The rebrand is the first time NYC & Company has updated its identity since Wolff Olins designed a new logo and branding for New York City in 2007. Creative director Emily Lessard says it is the first time the company has had a clear set of guidelines that can be rolled out across all of its communications.
“We have lots of sub brands and marketing campaigns, and each and every one of them has their own look and feel, so it was really hard to service all of the work we were doing without clear, cohesive guidelines,” she explains. “There are so many more platforms we have to work on than there were in 2007, so cohesiveness is more important than ever.”
The branding was designed in-house by a creative team made up of 22 designers, art directors, photographers, copywriters and videographers. It features two custom typefaces: NYC Sans, based on Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 MTA branding and City Block, based on the geometry of the NYC logotype. NYC Sans features several alternates, including four Ms and four Ys, and Lessard says alternative characters will be used at random or for particular types of communications (a ‘friendly’ Y, for example, will be used in communications aimed at families).
“There’s a quirkiness to [NYC Sans],” explains Lessard. “A lot of the alternates, they’re not the ‘correct’ way to have drawn those letterforms, and that was the direction I gave to the type designers – I wanted it to be a strange, and surprising and a little off. There’s so much wonderful, exuberant signage in NYC – you see signs where someone’s taken a letter off or put another one on, and it speaks to how the city is always changing and evolving. I wanted to start with [Vignelli’s design] and build on that because that’s also what the city is – we’re taking existing forms and building on them anew, whether that be in the architecture [of the city] or the way its plans are working.”
A colour palette combines black with bolder shades inspired by local landmarks. “Our primary colour is black, but we never use just black – we follow the Josef Albers colour theory, so we use it as an activator to make bright colours even brighter,” explains Lessard. The second colour is taxi cab yellow and the third, Bowie purple – there’s also Staten Island Ferry orange and two greens inspired by the Statue of Liberty, which can appear different shades in different light. A custom set of patterns based on half tone textures, Andy Warhol silkscreens and the bright lights of Broadway add depth and a sense of movement to communications. “We want to make sure everything is very layered,” she says.
A new NYCgo.com website features 100 new pieces of video content, which were all created in house, and will be used across NYC & Company’s social channels. (A videos page features insider guides to various neighbourhoods, from Williamsburg to Washington Heights). “It was my decision to have it video-focused from the get go – I couldn’t think of a better way to get a potential visitor or someone who’s been here before energised about what the city is today. New York is becoming this wonderful hybrid of iconic and new attractions being built all around us, and video just tells that story perfectly,” says Lessard.
Central to the new branding is a new set of icons created in partnership with various government agencies, which aim to provide a visual guide to the city. (Lessard says she was keen to create a system that would be useful for visitors who aren’t fluent in English). 250 symbols have been created so far, from icons representing government buildings, transport, hospitals and sports facilities to others in the shape of famous landmarks.
The collaboration with other agencies came out of a conversation with Jess Singleton, chief technology officer for the City of New York, explains Lessard. “Jess got in touch and said she wanted to create icons for all of the city’s agencies – I explained I was already doing it for us and she said, ‘why don’t you expand the project?’”
“We shared the grid [for the NYC logo], and had a conference call with all of the designers who wanted to take part. We also asked agencies for a list of icons they wanted, and we plan on rolling out more,” she explains. Lessard is unsure how icons will be used by other agencies, but adds: “we tried to make sure that the ones designed for the web looked good at 50 pixels, for future apps and global development.”
Lessard says the identity aims to reflect New York’s vibrancy and diversity. It’s a challenging task – the city is home to five boroughs, each with their own distinct identity, and eight million residents – but the mix of bold colours, quirky letters, video and photography aim to capture the chaotic and constantly changing nature of the city. “There’s definitely an authenticity that we strive to hit,” she adds. “It’s one of those things that’s incredibly hard to describe, but you know when you have it, and you know when you don’t. I see it coming through in things like our colour palette – we really looked at the colours of the city,” she adds.
Alongside the re-launch of NYCgo.com, Lessard says NYC & Company will be launching an international campaign this fall. “The new website is just the beginning … we’re really excited for the digital space, but we also do a tremendous amount of print work … and we’re excited about putting more and more energy into social,” she says.