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.
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.
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.
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.
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.