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.