Milton Glaser on his iconic “I ♥️ NY” logo, the joy of working, and on the future of the Big Apple

New York City was suffering from a negative image in the mid to late 1970s due to rampant crime and violence. The NYPD even created a “Welcome to Fear City” campaign to scare off tourists.

In 1977, New York state hired Milton Glaser to create a design to promote NYC tourism. Glaser drew the iconic “I ♥️ New York” logo on a napkin in the back of a taxi cab. Today, that original napkin can be seen at MOMA, and the logo generates more than $1 million a year in licensing fees for the state.

In this New York Times piece, Glaser talks about the logo, his work, and his love for modern New York, despite its insane wealth gap.

On his craft…

“I do it because it is so pleasurable for me. I derive this deep, deep satisfaction that nothing else, including sex, has ever given me. It’s the reason I’m here, is to do the work. And I’m so happy that I can still do it well.”

…when NYC was affordable:

“I had a friend who had an apartment for $7 a month. Of course, he had no heat. But everybody was there. It was so active and so lively and so transgressive. Everybody felt they were a part of something special, and they were.”

Moreover, his never-ending love for NYC

“I never separated the city from myself. I think I am the city. I am what the city is. This is my city, my life, my vision.”

However, nothing in New York ever stays the same. It is in a perpetual state of change. If he had to redraw the logo today in a city of $50 million apartments, it would translate into more fairness.

“Everything’s a transitional period. There’s no such thing as a nontransitional period. I certainly wonder what’s next. Because one thing you know is it can’t go on this way.”

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.