How Brand Identity Can Be Flexible And Consistent

Chris WrenAugust 6, 20193 min

Open any brand guidelines and you’ll likely find a page or two about correct logo usage. As one of the most sacred elements of any brand, strict instructions on amount of padding, what it can and can’t be placed next to or on top of, purposely limit choices to avoid a free-for-all of activations.

At Turner Duckworth, they’ve reimagined how McDonald’s expresses their brand, and have come up with a stunning visual identity. McDonald’s ‘golden arches’ are one of the best-known marks in the world. That’s equity you don’t want to gamble with, but Turner Duckworth felt it was being under-utilized. Jenny Brewer provides a great recap of the brand updates over at the It’s Nice That blog:

  • Color: A more disciplined palette anchors around the gold and red, with gold being emphasized. The agency shifted the color targets for legibility and “optimum foodiness”.
  • Photography: The brand is steering away from unrealistic props so common in the QSR category like cutting boards, marble counters and glass bowls. Instead, they will focus on where the food is enjoyed. This is more authentic.
  • The logo: The logo isn’t changing, but how it can be used is getting more relaxed. “The Golden Arches are an extremely well-crafted, recognized asset, that symbolizes a sense of welcome, familiarity, connection, etc, but they were hidden away or shown small and preciously,” the team explains. So, Turner Duckworth developed a system it calls “Archery” which sees the arches used in new ways – oversized, cropped, angled, bold, even implied (exemplifying their recognizability).
  • Icons: Icons feature staple items from the menu, but they aren’t cleaned up and polished to perfection. “Anyone can draw a burger or fries, so we needed to set the graphics apart in a distinctly McDonald’s way. ‘Flawesome’ is one of our creative principles for the brand. It’s about celebrating imperfection rather than hiding it.” So, the illustrations will show cheese melting or ketchup on the end of a french fry. These carry over into branded apparel and other digital tactics.
  • Typeface: A number of different typefaces have been consolidated in favor of Speedee, a new typeface that takes inspiration from the McDonald’s wordmark and the form of the golden options.

There are a few things happening here that brands should pay attention to. First, bending and stretching your logo isn’t an instant death sentence for the brand. Think about how movie studios use their intro animations to feature films. The Universal Studios globe has often been altered to lead into the intro credits or scenes. Same with the Paramount Mountain or the MGM Lion. You can use elements of your identity to add motion and create greater association in unexpected places.

Second, this idea of “flawesome” is actually quite awesome. In recent years, we’ve seen more brands pursuing authenticity over perfection. Ditching standard photography elements in the industry for photos of food being enjoyed is much more compelling than seeing white linen tablecloths. Also, it’s a nice touch to show imperfections in the illustrations like sesame seeds sprinkled on the bun.

Finally, the way McDonald’s has packaged up their guidelines is one of the best I’ve seen. You’re familiar with 200 page PDFs brands roll out to drive agency and global execution. These overly long, and comprehensive documents can be a challenge to navigate and understand, unless you’re very interested in that type of content. Instead, they’ve created a design hub which is an online repository of inspiration and brand assets. Instead of a massive brand book, they’ve atomized the content into cheat sheets, a smaller set of pages that spell out the new identity in a way audiences can consume (and in a format that is easy to update).

Think about how you can bend your brand’s identity to fit into our ever-changing world.

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