This McDonald’s campaign depicts its menu in typographic form

Agency Leo Burnett London worked with designer David Schwen, once known for creating Type Sandwiches, to create posters that neglect to show food, nor even mention McDonald’s.

30 January 2020

There aren’t many brands that can put out a series of billboard posters advertising its product without a single image nor logo nor mere mention of the company name, and still be recognisable – yet McDonald’s might be one of them. The new Iconic Stacks campaign for the fast food chain by agency Leo Burnett London with designer David Schwen plays on the ubiquity of its menu and visual identity to recreate some of its most popular items (Sausage and Egg McMuffin, Big Mac and Filet-O-Fish) in purely typographic form, making for a bravely minimal set of posters.

Schwen runs Minneapolis design studio Dschwen, which has more recently worked with brands such as Fanta, Toyota, HP and Bank of America, but in the early 2010s became internet famous for creating Type Sandwiches – typeset posters listing the ingredients of sandwiches as “word stacks” in the order they would be in real life, hence recreating the meal in type form. This technique has now been employed by Leo Burnett to test the universal knowledge of McDonald’s ingredients, for example: Muffin, Egg, Sausage, Cheese, Muffin. It’s brave for a brand this big, but it works.

“Of course, the finished output looks incredibly simple. But as often is the case with simplicity, a lot of thought was put into reaching that point,” Leo Burnett London creative director Andrew Long tells It’s Nice That. “Our ambition was to use only words and typography to create something that wasn’t really an ad at all, it’s the viewers’ relationship with those words that creates the link back to the brand. When people have such a strong relationship with a particular product or company, sometimes the best approach is to let them remember that for themselves rather than tell them what we think.”

Schwen has also previously worked with McDonald’s Dubai, recreating another of his viral Instagram projects for them. This time it was Pantone Pairings, wherein the designer created Pantone cards featuring duos of food stuffs that belong together, like peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, cookies and milk. For McDonald’s, the Pantone cards featured the seeded bun, mayo, lettuce, ketchup, onions, gherkins, etc cut into square samples, and photographed laid in a vertical line, for a campaign called Universal Sandwiches.

Last year, Turner Duckworth unveiled a huge overhaul of McDonald’s brand identity, complete with a new system to deploy the brand’s iconic Golden Arches, and a typeface created with Dalton Maag called Speedee. So Leo Burnett had a decision to make in this Iconic Stacks campaign: whether to use Speedee or Helvetica, which Schwen had originally used in Type Sandwiches. The team opted for the latter. “Obviously you can imagine the discussions regarding that versus Speedee,” Long says, “but we wanted to respect the designer David Schwen’s original style as well as all those other great Helvetica T-shirt references that inspired us. It had to be this way.”

GalleryLeo Burnett London: Iconic Stacks for McDonald's

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Leo Burnett London: Iconic Stacks for McDonald's

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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