Dive Deeper into the Wonderless

60 years ago, Ed Ruscha started noticing something that a majority of people wouldn’t even give a second thought about apartment buildings. He started taking pictures of those apartments and he soon published those pictures in a book called Some Los Angeles Apartments. When looking at the pictures in the book we can see a pattern start to appear. A majority of apartment buildings seem to take on the same style of square buildings with their names in an eccentric and hard to read font. However, these patterns only appear when we force ourselves to focus on our bland, everyday environment.

Fast forward 60 years and we still have those same apartment building designs along with a few other things that don’t immediately catch our eye. Take the ubiquitous fast-food chain McDonalds for example, looking closer we can see something very interesting.

Photo [cc-by-2.0] 2014 by Mike Mozart

When looking at the buildings McDonald’s is normally seen in, there are a couple of different designs that reoccur in every McDonald’s building. One such design seen in McDonald’s restaurants, albeit far less often, is a design reminiscent of an older era. This design features an angled roof instead of the flat roofs seen in the previous two designs. The roofs are painted using a liberal amount of red on the roof, with either white or yellow highlights in the form of lines on top of the roofs. Looking at this, one can clearly tell that this design is meant for Mcdonald's. The design has a significantly more cartoonish character with slanted roofs and an eye-catching color palette. The color palette mimics that of McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald who often appeared in older television ads. But like Ronald and his television ads, this design is not seen as often in the modern-day.

Photo [cc-by-2.0] 2011 by David Schott

Today there are two predominant building designs one can encounter in their adventure across suburbia. Firstly, we can see the slightly more traditional design, with the characteristic yellow curve indicative of the famous Mcdonald’s “M”. This design employs more earth tone colors with clay-red paint covering most of the building in conjunction with brickwork detailing some walls. These design choices create a rougher feeling around McDonald’s, catching the customer’s eye with the characteristic yellow curve. There are pros and cons to this design in that the design will catch more eyes and will stand out as a McDonald’s among other fast-food restaurants, but it comes at the cost, in my opinion, of feeling less clean and inviting. However, I seem to notice less and less of this type of design as more and more stores remodel to a more modern aesthetic.

Photo [cc-by-sa 3.0] 2010 Jimmy Tan

This second, modern design of Mcdonald's features a more rectangular storefront shape with sharply defined rectangular sections coming together to form the entire building. The exterior is painted with a high-contrast, grayscale color palette, sparingly applying characteristic McDonald’s colors like red and yellow. Notably, this storefront does not make use of a yellow curve, and only features a small “M” logo on the storefront. As mentioned before, it seems like McDonald’s is trying to emulate a more modern design, with high usage of neutral colors instead of the colors seen in the previous design. This effectively creates the opposite effect of the previous design where it sacrifices noticeability and character, instead opting for cleanliness and a hint of sophistication, even though it is still a McDonald’s. Since McDonald’s is remodeling many of their stores to this type of design, it is safe to assume that they prefer this design more than the previous one. But why?

Looking at these three designs, a clear trend is shown in how McDonald’s handles their storefronts. We see a shift away from the old, cartoonish design towards a clean and modern design. My personal theory on this matter is that since McDonald’s has become as big and widespread as it has, it doesn’t need the noticeability that comes from the previous design for people to want to eat there. Therefore, McDonald’s has chosen to focus on cleanliness and customer experience which is helped by the new design McDonald’s has decided to implement. The average person wouldn’t even give second thoughts to a McDonald’s or apartment complex, but when we take our time to find wonder in the wonderless, it can reveal many things.

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THIS A REVISED VERSION OF A PREVIOUS POST:

Wonder in the Wonderless

Left: Photo [cc-by-2.0] 2011 by David Schott Right: Photo [cc-by-sa 3.0] 2010 Jimmy Tan

60 years ago, Ed Ruscha started noticing something that a majority of people wouldn’t even give a second thought about: apartment buildings. He started taking pictures of those apartments and he soon published those pictures in a book called Some Los Angeles Apartments. When looking at the pictures in the book we can see a pattern start to appear. A majority of apartment buildings seem to take on the same style of square buildings with their names in an eccentric and hard to read font. However, these patterns only appear when we force ourselves to focus on our bland, everyday environment.

Fast forward 60 years and we still have those same apartment building designs along with a few other things that don’t catch our eye. Take the ubiquitous fast-food chain McDonalds for example, looking closer we can see something very interesting. There are two predominant building designs one can encounter in their stroll across suburbia. We can see the slightly more traditional design, with the characteristic yellow curve indicative of a Mcdonald’s along with a more modern design with a rectangular shape and high contrast grayscale color palette.

Naturally, one would ask why are they doing this? Wouldn’t it be better for the brand to have a unified storefront appearance? My personal idea is that McDonald’s is in the middle of a transition period, shifting towards a more modern design. I think the modern design gives off a sense of high quality and cleanliness while the older design, though more eye-catching, is more cartoonish and rough. However, since McDonald’s has become as big and widespread as it has, it doesn’t need any noticeability for people to want to eat there. Therefore, McDonald’s has chosen to focus on cleanliness and customer experience which is helped by the new design McDonald’s has decided to implement.

The average person wouldn’t even give second thoughts to a McDonald’s or apartment complex, but when we take our time to find wonder in the wonderless, it can reveal many things.

go away?