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.

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