Two Elements of a McRedesign

By Tk Published on .

Among McDonald's efforts to restore some tone to its flabby arches are the "Simple, Bold" retail identity campaign from the Chicago office of Arc Worldwide, and new restaurant prototypes from Lippincott Mercer, New York. "Simple, Bold" reflects McDonald's "increased focus on the retail environment," according to Arc. "In particular, McDonald's is interested in using its 13,500+ restaurants to raise awareness about its commitment to quality and freshness. The campaign articulates McDonald's 'extreme' makeover with art by photographer Leigh Beisch, who has photographed real ingredients in natural light to convey McDonald's commitment to new, fresh tastes." The object is to "achieve a branded look and feel at the restaurants and improve the customer's experience with simpler and more attractive menu boards."

Similarly, Lippincott Mercer's "refreshed restaurant design" is part of what it calls McDonald's "high-impact reimaging program." The transformation includes: "Reimaged exteriors with architectural, signage and graphic enhancements that update the look of the classic 'double-mansard' design; 'deplasticized' counter areas with new material palettes to help create a more food-credentialed tone; and zoned seating configurations in the dining areas to create more variety and choice in how customers can use the environment." Entertainment components such as WiFi, programmed music and video were included as part of the design, along with fixtures, furniture and lighting intended to "communicate a clean, comfortable and wholesome dining experience with a contemporary aesthetic." Finally, drive-thrus were transformed into "inviting and highly communicative zones with lenticular graphics providing an animated and engaging travel path to brightly lit covered order stations."

So what do other designers think of all this? Re the store design, "The golden arch has become a golden swoosh," says Martyn Tipping, president of New York-based brand consultancy TippingSprung. "By taking the curves and bulges out of the arches, they've made the design element much leaner and sleeker." But he considers it a "baby step. Incorporating the golden color into the store design is not a bad first step either, but it would be nice to see more personality injected into the store, and some elements that tie into the eating experience and communicate taste. All in all, I think they tried to create the notion of a contemporary version of the classic American diner, but it could have been pushed much further."

The in-store signage is "certainly an improvement from previous signage," says Jonathan Asher, president of New York-based brand and design consultancy Dragon Rouge USA. "These are more focused, less cluttered and they better highlight the food; however, they also feel a bit rigid and formulaic, possibly even industrial." On the store design: "Given the difficult balance that must be struck between imagery and functionality, the new designs are pretty good, but I do think they're still a bit more industrial/institutional than they have to be."

"I appreciate the attempt to contemporize the physical iconography here-literally breaking the arches to create a design element for exterior graphics and signage-but I wonder whether the aesthetic is faithful to the brand," says Graham Clifford of New York's Graham Clifford Design. "For me, McDonald's isn't a restaurant, and yet that kind of environmental symbolism, detail and spatial relationship are precisely what is being imposed here-on a fast-food franchise. The templates don't quite fit. And I think that'll become even more apparent with customer interaction. Regular usage will make these interiors look even more jarring-and possibly shabbier-than a conventional layout would."

"The new stores look modern, sophisticated and all grown up," says Chad Rea, CD at advertising/design shop 86 the Onions, Venice, Calif. "If that's McDonald's new positioning, then good job, but I'm not sure how many kids will be sitting up straight in their chairs eating hamburgers with silverware." Re in-store signage, "there's nothing unique about the layout or type. And while it may be trendy to pick bright primary colors these days, I'd suggest sticking with two or three-say yellow and white-instead of the entire Skittles rainbow. The photography looks like pretty much every other restaurant's food photography. Don't get me started on the copy."

For the signage, "I'd use illustration and get rid of photography," says Alexander Gelman of New York's Design Machine. "Just loose color pencil drawings and paint. The imagery needs to be fresh and fun. Retouched photography and 'clever' word puns are passe and don't work anymore; it's just fake and uninviting."

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