She sits on a black sofa in the bright offices of Smart Design, a design firm based in New York. “Sure, I’m proud to have changed the look of New York,” Claudia Christen says. She smiles sassily, recollecting “that my logo will soon be eternalized forever in movies.” Born in a little village called Toffen, near Berne, the 34 year-old has accomplished something that many immigrants dream of: “My work has an real impact.”
Over a year ago, Smart Design got the assignment to develop the interior of future taxis. The rather shabby exterior attracted the attention of the designer. The firm offered to create a new design, pro bono. Christen, in New York since 1996, got the job.
She found old photographs of taxis in archives. Next, she analyzed modern taxi design. She interviewed cab drivers and tourists visiting New York and found that most drivers didn’t care about the old logo, while visitors were often confused by it.
Christen aimed to eliminate confusion. She wanted to create a design that reflects how she sees New York, a city that constantly grows organically, that is not super clean or very orderly, and where history is important. She created a new font, which she calls “NYC Taxi Type.” With it she wrote the words “NYC Taxi,” as well as the registration number of the cars.
Inspired by the legendary Checker cabs, she reintroduced the checker pattern on the trunk of the car. She positioned a figure that hails a cab with his arm next to the sign with the fare information. Since cabs are seen as part of public transportation, Christen put the ‘T’ from ‘Taxi’ into a circle, a reference to the design of the subways.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved Christen’s work – with a caveat. The letters NYC had to be replaced with the official, rather chubby, brand of the city, even though it doesn’t go well with Christen’s design. Grudgingly, Smart Design accepted the revision. Until the end of January, all 26,000 New York City cabs will be outfitted with the logo of the Swiss designer.
Not every one is pleased. Other designers scoff. Christen takes it coolly. “Whoever puts herself out there and does something big needs to be able to take a lot of stick.”