The I Love NY logo is the result of the successful effort to "brand" the state of New York during the final moments of the state's fiscal crisis in the 1970's.
Crime was rampant and, then as now, the state's coffers were empty. Businesses (and their employees) were leaving in droves. Fear permeated perceptions of the state, and tourism was suffering. New York had lost much of its glamorous allure, and the state of New York turned to Madison Avenue for help. The state commissioned the ad agency Well, Rich and Greene and graphic artist Milton Glaser to develop a campaign, and the I [heart] NY slogan was born. Its goal: to promote tourism.
One of the most familiar cultural icons of the past half century, the I LOVE NEW YORK rebus, designed by the renowned Milton Glaser, almost didn't happen. In 1975, the New York Commerce Commission asked Glaser to create a suitable logo for a public relations campaign aimed at countering New York's reputation for being a crime-ridden, dirty and hostile place to visit. Told that the slogan was "I Love New York," Glaser originally came up with a typographic solution- "two lozenge shapes containing the words 'I love' in one and 'New York' in the other," he reveals. The design was quickly approved by the State Commerce Commission and on its way to being reproduced on everything from billboards to coffee mugs.
That would have been the end of this pro bono assignment, but a week after the design was approved, Glaser says he happened to be "doodling in a cab and another idea suggested itself." He called Bill Doyle, the then-assistant commissioner of commerce, and told him, "I have a better idea."
As Glaser recalls it, Doyle said, "Oh please! Forget it. Do you know how complicated it would be to get everybody together to approve it again?" But Glaser persisted, asking Doyle to just stop by to take a look. Doyle reluctantly came down to Glaser's studio. Glaser remembers that he merely "nodded and took away the new sketch." But shortly after, Doyle reconvened a meeting of the commerce commissioners and the now famous design was approved.
Since 1975, Glaser's "second" logo has appeared on tens of millions of items sold in New York. It's become a favorite tourists' souvenir of their trip to the Empire State.