What McDonald’s “Stacked Icon” billboards can teach us about logos

McDonald’s recently launched an outdoor marketing campaign which they call “Iconic Stacks”. Each design is a minimalist, typographic representation of one of their classic sandwiches. At face value, it’s a clever and fun way to ask people to pause for a moment and think about their sandwiches. But it’s just type. There are no photos with perfectly poised drips of ketchup or gooey cheese slices at a 45-degree angle. Yet these designs seem to be causing people to think about McDonald’s in a fresh way.

Recently at Force 5, we’ve discussed what is interesting and effective about these delicious examples of typography. We realized there are some parallels in the world of logo design. Here are a few thoughts about logo design inspired by the “Iconic Stacks”:

  1. Too many details can overwhelm: Putting too much information (e.g. every type and model of a product you happen to sell) in a logo is almost never a good idea. If someone can’t glance at a logo for a moment and understand it, it probably isn’t working too well. Decide who you are, what is your essence, and include what you need to communicate that.
  2. Color matters a lot: Color choice in a logo is probably the most important aspect for setting the underlying or subconscious “tone” of the logo. For example, cool colors like blue and purple communicate calm. Warmer colors like red and orange will communicate energy. Good color choices in a logo can say a lot without adding a lot of extra visual information.
  3. Don’t be so literal: Just because you sell lawn mowers doesn’t mean you need to have a lawn mower in your logo. The McDonald’s “Iconic Stacks” show us that you can still say “sandwich” without presenting an actual picture of a sandwich. Again, find the essence of what you do or the products you sell. It is much more interesting for the viewers brain to process a conceptual idea than it is to just be told “hey, look, we sell lawn mowers”.

Take a moment and look at your logo or the logo of a company you admire. What does it say to you (Hopefully you don’t actually hear voices)? What is the overall tone or feeling? Hopefully these three tips will help you think differently about logos…and maybe go get a Big Mac.