- Hulton Archive/Getty
- Everyone is familiar with McDonald’s famous golden arches.
- But if one design agency had its way, the burger chain’s logo and packaging would have looked completely different than it does today.
- Employees at The Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology recently stumbled upon prototypes from a 1973 Unimark International pitch to overhaul the fast-food joint’s packaging and signage.
- Photos from the center’s Instagram feature simple, retro packaging that one Twitter user deemed “the most 1973 thing I’ve ever seen.”
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We’re all familiar with the classic golden arches that signify McDonald’s cheap burgers and salty fries.
But if one design agency had its way back in 1973, the restaurant’s logo and packaging would have looked completely different than it does today.
Forty-six years ago, the design firm Unimark International studied McDonald’s stores and pitched the fast-food brand on a revamp of its packaging and signage. The Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology has been tasked with digitizing the former agency’s records.
Employees who recently stumbled upon prototypes from Unimark International’s pitch posted their findings to the center’s Instagram to show how different the packaging might have looked had the designs been approved.
View this post on Instagram
What if Unimark International did McDonald's packaging and signage? In 1973, Unimark did a series of studies of the McDonald's stores. The analyzed everything and interviewed employees, managers, and customers. One area they concentrated on was improving packaging and giving the signage in stores a consistent look. We have been digitizing the Unimark International records and found these images of what could have been! They found the apple pie packaging was universally loved, but questioned whether the McDonald's symbol should be on the trash cans. Also the uniforms were definitely not "exciting" enough. #design #modernism #unimark #mcdonalds #1970s #packaging #graphicdesign #designarchives #slides #fastfood #signage
According to The Vignelli Center’s Instagram post, Unimark International concluded its study by finding that McDonald’s apple pie packaging was “universally loved,” but had doubts about the chain’s decision to brand restaurant trash cans and bathroom doors with its signature golden arches.
“Also the uniforms were definitely not ‘exciting’ enough,” the Instagram caption read.
Michael Bierut, a graphic designer, partner of design consultancy Pentagram, and a teacher at Yale School of Art, recently tweeted photos from the firm’s proposal.
While we're at it let's throw in this rejected McDonald's packaging proposal, from Unimark International, 1973. Had no idea these existed until they popped up in the @VignelliCenter IG feed this week @DesignMuseum #FontSunday #Helvetica pic.twitter.com/buUng02ZvL
— Michael Bierut (@michaelbierut) April 7, 2019
Some people were excited about what could have been.
I would eat at McDonald’s every day if they had this aesthetic
— Brian Duffy (@brianduffytweet) April 7, 2019
Beautiful they should bring these back
— Davar (@Dazarbeygui) April 7, 2019
However, others felt that the design was too dependent on the times.
That is the most 1973 thing I’ve ever seen
— Alexandra Lange (@LangeAlexandra) April 7, 2019
tfw you smell a hot apple pie in a streamlined alternate future pic.twitter.com/wHtHYeErNA
— Justin Fowler (@jmfowl) April 7, 2019
Either way, it’s interesting to think about how the restaurant’s brand and legacy might have changed had it implemented these design changes.
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