When Danny Meyer opened his first Shake Shack kiosk in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Pentagram’s Paula Scher designed the environmental graphics, striking an admirable balance of Coney Island scale with sophisticated letterforms. Since its expansion, Paula has designed new iterations of the identity, maintaining its clean, modern aesthetic and applying it to menu boards, tables, T-shirts, hats and watches.
Shake Shack’s identity corresponds with its take on fast food. Functioning in a new, particularly current category of burger chains working to a high level of quality, its clean, modern aesthetic is instantly recognisable and widely imitated. We thought we’d use the excuse of its latest redesign to take a look at some recent and historic examples of quality and occasionally questionable fast food branding.
First up, how about the creepy McDonalds Corner Cafe that opened near Sydney towards the end of last year. The restaurant cleverly disguised as a hipster cafe serves filter coffee, quinoa and pulled pork, apparently acting as a lab for testing out new menu items. The McDonalds branding has been almost entirely eradicated apart from some discreet nods to “McCafe” and is part of a wider remodelling plan to introduce healthy options and table service. The Corner is all plaid shirts, stainless steel, brown paper and wooden things. Not a laminated chicken nugget in sight.
Now, onto pickles. Madrid-based stand Bombas, Lagartos y Cohetes (which translates as Bombs, Lizards and Rockets) specialises in “banderillas,” bite-size morsels of deli foods skewered together. Design studio Bendita Gloria designed the identity for the stall, art directing Marçal Vaquer’s photographs of the banderillas, where they are depicted in synthetic glory looking very much like their bomb, lizard and rocket namesakes.
Remaining in Spain, studio Two Points created a new identity for Barcelona-based burger chain Bacoa early last year. The visual overhaul covered the logo, interior architecture, printed matter and online collateral. It’s fun, bright and approachable.
We covered IS Creative Studio’s identity for El Pollerio a few weeks ago. Used across all bases from interior architecture to letterheads, the designs are rooted in fast food tradition, packed with humour and clean lines.
While we’re here, let’s take a moment for some of the greats. In N Out Burger was founded in 1948 by Harry Snyder (who apparently created the identity, too) and has restaurants all over the American Southwest. It has a not so secret menu with options like “Animal Style,” “The Flying Dutchman” and Neapolitan shakes. And really, just look at those palm trees.
Jack in the Box is another American fast food chain which would fit pretty much to the tradition if it wasn’t for its use of this terrifying “Jack” in its advertising. Its new logo was designed by Duffy & Partners and Jack appears all over, but most commonly “in the office.” He makes Ronald McDonald look like Mother Theresa.
Finally, White Castle. America’s first ever fast food chain established by Walter Anderson and Billy Ingram, White Castle restaurants not only look like castles – albeit, rendered in sprayed-white steel, but Walter and Billy are credited with inventing the burger bun. According to the brand, they also created the initial identity, too. The burgers are square, the chips are crinkled and it offers candle-lit dinners for two, with table service, every Valentine’s Day. It’s just a plane-ride away.
About the Author
Billie studied illustration at Camberwell College of Art before completing an MA in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art. She joined It’s Nice That as a Freelance Editorial Assistant back in January 2015 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis.