New York City—arguably the most diversified city in the world—now has a cohesive visual language for its environs in a major rebrand launched with 250 pictograms.
The rebrand includes a newly designed website, NYCgo.com, and two new typefaces, NYC Sans and NYC Block. New capabilities and features include mobile-first, 200+ videos; real-time responsiveness to trending topics; integrated and contextual mapping; and member, partner and user-generated content.
“We recognized that having an icon concept was a powerful tool for the city, especially in speaking to foreign audiences,” said Emily Lessard, Creative Director of NYC & Company, the marketing organization for the city of New York, in Fast Company.
“New York City now has an enhanced, innovative tourism website and vibrant, updated branding to match our world-class, five-borough destination,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company.
To create the new visual language, Lessard’s team sent out a request for symbols to city government agencies and received 423 responses. Many of the new icons were designed by the agencies themselves while the core evolved from the official NYC logo designed by Wolff Olins in 2007.
The creative challenge nine years ago was to capture and embrace one city with five boroughs, approximately 191 neighborhoods, nearly a million buildings and more than 8.2 million people.
“Each individual has his or her own New York,” said the agency in 2007. “Within the mind of every New Yorker resides a different version of New York City. It’s a place loved in 138 different languages and viewed through an almost infinite mix of cultures, ideologies and ways of life. Everyone living side by side.”
Preceding that, Massimo Vignelli created the now iconic 1972 subway system signage and the two new typefaces for 2016 include NYC Sans used in Vignelli’s 1972 MTA branding and City Block derived from the geometry of the logo representing the NYC grid. The web font makes it easy for any government agency to use the symbols even without a designer or creative team on staff.
Lessard and her team whittled agency submissions down to 250, designing 207 on their own and dispersing the rest to various government agencies from the Department of Health to the Department of Parks & Recreation.
The press release notes that “NYC & Company’s main brand color, black, will always be paired with rich colors inspired by the City itself—the yellow taxi cabs, the green of the Statue of Liberty’s copper, the blue of the iconic Greek coffee cups and more.”
A “miscellaneous” section includes everything from geometric emoji to shopping bags. Lessard asked her team to test the grid system by designing an elephant, a sneaker and a question mark and all three ended up in the final results. Several types of cats also made the cut in a hat-tip to the city’s innumerable bodega cat residents.
After the 2007 rebrand, “The number of visitors to the city increased by 5%, resulting in the creation of 350,000 jobs,” reports Wolff Olins. “2010 became a record breaking year, with 49 million visitors, generating $31 billion in visitor spending and propelling New York City to the most popular tourism destination in the US for the first time in 20 years.”