Earlier this year, We ♥ NYC – a civic campaign run by the New York State Department of Economic Development to spur New York City’s post-pandemic recovery – arrived with quite a bang. The campaign’s logo appeared to be a reivision of Milton Glaser’s classic I ♥ NY logo design. Was Glaser’s being replaced? No, it wasn’t, but the whole furore around it certainly brought attention to the campaign.
Devised by creative agency Founders, the campaign has come back for round two with a new merchandise range intended to “celebrate the good, the bad, and the funky” of New York City. Its inspiration? The city’s rat population, which has its own Wikipedia page, and is now so notoriously large that it’s spawned a rat-themed sub-genre of tourist attraction.
The merch’s star is an illustrated anthropomorphic rat named Rony, which stands for Rats of New York, presumably a nod to the popular Humans of New York series. Sporting its very own varsity jacket, jeans, and headphones, Rony appears across products including T-shirts, tote bags, matchboxes, and rolling papers, alongside other items featuring rat-themed slogans. Notably, the much debated We ♥ NYC branding is nowhere to be seen, and instead the range features ‘we love nyc’ in a simple cursive.
It’s hard to tell on first viewing but maybe Rony will become an unlikely mascot for the city. Rarely is poor sanitation a selling point for either residents or tourists, but perhaps that’s just the kind of dystopia we live in now.