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‘Artsy’ on SVA's Milton Glaser and His Iconic Logo for New York

From Artsy: “…In 1977, New York was a city on the brink. Facing total financial insolvency, the city had gutted its police and fire departments two years prior, firing some 50,000 city workers in the single largest lay-off in New York City history. The move had ushered in an era of what police labeled ‘misdemeanor homicides,’ during which a guilty murder plea guaranteed no more than three years in prison (and sometimes landed criminals no jail time at all)…

To make matters worse, a deranged serial killer operating under the alias ‘Son of Sam’ was loose in the streets. He managed to kill six people and seriously injure seven more with a hunting rifle before his capture on August 10, 1977. In the words of a TIME magazine editorial of the day, ‘Scarcely anyone today needs to be told about how awful life is in nerve-jangling New York City, which resembles a mismanaged ant heap rather than a community fit for human habitation.’ Demonized by journalists the world over, the city’s public image had never been so menacing…

Under the auspices of commissioner John Dyson and deputy commissioner Bill Doyle—both veterans of financial marketing—the cash-strapped New York Department of Commerce (DOC) bet the city’s future on a Hail Mary investment. It upped the state’s annual tourism budget from $400,000 to $4.3 million to fund the most audacious and far-reaching rebranding campaign the state had ever seen…

Enter Milton Glaser. Having made a name for himself as the co-founder of New York Magazine and the technicolor visionary behind the much-acclaimed poster for Bob Dylan’s 1967 ‘Greatest Hits’ album, the Bronx native was an obvious choice given both his prodigious talents and lifelong connection to the city. ‘I never separated the city from myself,’ Glaser told the New York Times. ‘I think I am the city. I am what the city is. This is my city, my life, my vision.’

Working swiftly, Glaser sketched out a mockup of a logo with the text embossed over two stacked lozenges. Dyson and Doyle immediately accepted, but the designer remained unsatisfied. Chewing over the problem in the back of a yellow taxi cab the next day, Glaser was hit by flash of inspiration. Scrambling for something to write with, he used a red crayon to scribble the beginnings of the now-iconic I ❤ NY logo on the back of a torn envelope…” (For the full story and more images, click here)

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