“I Love NY”: The Doodle That Became an Icon

How Milton Glase

The man who created the “I Love New York” logo was stunned at first when he heard that Governor Cuomo was re-inventing the symbol as part of a new tourism advertising campaign.

But Milton Glaser has cooled off. He told me: “We’ve had a pretty good run since I invented the icon back in 1977. And, in my business, it’s not surprising that somebody will want to tinker with your creation. That’s the way it goes.”

The man doing the tinkering is Governor Andrew Cuomo. He has launched a $5 million advertising campaign to attract tourists to New York. In place of the heart that was at the center of the old logo, Cuomo wants to put a beach ball, a hot air balloon, a roller coaster and assorted other objects. Literally, the governor is taking the heart out of the old approach to selling New York.

Glaser remembers the day he created the I Love New York logo. It was at a time, the mid-70s, when New York was in the doldrums, a community suffering from economic distress. Glaser was helping to launch an advertising campaign to restore New York’s greatness. He was sitting in the back of a taxicab and pulled a red crayon out and doodled on the back of an envelope, first an I and then a heart, followed by two letters, N and Y.

Somehow, this icon got under people’s skins. The design was copied around the world. Ultimately, it would adorn t-shirts on all the continents. It brought great attention to New York, and millions of tourists flocked to the city and state. Ultimately, the advertising campaign helped the city’s economic recovery.                              

”In my business,“ Glaser told me, “you do something and it’s out of your hands. It’s miraculous that the logo has been around this long. I can’t explain it. It will still be around for another 50 years. You can’t figure why but it did its job. Just a couple of scratches on the back of an envelope.”
I called political analyst Hank Sheinkopf, who said of Cuomo: “He’s the governor. It’s his logo. He’s entitled to advertise his way.”
Glaser has said he has no idea how the design became an icon “not only for New Yorkers but for the whole bloody world. It’s very mysterious.
“You might even call my design a work of art. But it ain’t the Sistine Chapel.”
And Glaser ain’t Michelangelo. But his sketch on the envelope did find its way into the Museum of Modern Art!
Contact Us