I Love New York T-Shirts: A Story

We’ve all seen “I Love New York” t-shirts, mugs, posters, and other merchandise, but few people know exactly where they came from, and even those who do miss out on some of the trivia surrounding the slogan. The slogan is old enough that most people can take a look at I Love New York t-shirts without wondering where the brand came from, but at the same time it seems modern enough to know that it can’t have more. of a few decades. .

This intuition about vintage I Love New York t-shirts is correct. The origin of the design was in 1977: the deputy commissioner of the New York State Department of Commerce, William S. Doyle, knew that New York had incredible potential to attract tourists. At the same time, he was aware that many tourists did not bother to visit the city; some were worried about crime or upset about high prices, but most just never thought to go there. He needed a slogan that wouldn’t convince people that it was a good city to visit; he needed a slogan that would grab the millions of people who were already convinced and catalyze his decision to take the trip.

The I Love New York t-shirt story takes an interesting turn after that: Doyle hired an advertising agency, Wells Rich Greene, to create a new tourism campaign. This was a fairly conventional move: New York has long been a center for the advertising business, and many major and reputable advertising agencies were and are based in the city. But then Doyle did something a little more unconventional: he tapped into the design talents of Milton Glaser, a well-respected designer.

Surprisingly, Glaser didn’t think the job was a big deal. Unable to fathom the fact that, decades later, I Love New York T-shirts would be ubiquitous across the country, Glaser created the new logo for free. Glaser had many reasons to stay busy: In addition to being a successful freelance designer, Glaser had co-founded the popular New York Magazine and was involved in work both locally and internationally.

Shortly after the first I Love New York t-shirts were printed, Doyle, Wells Rich Greene and New York itself knew they had a hit on their hands. Although the advertising campaign was intended to be one of many temporary attempts to generate tourism revenue for the city, it was a surprisingly long-lasting campaign. The ease with which people could copy the design (occasionally replacing the American Typewriter font with the more common Courier) meant that the design was often referenced and even parodied. Still, the vast majority of observers were only reminded that the I Love New York t-shirts are the original.

Surprisingly, the I Love New York t-shirts don’t just refer to the city. Doyle worked for the state and the campaign was designed for the entire state. But as most I Love New York t-shirt wearers know, it’s a design that almost exclusively reminds people of the city.

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