The iconic golden arches of McDonald’s stand tall and strong for all the world to see. Although the fast food chain has roots dating back to the 1940s, the brand remains a symbol of success among countless others – with over 40,000 restaurants in 118 countries across the globe.
While the logo has evolved to embrace aesthetics and innovation over the decades, it’s still easily identifiable as the sun. This blog discusses the fascinating journey of McDonald’s logo history, highlighting the changes in its design trends over the years. More importantly, we’ll dive deep into the essential qualities of the logo that make it instantly recognizable by all. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.
The Evolution of McDonald’s Logo – From Past to Present
The story of McDonald’s logo evolution begins in 1940 when two brothers, Maurice and Richard McDonald, decided to open a small barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The original McDonald’s logo was much different from the one we see today. Back then, it was very basic, just a simple rectangle logo made up of three lines of text in black on a plain white background.
By 1948, McDonald’s tweaked the logo, switching the color of the background and letters while adding an image of a smiling chef. More importantly, the logo was edited to incorporate several details to showcase the main selling points of the fast food chain.
For instance, the word ‘barbecue’ was replaced with ‘hamburgers’ as the latter was gaining more popularity in the US. The logo reflected the change that McDonald’s was now a hamburger joint. Plus, the super competitive price was added to both top corners, drawing attention to its budget-friendly meals. And finally, the phrase ’Buy em by the bag’ highlights another trending option – takeaway foods. This logo stayed with the brand for five years.
But by 1953, the logo changed completely. Color was introduced along with a mascot named Speedee, a hamburger-faced chef, in the center of the logo. ‘McDonald’s’ in red lettering appeared for the first time, which we see still associated with the brand today.
While ‘15¢’ remained on the logo to indicate the price point hadn’t changed, a red banner reading ‘Coast to Coast’ symbolized the expansion of the brand in franchises. This logo stayed with the company for several years.
As the logo changed, the McDonald brothers were also interested in altering another aspect of brand identity – building a restaurant with a golden arch on each side. Stanley Clark Meston saw the potential in such a design, not only to help the brand stand out dramatically but also to bring attention to the fast food chain. This double gold arch design played a key role in McDonald’s logo evolution, staying with the brand for years to come.
In 1961, the first version of the logo with the iconic golden arches was created by Jim Schindler. It was inspired by the architecture of the company’s restaurants designed by Meston, and it’s similar to the one we know today. The double arches overlapped to form an ‘M’ shape with the classic yellow and red colors of McDonald’s with the brand name appearing under it. The text remained consistent with just a few moderations over the years.
By 1968, the logo was slightly modified. The inner ends of two arches converged into a single line instead of overlapping, making the logo look more like a letter ‘M’. The diagonal line was removed, and the brand name written in black crossed through the arches.
In 1975, the design of the logo remained simple and classic. However, some changes were made to its colors. A red background text was introduced, while the McDonald’s text switched from black to white. Since this original McDonald’s logo is still used by the company, it is the most recognizable version of the brand, making the insignia instantly recognizable across all age groups.
The drastic changes witnessed through the McDonald’s logo history ended after this phase. The logo had only slight variations incorporated into its design. For instance, in 1992, the red background was removed, and a red trapezoid was added below the golden arches.
However, this change stayed for about a year before the brand removed all lettering to leave a plain logo – just the golden arches on its own. This minimalist version has remained more or less the same since then, looking modern and stylish for decades. And yes, the logo still makes people all over the world smile. The only difference is the use of a new tagline in 2003 – I’m lovin’ it to the logo.
Lessons to Learn From McDonald’s Logo History
There’s no doubt McDonald’s logo is a great example of branding done right. Let’s highlight some of the key points:
1. Powerful Logo Design Elements
There are several design elements to consider, such as:
First off, the simplistic shape of the logo used by McDonald’s has been quite consistent for the past several decades. So people are already familiar with the golden arches that resemble an ’M’, helping to tie in the name of the fast food chain with the logo and reinforcing the brand. In fact, the shape of the logo can be traced back to the architecture of their first franchise, opened by Ray Kroc in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955.
The logo utilizes two signature hues – red and yellow – to grab people’s attention. The use of these colors has become an essential aspect of brand identity and has stayed with the company for nearly half a century on its signs, packages, buildings, etc.
While McDonald’s color choice was influential in building its visual branding, the colors, on their own, also have a deeper meaning. Psychologists claim that the color red does more than recall the traditional red-and-white checked tablecloths used at diners across the US. It helps stimulate appetite and excitement. On the other hand, yellow is associated with happiness. So the brain processes these colors to create images of cheerful dining experiences.
McDonald’s introduced a custom sans-serif font in the 1960s, called McLawsuit, which is still being used to this day. The clear typography not only streamlines the logo’s appearance but also makes it legible in any size. The rounded edges and simplicity make the brand feel approachable and friendly. Additionally, the absence of visual clutter means there are no distracting elements. This allows the logo to stand out boldly, enabling people to instinctively associate it with the fast food chain.
2. Brand Visibility
While the logo appeared on everything, from packaging to advertising to signage, the McDonald’s corporation invested in developing the visibility of its brand even more. For instance, restaurants were made easily accessible on the US highway system. Moreover, they ensured most people lived within a three-minute drive of a McDonald’s joint. So customers were sure to encounter a McDonald’s wherever they went.
3. Progressive Efforts to Develop Brand Recognition
The design is based on the familiar arch used in the physical architecture of their restaurants. This strategy enables customers to instantly connect the logo with a feature they have seen at the location, an aspect that builds brand recognition in consumers of all ages.
But most of the McDonald’s appeal is directed towards children, like Ronald McDonald, the brightly-painted playgrounds, the tasty finger foods, and the free gifts in all their Happy Meals. Believe it or not, research suggests that children can recognize a brand logo before they recognize their name. Once you’ve got the kids hooked on the brand, they’ll likely be loyal customers for life.
The McDonald’s logo has an interesting story behind it. The success of this fast-food chain lies in the history and legacy of the Golden Arches. The story of McDonald’s logo history emphasizes the importance of basic elements such as shape, font, and color in creating a powerful logo.
Over the years, McDonald’s has perfected its visual identity, using a minimalistic approach with the right color palette to evoke the desired emotions from its customers. The logo stands as proof of the effectiveness of simplicity and consistency in branding.