Taxis lose their ‘axi’ in NYC

The New York Taxi Commission has done away with the letters “axi” on the sides of its vehicles, leaving a single “T” to work as a symbol. But as visual identifiers go, the “T” is rather redundant: the big yellow cab-shaped thing still does a pretty good job of signifying what it is already

“T” for taxi. Photo by Mark Susina, Flickr. Reproduced with permission

In a bit of identity streamlining, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission has done away with the letters “axi” on the sides of its vehicles, leaving a single “T” to work as a standalone symbol. But as visual identifiers go, the “T” is redundant: the big yellow cab-shaped thing still does a pretty good job of signifying what it is already…

In fact the “T” now only makes sense as a single initial because it’s on the side of a yellow taxi. The “T” doesn’t identify the vehicle as a taxi, it merely reasserts that the vehicle is one of New York’s cabs – no doubt after the realisation that it’s also a huge yellow car has occurred to any potential customers.

The previous “TAXI” design. Photo by noneck, Flickr

The new “T” (in yellow out of a black circle) is a larger version of the one used in the “TAXI” logotype (above), first introduced to the new NYC fleet five years ago, as part of the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow project developed with Nissan and Smart Design.

The phrase “NYC TAXI” was introduced to the fleet in 2007 by Smart, leading some designers to comment on the nonsensical approach of branding something that was already, in effect, its own logo.

At the time, designer Sam Potts was invited to crit the “TAXI” logo by The New York Times. “My first reaction to this was, ‘There’s a logo for the taxis?’,” said Potts. “In fact, the logo is a secondary element in the branding of the taxis – I imagine very few notice the logo but everyone knows what the yellow signifies.”

Quoted on PSFK this week, the chairman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, David S Yassky, asserted that “we have no doubt that a yellow car with a roof light with a big ‘T’ will be understood as a New York City taxicab. Even the greenest of greenhorns will know that it’s a taxicab.” But Yassky misses the point. People know what the yellow colour means – it’s the huge “T” that they’re now required to decipher.

Wouldn’t a bolder “NYC” have sufficed on the side, or roof, of something so recognisable, if there’s even a need to differentiate the cabs from other yellow cars? The use of “TAXI” was superfluous five years ago and the single “T” now just looks a bit lost. Greenhorn or not, that’s not really what you want from one of New York’s legendary cabs.

  • I agree it looks a bit lost on its own. But, if it weren’t for the mismatch in design, you could argue that it is supposed to reflect or refer to the NYC metro lines which are all numbers and letters in circles?

  • Seems awfully close to Boston’s venerable transit logo – They even call their subways “the T”. Poor choice for NYC, I think.

  • Maybe just scream if I see one more black circle logo with type in the middle. Done to death.

  • It would have made more sense if it were typeset in Helvetica to match the subway lines, similar to how TFL licensed minicabs use the same branding as tubes and buses

  • James C

    Does anyone proof read at Creative Review? I also found it weird how opinionated this article was.

    …I actually think this bold move is interesting, similar to Starbucks ditching their name on the cups.
    Does this mean the taxi system will be referred to as ‘The T’ in future? It’s hard to say say? I didn’t like the original lock up, even though it fit the job description well. I guess because the fact it exists on a yellow cab it gives permission for this approach, though who will ever be able to judge if it was a good or bad move?

  • s

    I thought Yanki Doodles call it a ‘CAB’ ?

  • Are they all forgetting that NY is FULL of tourists who need that extra bit of reassurance that the car they’re trying to get into is indeed a taxi… I think de-branding them completely would be a step too far and would remove the element of trust/certainty when hailing a car etc.

  • @James C I’ve changed “identity” to “identify”. Was there anything else?

  • Another problem is that in 2015, the T train will be opening on 2nd Avenue. Not that people will confuse the trains with the cabs, but it’s still a little awkward.

  • I just added this feed to my bookmarks. I have to say, I very much enjoy reading your blogs. Keep it up!

  • Abie

    Put “Taxi” back on the roof light…or somewhere….Don’t these people who make these silly designs have something better to do?

  • Phil

    I understand the approach, rationale and logic of the design and execution. I might have gone down a similar route myself… BUT it leaves me cold. Why does everything have to be so paired back? What about the history of checkered cabs.

    All that communicates Taxi to me is the color

  • The ‘T’ does look a bit lost on it’s own… but I think it works! The yellow will always define the branding and it is an identifiable logo.

  • The iconic colour is all the branding that’s required really. The “Taxi” text is superfluous anyway.