Submitted for: Client of the Year

About the Client

It’s quite possible that no brand evokes an image as all-encompassing as McDonald’s. Regardless of where in the world you come from, you are almost certainly familiar with its logo, its jingles, its iconic menu items and its graphic packaging . . . perhaps even the distinctive and remarkably consistent smell of its restaurants. But while this total recognition has long made the company a marketer’s dream, McDonald’s has more recently found itself fighting an uphill battle in the face of new competition and an increasingly health- and image-conscious culture.

In a valiant effort to claw its way back to relevancy, the brand has spent the past four years in the midst of a very conspicuous modernization campaign. In addition to streamlining its menus and improving the quality of its food, it has prototyped and implemented new service models and taken steps to dramatically reimagine its previously dated physical spaces. Nowhere has this been more visible than across the US, where thousands of the archetypal painted-brick and mansard-roofed McDonald’s restaurants that defined the landscape for decades have been replaced by a new generation of stark, modular boxes in just a matter of years.

McDonald’s HQ by Studio O+A

McDonald has uprooted its headquarters from a Chicago suburb to a purpose-built new 45,000-m2 complex in the city’s trendy downtown West Loop, designed jointly by IA and San Francisco-based Studio O+A.

The award-winning space covers nine distinctive floors, each every bit as contemporary as you’d expect from firms known for their work with Silicon Valley iconoclasts like Uber and Slack. Exposed concrete and glass dominate, offsetting monumental site-specific works by artists such as Jacob Hashimoto and Jessica Stockholder – the latter a swirling agglomeration of the various kitchen tools patented by company employees. But rather than an unapologetically techno-futurist control centre or a rehash of the utilitarian minimalism on display at recent McDonald’s restaurants, the overall effect of the complex is a more textural modernity. The overarching theme is of a bright and unfettered progress, but there is also a clear reverence on display for the company’s illustrious history and its attendant iconography, from souvenir penny presses to an abstraction of that unmistakable mansard roof in the dining area – especially refreshing in light of the brand’s recent tabula rasa approach to design.

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McDonald's Paris by Paola Navone

McDonald's tasked Italian designer Paola Navone to create a new visual identity for seven McDonald's stores in France. Developed over the course of three years, Navone's design has already been implemented in stores in Châtellerault, Avignon, Farebersvillers, Gaillard, Sainte Eulalie, Pacé and Paris.

Paola Navone on the Paris location:

'Each detail was specifically designed to create a warm environment. Unique chairs allowing everyone to choose their own, just as we would at home, tables whose patterns recall those of carpets, walls dressed in watercolors making them look as if they were hand-painted, small houses containing a certain number of tables, looking like small huts...'

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Tokyo restaurant by NC Design & Architecture

In Tokyo, the company commissioned NC Design & Architecture to take a restaurant ‘postmodern.’

Nelson Chow, founder of the Hong Kong-based design firm, is one of the four leading global interior designers for McDonald’s. For the redesign in the Japanese capital, Chow and his team created bright, minimalist interiors using finishes such as grey terrazzo, warm wood laminate panels and white grid tiles.

While imbuing much-needed sleekness and sophistication into the brand’s spatial reputation, NCDA didn’t strip the space entirely of McDonald’s playful brand personality. They aimed to bring a sense of warmth by playing with geometric visuals. Striped artwork and signage in the company’s classic mustard yellow and ketchup-red colour scheme balance out monochrome furniture and surfaces. Without those elements, you might not even know you were in a McDonald’s at all.

Tokyo Restaurant By Nc Design Architecture Photo Richard Davies
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