Another NYC Taxi review…

Old Taxi Design Clear

New Taxi Design Clear

Ask a designer about their opinion on just about anything and they’ll have a response. Ask a simple aesthetic question to a civilian about whether they like something or not, you’ll no doubt get an answer. The thing is though, almost everyone forgets after the design has been executed that there was an original brief, usually a process of give and take with the client, and then there’s also the x factor that all influence the outcome. Everyone has an opinion on the new taxis in NYC, but there’s a lot of elements and questions that kind of make it an interesting exercise to talk about. I’m actually surprised it’s taken a couple weeks for the opinions of the NYC Taxi to take off. I don’t think the talk really got off the ground until the NYT blog post http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/nyc-taxi-logo/ There’s even a template to design your own taxi logo.

One of the first questions is does there even need to be a Taxi logo? UPS is brown, a taxi is yellow – why not leave it at that? This is just a guess, but I’m assuming the Taxi logo will also be used on websites, paper documentation and other peripheral materials. Having a stripe of yellow isn’t probably going to work. So even if everyone recognizes the yellowness of the taxi there still needs to be an identifying mark. I don’t know the history of the the elements “NYC” and Taxi are. The “NYC” part of the mark started making an appearance earlier this year on banners like this.

Taxi Type

Taxi Half Full

Taxi Half Empty

The one thing that really stood out to me about the NYC part of the logo was how my eye identifies the shape from the bottom up, not the other way around. A simple type exercise is that if you cut the bottom half of a word horizontally, typically there’s enough strokes from the word to be able to read it. You read from top to bottom. But as I mention for whatever reason, whenever a taxi has passed me by, I’m reading from bottom to top.

Old Fare

New Fare

I can honestly say that I’ve never read the Taxi fare chart. The old one is fairly confusing while the new one is much easier to understand – but is it even necessary to have on the door? Once the door is closed and the taxi takes off, it’s going to cost what it’s going to cost. The chart on the door isn’t going to make me decide to take a Taxi or not. If I could use that space for information I would suggest placing tips on how to talk to a taxi driver about directions – know your street, then mention the cross avenues… And if the taxi driver starts talking, he’s probably not talking to you but someone on a cell phone. That info would make things a lot easier for everyone including the driver and tourists alike.

Old Taxi Design at Speed

New Taxi Design at Speed

Another exercise is to notice how the old and new side of a Taxi looks as it’s speeding down the street. Which one is easier to identify (pretend for a moment that you don’t notice that it’s a yellow vehicle)? In this context the new logo works really well, even blurred you know that it’s a NYC Taxi.

Old Taxi Sign

But the one element of the Taxi that I wished had been redesigned was the sign on the top of the vehicle. You tell a tourist that if the light’s on, that means that they’re available. That is of course true except when it’s off duty, but the lights are still on and I’m sure there’s a bit of confusion. Why bother mentioning off duty, if the taxi isn’t available – just keep the light off. Or devise a better system. Take away the numbers – perhaps just colours: green for available, red for no, or why not a yes/no system. The sign says yes when they can pick up passengers, no if not.

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  • Myszka

    I don’t like the new logo because it’s blocky and heavy and generally feels like there’s too much going on. I don’t like any of the elements separately, and it’s even worse all together. The “T” in the circle…it looks like it’s supposed to be a subway stop sign. Why is the “T” broken out of the word “taxi” like that? It’s not like “T” is a nickname for taxis. I just don’t get it!

  • Myszka

    I’m with you on the “off duty” thing. You should be able to glance at a taxi and be able to figure out if it’s working without getting an explanation from a local. It’s like the “push yellow tape” sign on the back door of New York City buses. I see people heaving that door open all the time because they don’t see that they can just “push yellow tape” for the doors to swing open.

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  • http://www.weatherpattern.com Ray

    I agree that the off-duty light is confusing, especially if you go to another city, were the light ON been the taxi is NOT free. (I think DC is an example.)

    But for the cab number, it serves the function of being able to identify an individual taxi in case of some emergency. Maybe it’s not the best solution.

  • Myszka

    So, I just read The Times piece linked from here and saw that the new logo that went through three major redesigns based on committee decisions. That makes sense because it literally does look like three (bad and different) logos smushed together. I liked the first design the best, not that it was great either.

    Oh, and I went to Wolff Olins’ site (didn’t know who he was) and saw that he did that Gap (Red) campaign, I was like, uch. That campaign was so lame.

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