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Did You Like The I Love MCR Post-Riot Branding?

Creative Lynx and Manchester Met came up with some other ideas

Published on March 7th 2012.

Did You Like The I Love MCR Post-Riot Branding?

IN RESPONSE to August 2011’s looting and vandalism, the city council quickly commissioned the ‘I love MCR’ campaign ­aimed at re-uniting the city and promoting its strengths.

The campaign is still highly visible.

First seen in the Seventies by renowned designer Milton Glazer, the I LOVE NY campaign was groundbreaking ­ and duly recycled, reinterpreted and re-hashed around the globe. It has some impact. And still does. The I LOVE MCR iconography underlines that.

Creative Lynx believes the fact that Manchester has adopted the I LOVE NY campaign and continues to use it in various incarnations is lazy

But why did we have to steal the New York idea?

Manchester graphic design company Creative Lynx believes it was wrong to do so. They think it was lazy.

Manchester, they say, 'is a city of firsts, steeped in culture and creativity with a significant graphic design legacy and­ its achievements are backed by a maverick confidence like no other'.

They thought they could do better.

I Love Mcr PosterI Love Mcr PosterFor them the current 'identifier' serves only as a reminder of a missed opportunity to show the world what Manchester is all about, in otherwords­ visionary and creatively astute. Apparently the I LOVE MCR icon lacks the ambition and confidence to do something new.

So Creative Lynx teamed up with students at The Manchester School of Art, at Manchester Metropolitan University. They wanted to start a 'conversation' about the identity of Manchester as a whole ­with the intention of engaging both the design industry and the public to create something more representative of the city.

The next stage is to open up the forum on a more formal level at the Manchester Design Symposium on Wednesday 21 March. 

Confidential thinks this: Despite being trite, the immediacy of the I LOVE MCR did have instant appeal to people in the region. So two questions. Are Creative Lynx being too precious about 'design'? And would a more distinctive and 'more Manchester' campaign have worked better?

Possibly not.

But still it's interesting to look through these designs below, and pick your own favourite.

The brief for the students

Re-imagine the identity in a way that encapsulates what Manchester is about. No Hearts. No clichés. Create an expression of Manchester that puts the people of Manchester at the core of it, but will be seen by the rest of the world. This is not an inward investment campaign nor is it a tourism drive.

School of Art ideasSchool of Art ideas

IMG_3158-Edited School of Art ideas

IMG_3161-EditedSchool of Art ideas


IMG_3156-EditedSchool of Art designs

IMG_3167-EditedSchool of Art designs

IMG_3170-EditedSchool of Art designs

IMG_3173-EditedSchool of Art designs

School of Art ideasSchool of Art ideas


IMG_3176-EditedSchool of Art designs

IMG_3177-EditedSchool of Art designs

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Marcelle HoltMarch 7th 2012.

really can't stand the 'I LOVE NY' rip off, It felt patronising and corporate at the time, like i was being spoon fed how i should feel about my city at a difficult time, I also find it embarassing design wise, that we can't put forward anything origional. i'd like to see it gone.

AnonymousMarch 7th 2012.

I agree with them - the "I Heart" campaign was a lazy cliché - whilst the intention was there and time obviously limited in rolling something out quickly in response, why use something so already synonymous with other major cities (especially New York - you still see countless "I Heart NY" tshirts on the streets)?

I'd say it is time to move the campaign on into something new, unique and identifiably Manc - we've already have a number of highly individual campaigns, slogans and signifiers in the past - "On the 6th day, God created Manchester" comes immediately to mind - so let's pool the talent we have in this city to push this forward to something more relevant.

AnonymousMarch 7th 2012.

All of these others are so much more interesting. Most other cities in the UK (and probably the world) have the 'I heart' branding.

Also - was it designed to bring the city together? Or was it designed to sell things to all the middle class people who thought it was finally ok to hate 'chavs' out loud? And an opportunity to have a (money-making) festival, where all those fixie riding, Northern Quarter types who'd been carrying brooms about on the morning of the riots were able to get drunk in the streets and leave their litter everywhere... only to be cleaned up by paid events staff?

Where was the #ManchesterCleanup on the morning after the fesival?

SmittyMarch 7th 2012.

I'm guessing that none of the commentators above were there when this I Love MCR campaign began. I was. It was in the immediate aftermath of the riots when hundreds of people came out on the streets the next morning to help with the clean up.

There was some face painting being done, and a number of people painted I Heart MCR on their faces. That spread and a load of people did the same. Some people turned up in the I Heart MCR t-shirts that you could already get in the visitors' shop.

The reason why the I Heart NY image has been ripped off so much across the world, including Manchester, is that it is simple, clear and actually quite powerful. The I Heart MCR campaign was born in the clean up, it was as a result of the spontaneous actions of individuals who were there on the day. And then it spread.

The campaign served its purpose, and it served it well. You guys may not have liked it, which is fair enough. But the fact that so many people across the city wore the badges and t-shirts, flew the flags and stuck up the posters, demonstrates that it resonated with many. The fact that business got on board as well is a good thing, in my opinion. When that massive banner went up on the CIS Tower I was genuinely proud to be an adopted Manc.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGMarch 8th 2012.

That's a good posting, Smitty. Someone positive! I liked the I heart MCR and I appreciate it's not original. But given the speed at which the riots (looting) happened and were subsequently cleaned up, full credit to all involved (except, of course, the looters) and for even having time to come up with an identity at all. If we'd had months to plan in some fancy branding, fine, but we didn't! (Some of the design ideas are very good by way...)

Steve WaringMarch 7th 2012.

Jonathan, firstly, thanks for covering this. As I was part of the project, and set the brief to the students at The School of Art, I just wanted to make a couple of points:

"Are Creative Lynx being too precious about 'design'?"

– I don't think it is about being precious about design, it is challenging the frankly mundane. Fundamentally, as stated above, the 'I HEART MCR' campaign was simply a missed opportunity to do better. I/we have a problem with both the 'idea' and execution of the campaign – the two fundamentals of design.

"...would a more distinctive and 'more Manchester' campaign have worked better? Possibly not."
– This is the ideal opportunity to find out. I think it should be pointed out that I agree that the initial campaign did a job – to an extent – the marque is so identifiable – and so resonated with a lot of people, but that does not mean it should become THE official/unofficial identity of Manchester – which could well happen if something isn't done. Have a look at the recent 'I HEART FEB' campaign as a starter.

Original? No. Modern? No.

With that in mind, we set the brief to the students to re-imagine both what could have been done, and outline a vision for what could be done in the future, as a starting point to begin the conversation. This process will be continued at The Manchester Design Symposium – the ideal forum – where it will give exposure to both the student work and the notion of driving something new forward.

There can be nothing other than positives from wanting to do better, surely?

SMITTY: It was in the immediate aftermath of the riots I agree, and the way people came together was inspiring. I love a bit of face-painting – if it spreads some love why not – but it doesn't mean we have to continue to adopt a 40 year old identity created for New York – even if it was a quick turn around.

Steve Waring
Creative Lynx

1 Response: Reply To This...
SmittyMarch 7th 2012.

Hi Steve. I deliberately didn't comment on the creative efforts from this project but, personally, I find them pretty uninspiring and lacking emotional engagement. Given your criticism of the I love MCR campaign, it's perhaps ironic that I can say with all honesty that I've seen all of this before...

Steve Waring shared this on Facebook on March 7th 2012.
AnonymousMarch 7th 2012.

I agree with Steve's comment above, the campaign was fine as an immediate response to the problems of the summer, but that should have been it. To carry on 'I love MCR' as 'MCR loves Xmas' and 'MCR loves Feb' is just lazy and missing a great opportunity. Please Marketing Manchester don't launch 'MCR loves London 2012'

1 Response: Reply To This...
crispy40March 8th 2012.

Absolutely agree with this, and with Smitty's point that it did feel like somewhat of an organic process from the people of Manchester - but that was then and this is now, MCR loves Xmas was already a little tired, MCR loves Feb just doens't make much sense, what's te betting there'll be a MCR loves Easter execution soon?? It was a nice execution when it launched but it is not a campaign idea in it's own right...

HorrorsMarch 7th 2012.

I actually quite like it!! The fact that no other city decided to do it in the uk shows how unique we are. Yes it's an easy choice as its just a copy of I LOVE NY, but it's unique to MCR and should not be slagged off. It promotes our city and hopefully brings it together. Some of the best things are designed from other great things. Just go with it and support the city.

Chris GMarch 8th 2012.

The I Love NY concept simply worked/s. And because it's so simplistic it gives the desired message impact. The heart says what it does on the tin. It's to immediately capture your attention and pride. Which evidently it did/does. A concept that works, why not jump on the band wagon? It's all down to the heart; what do you think of when you see a heart shape? It's friendly and nostalgic. If Manchester Marketing were to produce a different graphic, including the heart shape; people would say it's not as effective as the NY concept. To be completely honest with you, all respect to the Universities for the work above, but I think most of them look like radio station logos. Too corporate.

FurFoxAcheMarch 8th 2012.

I think Smitty is right. Something was required in the aftermath of the riots and it was needed quickly. The immediately identifiable slogan hits the right notes with people and it worked. However, we need to move away from that and have something fresh, new and Manc! I'm not sure any of the above actually fit the bill at all and wouldn't have had the same initial impact as "I love MCR".

KLEOMarch 8th 2012.

It strikes me that those that are happy to keep the 'I Love' campaign have no creative imagination, or any idea of what could be.

YES - the I Love Mcr campaign was right post riot.

NO - we should definitely not keep it.

The students work is a starting point - from students (who are obviously still learning their field and these aren't the suggested finished items). Will there be an article after the Design Symposium as to whether more designers will be taking it on?

Whistle BlowerMarch 8th 2012.



Phil BirchenallMarch 8th 2012.

Good on Creative Lynx and MMU for trying to break what's fast becoming a logo adopted right across the city. There's nothing original or modern about the 'I heart Mcr' marque, and though it served a purpose at the time, we need to take a good look at how the city is viewed internationally. Simply aping what was, in context, a great design does a massive disservice to the creative community we have in this fair city.

Having gone nuts when I saw the logo emblazoned across Manchester Central the other day, I was kind of hoping that others would feel the same.

I think it's a little premature to be 'judging' the work that the students have done. My take on this is that they're exploring ideas & concepts which may, or may not, be developed further. The really important thing is that we have an open discussion about the city, and how it should be represented.

Let's welcome that the discussion is being had, rather than us all sleep-walking into the permanent widespread adoption of a logo that was never intended to be anything other than temporary.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Steve WaringMarch 9th 2012.

Excellently put Phil.

GmanMarch 8th 2012.

I HEART MCR. Original and/or modern? Don't be silly. The fact that something needs to be implemented quickly (i.e. immediately after the riots) should never be used as an excuse for laziness.

AnonymousMarch 8th 2012.

actually I am thinking about commissioning a graphic for some for our Quarter. It will of course include 'i love' or rather we luv

AnonymousMarch 8th 2012.

Graphic students are no all at MMU. They are also at Manchester College an many graphics professionals come via the colleges.

Flic EMarch 12th 2012.

I know this is students' work and therefore it's unfair to critique it as if it's the finished product. The execution is great, professional, sharp.. but I have one question for all of them- where is the warmth? Manchester is not a brand of technology, or a global industry conference. It's a city that contains humans, some of whom quite like each other. I would love to see a design which reflects that, in any way at all.

ljmpoolMarch 13th 2012.

As good as some of these look, they need the emotional attachment and excellent take up by people and businesses all over city, wanting to show their love for the city. It might have been a rip off, and not graphically stunning, but that was not what it was about. It was about loving this city

Sue LangfordMarch 26th 2012.

Wasn't it City Life magazine who battled the license-holders of I*heart*NY about 15 years ago and launched the MCR version? I bought one of those tees!

AnonymousMarch 26th 2012.

Bit late in the day for this isn't it? For such a forward thinking city a lot of Mancunians spend a hell of a lot of their time looking back at things that have already happened.

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