I ❤ NY / Dress Code / 2018
The world of the Coops — Jewish, progressive, striving — embodied what he came to see as the essential fabric of New York. When Senator Ted Cruz of Texas talked about “New York values,” Mr. Glaser said, he was basically talking about the Coops. “Without being too self-revelatory, the character of New York is so intrinsically Jewish,” he said, citing figures showing that in the 1920s, one in four New Yorkers was Jewish. (These days it is closer to one in eight.) “That attitude toward life, toward food, toward music, toward intellectual pursuit — all of that may be a core element of life in the city because of a core element of Jews who had an opportunity to change the value system.” ➡︎
As New York spiraled toward bankruptcy, The Daily News produced one of the era’s greatest hits, in the form of an October 1975 front-page headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Less than a year later, at Easter services at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Paul Moore Jr. delivered another. “Look over your city and weep,” Bishop Moore told the congregants, “for your city is dying.” (A third supposed hit, Howard Cosell’s 1977 on-air deadpan, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning,” has proved to be a mirage: Cosell never said the words.)
Mr. Glaser loved this New York as well. He never considered leaving. “I never separated the city from myself,” he said. “I think I am the city. I am what the city is. This is my city, my life, my vision.” ➡︎
MG: There was so much dog shit because people didn’t feel that they deserved anything else, right? I mean you were just walking through all this dog shit day after day, in this filthy city, garbage, and so on. And then the most extraordinary thing happened: There was a shift in sensibility. One day people said, “I’m tired of stepping in dog shit. Get this fucking stuff out of my way.” And the city began to react. They said, “If you allow your dog to crap on the street, you have to pay a fine of $100,” and within a very short time it became socially untenable to allow your dog to shit on the street. Now, I don’t know what produces those behavioral shifts, right? From one day where it’s OK, and then suddenly the city simultaneously got fed up and said, “It’s our city, we’re going to take it back, we’re not going to allow this stuff to happen.” And part of that moment was this campaign. More than anything else it was a device to encourage tourism. And it was supported by a very clever advertising campaign that Wells, Rich, Greene did, with good music. But I thought it was going to go away after a couple of months, and here it is, thirty or so years later and still kicking around. Selling T-shirts in the street and still making a lot of money. ➡︎
“It’s a little tricky,” he said. “‘I’ is a word. ♥ is a symbol for emotion. ‘NY’ are initials for a place. So three acts of transformation are going on. You have to use your brain a little to translate it, even though once you do it, it’s obvious, and there’s no one that can’t figure it out. But the activity of the brain doing that is partially responsible for its durability.”
Even he is baffled by the logo’s ubiquity. “There’s something about the rigidity of the black, and the voluptuous nature of the heart,” he said. “It’s very hard to say why something works, why this is a beautiful portrait and this is not such a beautiful portrait. It’s not that the nose is funny, it’s something else going on.” ➡︎
Jen Doll: What's your advice for surviving in New York City?
Milton Glaser: I think the most simple-minded and fundamental thing is the recognition that things are always changing. This endless capacity for reinventing itself defines the city and also the opportunity that exists here. The thing about New York is, it's based on the idea of change. It is the most mutable of places; its strength comes out of that. It doesn't cling to its own history and has been free to invent new ones. Some changes are horrible, others lead us somewhere. They're discomfiting because no one likes change, but eventually, you end up somewhere else, and you discover you like that place. As I look back on my life here, the city seems to have changed and grown and improved and challenged, this pattern of adaptation leading to a new moment, a new population. Look at the nature of the population, enormously affirmative and enhancing of life. You may hate Starbucks, but it's done something, and eventually it, too, will disappear.
JD: Do you love New York?
MG: In any relationship, you can alternatively love and hate somebody everyday. New York is so mutable and surprising. Even if you don't love it, it is always compelling, always interesting, and never boring....I do love New York. ➡︎
Chip Kidd: Do you mind that the logo is ripped off so much?
MG: No. I mean, look, we have such a weird idea of the relationship of design to the culture, but—I believe the best people in the world are involved in making things. There’s this talk I give in which I compare the idea of Thanatos and Eros, the instinct towards death and the instinct towards life. And people who make things are on the side of Eros. For the right project, you can get good people—the best people—to work for nothing, which is one of the characteristics of being in the world of Eros—you don’t work for money, but you certainly work for your peers’ approval. ➡︎
MG: Well, that logo has an odd characteristic by now, that it doesn’t look like anybody designed it.
CK: No. Exactly.
MG: It looks like a weird historical thing.
CK: The design itself is invisible.
MG: Yes. Basically, you don’t have a concept, “Oh, this is something that was designed.” It just seems so… I guess, inevitable. And the best sort of things you do look inevitable, I suppose. ➡︎
New York itself was in a desperate condition in 1977, when Glaser made that momentous taxi journey to his 32nd Street base. He had already submitted a design to the client, the Assistant Commissioner of Commerce, Bill Doyle, but now rang him up to say, "I have something better". His original "all typographical" pattern "would have disappeared in a month," he says.
With so many people departing the crime-ridden city, the heart design struck a chord with those who didn't want to leave. "People were moving out and the people who were here wanted to be able to say 'I Love New York'. It was a real, deeply-felt desire and there were so few opportunities that any of us have to express the deepest things we feel."
True to his anti-capitalist roots, he is discomfited by the way the design has been commercialised. "They have decided that it is no longer a symbolic object to generate affection, but a potential money-making icon, so they have stores that sell nothing but 'I ∫ NY' products, all of which I find makes me nervous and unhappy." ➡︎
1977 (presidents: Ford/Carter; mayor: Beame) is New York's annus horribilis: the blackout, the Son of Sam summer, a helicopter rotor blade crashes into the streets from the top of the Pan Am. But it is also the year of its definitive comeback: A blast of self-love pulls the city out of its doldrums. New York is rescued by a double whammy of denial, a heroic non sequitur: the "I ♥ NY" campaign (created by Wells Rich Greene with Milton Glaser) and Liza Minnelli's "New York, New York" (composed by Kander and Ebb). The campaign mobilizes disbelief to fight disbelief; the song overpowers urban anxiety through loudness, introduces the high kick as a euphoric goose step.
"I ♥ NY" is a prison. Its logo, like a brand, diminishes the virtual space of the city. New York's shrinkage is reinforced by the regime of Ed Koch, the new mayor. His "How'm I doin'?" reflects a city that obsessively measures its own pulse. Danger becomes vibrancy. A global city turns "world class." ➡︎
When Glaser scribbled down the first incarnation of his “I ￼ NY” logo in the back of the taxi, he says: “I felt excited. My design had a sense of inevitability. The form and the content were united in a way that could not be taken apart.” As he developed the preliminary idea, Glaser decided to “stack” the characters, so that the “I” and the heart sat on top of the letters “NY”. In doing so, he concedes, he may have been “subliminally” influenced by the American Pop artist Robert Indiana’s steel sculpture Love, which was first shown in New York in 1970. (Indiana’s work stacks the letters “L” and “O” above “V” and “E”.)
Next, Glaser needed to choose a typeface for the letters. He went with American Typewriter. “But it had to be redesigned,” he says, “because the actual typeface is clunky, and in an aesthetic sense it didn’t quite work with the shape of the heart.” Using a symbol of a heart was a masterstroke, as Kate Carmody, a curatorial assistant in the design department at the Museum of Modern Art, explains: “Today we represent how we feel using emoticons and this was the very beginning of the shorthand that we use on computers,” she says. “Moreover, because of the success of this design, typographers have had to add a heart to every typeface.” ➡︎
◼︎ The Production Company Making Film Stars Out of Graphic Design Greats / Meg Miller / AIGA Eye on Design / 2018
◼︎ New York’s most iconic logo almost didn’t exist / Hana R. Alberts / New York Post / 2017
▶︎ Milton Glaser and Debbie Millman for Adobe Create Magazine | Adobe Creative Cloud / 2016
◼︎ What You Don’t Know About Milton Glaser’s “I ♥ NY” / Steven Brower / AIGA Eye on Design / 2015
◼︎ Milton Glaser Still Hearts New York / John Leland / The New York Times / 2016
◼︎ An Interview with Milton Glaser / Chip Kidd / The Believer / 2003
◼︎ Milton Glaser on New Yorkers: ‘For Better or Worse You’re Here, and Doomed to Be Here’ / Jen Doll / The Village Voice / 2011
◼︎ Delirious No More / Rem Koolhaas / Wired / 2003
◼︎ Milton Glaser: From his iconic 'I Love New York' logo to his new Mad Men poster, the designer is in a league of his own / Ian Burrell / Independent / 2014
◼︎ Milton Glaser: his heart was in the right place / Alastair Sooke / The Telegraph / 2011