Helvetica-laden urban signs of the MTA that practically invade our underground typographic landscape; the street signs and the traffic signals… NYC Sewer manhole covers that dot the streetscape of New York, or the painted brick facades of brownstones… leftover newspaper dispensers and such.

Below are some of the past and present logos of New York City agencies/departments that give them their unique identity based on their individual missions. They signify uniqueness of branding New York in terms of city’s diversity. It is in this context that the NYC’s logo may need to be viewed and evaluated.



Copyright © 2009  Viren Brahmbhatt

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