2021 new brand redesign for McDonald’s looks like…

Example of different mcdonalds packaging rebranding

Brand redesign season is open!

In what we might call the “most anticipated event of 2021,” McDonalds is responding to Burger King’s rebranding with its own branding redesign.

McDonalds brand redesign
Brand redesign is limited to packaging

Just weeks after competitor Burger King launched a new brand identity that quickly became a hit, McDonalds is doing the same with its own packaging.

The branding process was carried out by the New York design agency Pearlfisher, and it honestly looks fantastic.

However, it should be noted that the style is clearly derivative of that made by Burger King. And contrary to the BK rebranding project, it is limited only to the packaging of certain products.

Mc Donald’s Brand Redesign Analysis

In the words of Lauren Vellek, Business Development Director at Pearlfisher, this project was about “Bringing personality to life through simple illustration allows for the packaging to be functionally unique, easy to identify, aesthetically minimal and, most importantly, emotionally joyful.”

For this purpose, a vivid and warm color palette was chosen, clearly reminiscent of the vintage West Coast design of the late 1960s, with simple and geometric shapes, but not rigid. The curves and straight lines coexist fluidly in the different containers and the final result is very harmonious.

brand redesign color palette
The rebranding elements aren’t far away of the classic McDonald’s color palette

Matt Sia, Creative Director at Pearlfisher adds a bit more about this redesign concept: “Our task was finding out what was really special about each menu item to design a system that would make it easy for others to do the same.”

Regarding typography, it is bold, very pleasing to the eye and in colors that combine with the rest of the packaging elements, which creates a pleasant color palette.

brand redesign applied to McFlurry paper cup
Waves of color are used to communicate the McFlurry feeling in McD’s brand redesign

The project consists on vector style illustrations of iconic items off the McDonald’s menu. Each new packaging features an ingredient from the product included inside the pack. For example, the yolk of an Egg McMuffin, the stacking of bread, burger and cheese for the Big Mac, the ocean waves of the Filet-o-fish, or a yellow angular shape for the fries.

According to the press release, these graphic representations of the menu showcase how each element of the menu can be “more connected and evocative of McDonald’s playful point-of-view”.

The McDonald’s redesign summary

In the words of the design company Pearlfinder, the summary of this project is as follows:

A new look for a lasting legacy.

We partnered with McDonald’s on a multi-year effort to redesign their global packaging system. The renewed design brings a sense of joy and ease to the brand through bold graphics.

Placing McDonald’s playful point-of-view front and center, we evolved the brand’s design system away from prominent on-pack messaging, cooking up graphic representations of their iconic menu items instead.

From the cool blue waves on the Filet-O-Fish® clamshell to the golden, melting cheese on the Quarter Pounder® with Cheese, the packaging makes for an expressive, visual system. Each wrapper, clamshell and pack is identifiable, joyful and simple.

With evocative, easy-to-understand graphics, McDonald’s ’new packaging is recognizable regardless of where in the world orders are being assembled, shared and enjoyed.

Pearlfisher’s McDonald’s Project page
Fries packaging design

In our analysis, it should be added that design clearly enters the Sensorial UX field, where shapes and colors are combined with smell, taste and touch in a completely enriching experience. Seeing the yolk of the egg before consuming an Egg McMuffin is much more interesting and anticipatory of a unique experience. Same with ocean waves, or melting cheese from a cheeseburger. Like its competitor, McDonald’s decided that both Sensory UX and Emotional Design are powerful tools to win the hearts of users.

We aimed to find the most special, recognizable and iconic expression of each – celebrating them in a way that makes people smile.

Barbara Yehling, McDonald’s senior director of global menu strategy

A redesign limited to packaging

On the other hand, McDonald’s’ brand redesign doesn’t change much beyond packaging. In other words: its iconic logo remains unchanged, both the pictorial brand and the wordmark. There are also no changes regarding the rest of the user experience: there is no redesign of the mobile app, or a redesign of the website. There is also no room for changes in Physical UX or Service Design.

In short: McDonald’s limits this redesign to packaging and nothing else.

However, the design studio created a visual language that is clearly ready for future developments, both in terms of packaging and other possible uses of this language.

Conclusion: A controversial redesign

We think it’s a shame that this beautiful design language came just after what Burger King did (and probably in response to it). People will compare both redesigns, and BK seems to be the clear winner.

If the BK redesign had not existed, this packaging redesign would be simply spectacular. Unfortunately, the BK project does exist, and it was launched only weeks ago, so the comparisons are justified.

While McDonalds countered with a packaging redesign, it’s just not enough, because its competitor created a complete experience, from brand design to packaging, from Physical UX to User Interfaces, from Sustainable Design to full User Experience based on Sensorial UX. There’s simply no competition.

Nevertheless, we expect this to be just a first hit, and we’re sure there’s more coming under the hood.

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