Designer James C. Taylor of Pennarello Design created these great corporate logo versions of Manhattan neighborhoods, from the Lower East Side to Harlem. The Lower East Side, formerly home to dive bars, is recharacterized as the Gap logo. SoHo, the classic industrial-zone-turned-artist’s-haunt, is now given the logo of Japanese behemoth Uniqlo. Chelsea, the theater district, is rebranded as a Chase Bank logo.
It’s a statement on, if not a protest of, the corporatization of Manhattan, in which the formerly distinct neighborhoods are taken over by enormous brands, thanks in part to the extra-long, extra business-friendly Bloomberg administration. Says Taylor:
The project itself was borne out of my increasing frustration and disillusionment with the deteriorating state of Manhattan’s retail landscape. I’ve only lived in New York for seven years, but in that relatively short time I’ve seen this aspect of the city change dramatically, often at the expense of variety, diversity and quality.
James is a British native, a transplant to New York, but his work of late, from graphic design to photography, has focused on capturing the city he now calls home. And the neighborhoods are a major part of any experience of New York.
Only New York has this many neighborhoods with nationally known identities in their own rights. San Francisco has Haight-Ashbury and the Mission; further south there’s Hollywood and West Hollywood; maybe in Chicago you’ve got Wicker Park. But New York’s neighborhoods are almost brands in their own right, from the tony Upper West Side to the grungier East Village to the artsy theater district of Chelsea.
That’s what makes it all the more damning that the logos are just as identifiable. “I simply selected the brands and companies that seemed most prevalent on the streets of Manhattan, whose ubiquity would guarantee familiarity,” Taylor says. And no longer does Manhattan feel grungy or artsy to him (though the Upper West Side may never cease to be tony):
The city that once prided itself on its contrariness to the rest of the United States now seems content to invite corporate America onto its shores, encouraging the very same monotony from which people used to come here to escape. Consequently, New York instead now attracts a very different kind of transplant: one that can continue to live a suburban existence surrounded by the familiar comforts of whatever town they came from.
It’s a relatively common complaint among New Yorkers; just recently, Williamsburg residents protested the opening of a Duane Reade. And it has elements of longing for the Bad Old Days, when Times Square was dangerous and Brooklyn might as well have been New Jersey. But it’s emblematic of a cycle of movement and gentrification that pushes poorer people around the city in search of affordable housing. James’s depiction is simple and powerful: look what the city has become.