McDonald’s Harnesses The Power Of Minimalistic Ad Design

McDonald’s may be one of the most iconic brands throughout the entire world. When you see the golden arches peeking over a hillside, you know exactly what awaits inside. We know the jingles, the one-of-a-kind taste, the yellow and red accents that we all recognize from anywhere in the world. Plus, their signs say it all: BILLIONS SERVED.

It’s no question that McDonald’s holds a special power that reaches far into the minds of people around the globe. It’s this same omnipresent, pop-culture grasp that makes their newest ad campaign possible. McDonald’s recently teamed up with the Leo Burnett agency out of London and Minnesota-based designer, David Schwem. The group collaborated on a unique ad design that relies on the power of imagination and memory.

The idea was strikingly simple and started with one simple question: Are McDonald’s products so well-known that you can recognize them without being told who the ad is from?

The answer is a resounding yes.

The name for the campaign is Iconic Stacks and that’s exactly what the ads are. McDonald’s most-loved items – Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish and Sausage & Egg McMuffin – were recreated using one simple font and a handful of unassuming colors. The design paints a picture in a person’s mind without using any pictures at all. Simple elements like the layering of words coupled with the individual colors introduce values associated with food without making it obvious.

Each ingredient was vertically listed in the order that they appear in each item. A basic Helvetica font was used and each word was colored so that it matched the color of the item in real life. Even the unforgettable special sauce found a place in the Big Mac stack. The specific layering coupled with the colors give viewers just enough information to create their own visualization of each product.

“The minimalist approach developed from the needs of the communication. Simplicity. Nothing should distract. Everything is a ‘slave’ to the idea,” said creative director Pete Heyes.

It’s such an unbelievably simple design but its impact is huge. There aren’t too many brands who could be recognized globally by such a minimalistic design, but it’s perfect for a brand with a fan base as massive as McDonald’s. The campaign was partially inspired by a project that David Schwem did nearly a decade ago. It was simply titled Type Sandwiches and it listed various well-known sandwiches by their ingredients only.

Iconic Stacks has already done what it set out to do. People are already talking about the creativity and power behind the campaign. Its playful design and memorable-effect are exactly what any great design team strives to achieve.

The implications and reach of such a simple advertising campaign speaks to the power and depth of branding. The McDonald’s brand goes far beyond clown shoes and golden arches. Just the specific combination of ingredients proves to be enough to recognize the McDonald’s brand worldwide. Most importantly, the campaign highlights the significance of color and placement in advertisements. It is also proof that simple ad designs sometimes hold the greatest power.