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Snapshot New York: Looking back at more than 4 decades of the iconic "I Love NY" ad campaign

Snapshot New York: "I Love NY" remains THE iconic ad campaign
Snapshot New York: "I Love NY" remains THE iconic ad campaign 05:32

NEW YORK -- Love comes in many forms, most commonly emerging from a love for a person. But other kinds may be your love for animals, or even a love for a city and the energy on the streets.

A slogan created by one man in 1977 encapsulates the heart of New York.

It is arguably the most successful branding campaign. "I Love NY" is so iconic, it's the worlds most imitated ad. To get to what it really means, we need to understand the man who imagined it.

Graphic designer and New York magazine co-founder Milton Glaser (1929-2020), who created the iconic "I Love NY" logo.  CBS News

"Milton Glaser was one of the most significant graphic designers of the 20th and 21st centuries," said Beth Kleber, head of archives at the School of Visual Arts.

His most recognizable piece? You guessed it.

"That would be the 'I Love NY' logo, which is even if you don't live in New York, you're familiar with this piece," Kleber said.

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The logo came about 46 years ago in the midst of a financial crisis.

"New York State was suffering financially. Tourism was down. Broadway theaters were empty. And the Department of Commerce in New York State was trying to think about how to bring visitors back to New York State," Kleber said.

"It involved a theme and music and commercials," she added. "But they needed a logo and they went to Milton Glaser."

Which was the one we know today as the "I *heart* NY" sort of a proto-emoji kind of design.

"I Love New York" logo is seen on a bus in New York City on Oct. 22, 2022. Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

"I just love that it was designed in the backseat of a taxi cab. That's quintessential New York," CBS2's Steve Overmyer said.

"You gotta be ready when the inspiration hits you, no matter where you are," Kleber said.

There was concern the design was too cryptic, that people wouldn't understand it and they wouldn't be able to interpret it.

To take advantage of summer travel, the slogan was fast tracked from conception to product within weeks. Three months after its release, Broadway attendance jumped from 20% to 90%.

"Did this slogan save New York?" Overmyer asked.

"Who's to say? As a long-time New Yorker, I understand how New York City plays in how I think about myself, and I think New Yorkers have a relationship with the place they live that is not common. It sort of becomes who you are," Kleber said.

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A love of a city is kind of a unique thing. Maybe through an artistic design you can get out all the things that make you proud and happy about living in New York.

It's a piece of design that's not trying to sell anything.

"It's a statement," Overmyer said.

"Exactly," Kleber said.

The slogan has become a more iconic symbol of New York than yellow cabs and has been the slogan of New York ever since.

FLASHBACKMilton Glaser, designer of "I Love NY' logo, dies at 91

After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Milton revisited the "I Love NY" logo. Eventually, he arrived at "I Love NY More Than Ever." The heart represents the shape of Manhattan. The smudge represents the World Trade Center on the map.

A man on the street reads the back page of the Daily News, which carries Milton Glaser's new version of his famous slogan "I Love NY" and reads, "I Love NY More Than Ever" on Sept. 19, 2001. Photo by Viviane Moos/Corbis via Getty Images

It took a very recognizable symbol and reminded people what it meant to them -- unity and solidarity, traits we once again needed during COVID. In 2020 at the age of 91, Glaser's final months of life were spent creating a new inspirational message.

"That project was the word 'Together,' revisiting New York as this melting pot of people. Despite the fact we have our differences, there's a way for all of us to work together," Kleber said.

It showcases a commonality between people. As for the heart itself, Glaser once said, "No one thing symbolizes the heart. At our heart is cultural diversity, and everything and everywhere is the heart of New York."

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