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RIP Milton Glaser, the Designer Behind the I ♥ NY Logo
Even if you don’t know the name Milton Glaser, you know his work.
The graphic designer, publisher, columnist and branding aficionado created some of the most iconic images and designs in modern history.
Glaser passed away on his birthday last week at age 91. Over his six-decade career, he pushed the boundaries of branding and advertising beyond the default modernist aesthetic. His work was playful, often surreal and always a reflection of its time.
He created hundreds of posters, oversaw the redesigns of dozens of publications and co-founded New York magazine. But he’ll be best remembered for designing the I Heart NY logo.
A Logo for New Yorkers – and the World
In the 1970s, New York City teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, and rising crime rates were scaring off tourists and residents alike.
The Big Apple had a branding problem.
The New York State Department for Economic Development hired the ad firm Wells Rich Greene to create a campaign to raise residents’ spirits and attract visitors. Glaser was tapped to design a logo.
Like so many iconic designs, that logo came together quickly. In the back of a cab on the way to a client meeting, Glaser fished a red crayon out of his pocket and did a quick sketch that would become the basis for the logo.
The final logo has become one of the most recognizable campaigns in history. It works because it’s so simple. The heart symbol resonates across languages and cultures. Some have dubbed it the world’s first emoji. More than that, it conveys a feeling — New York is a one-of-a-kind city worth loving, flaws and all.
But for Glaser, the logo’s impact comes from its simple combination of letters and images. That activates the “problem-solving impulse of the brain,” Glaser says, which makes it more memorable. Here’s how Glaser tells in in the 2009 documentary “Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight.”
“The creation of a puzzle is one of the tools you have to make people understand things.”
Designing a Response to 9/11 and COVID-19
The logo has been repurposed, reimagined and ripped off around the world (Glaser refused to copyright it). After the September 11 attacks, Glaser updated the logo to read “I ♥ NY MORE THAN EVER.”
It’s little wonder Glaser saw the need for something of a COVID-19 logo. When he died, he was working on an image around the word “Together” to capture the importance of creating community during the pandemic.