The City Of New York Receives A Pictographic Rebrand

The City Of New York Receives A Pictographic Rebrand
Arts & Culture

Marketing company creates a unifed visual language of 250+ icons

Jennifer Passas
  • 20 june 2016

The iconography of New York City is vast: there are countless visual images and symbols in NYC so infused with meaning that people from around the world recognize them immediately as representing New York. Conversely, there are symbols and images that cause, even the most seasoned New Yorker, to scratch their head in confusion. Up until now, the city has had no standardized visual system across agencies and departments, but this week, the city of New York has launched 250 icons to diffuse the clutter.

Emily Lessard, Creative Director of NYC & Company, the marketing organization for the city oversaw the rebrand, redesigned the website, two new typefaces and the city’s first official iconography.

The rebrand is an evolution from the official NYC logo that was designed by Wolff Ollins in 2007. Lessard and her team used the grid from the Wolff Ollins logo to develop the new icons. While the grid used to establish the NYC logo is quite complex, it proved to be useful for designers as a guideline for the new system. Lessard’s team sent out a request for symbols to city government agencies and received 423 submissions back. Her team paired the list down to 250, designing 207 icons on their own and sending the rest out to creative teams in a variety of government agencies to complete.

The new collection also contains a miscellaneous section, which came about from Lessard asking her team to test out the grid system by designing random animals and objects such as an elephant and a sneaker. Many of the more unusual icons made it onto the final list because Lessard and her team felt that they represented the diversity of the city. Included in this miscellaneous list are three different cat icons, which all New Yorkers will recognize as a nod to the beloved bodega cat.


The visual system also includes a web font that all government agencies will be able to use even if they don’t have a dedicated designer or creative team on staff, creating a unified visual language.

+new york
+Visual language

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