The secret to any good logo is being instantly recognizable, acting as a visual marker of the product, service or value being sold to the masses. Just ask any graphic designer. A pair of mouse ears immediately brings to mind Walt Disney, the interlocked rings in a row brings up the car manufacturer Audi, while a metallic apple makes most people think of… some tech company. I want to say Microsoft?
But the most famous logo in all the world simply has to be that of McDonald’s. It stands as a beacon for all those lost, hungry and in search of a glorious fast food burger; it’s all over the packing of our Chicken McNugget shareboxes, it gets flipped upside-down to commemorate International Women’s Day.
But as you bite into your Big Mac or sip a Shamrock Shake, how often do you think about those Golden Arches?
My money’s on “not very often at all”. Some of the more thoughtful or imaginative among you might note that the logo kind of looks like two french fries bent into the letter M, but where exactly did the idea for the Golden Arches come from? It’s actually a pretty funny story, and to tell it, we’ve got to go all the way back to the very early years of our favorite fast food franchise.
Originally, the Golden Arches were two separate arches, situated on either side of the buildings that McDonald’s founders Dick and Mac McDonald built. Interviewing a ton of architects, the McDonald brothers struggled to find a look that suited the company they were looking to build, until Stanley Clark Meston came up with the design that defined the early days of McDonald’s.
But in the 60s, this fledgling fast food company needed a new look.
McDonald’s looked to Jim Schindler, who thought outside the box and created the most iconic logo of all time. To do this, he looked at the restaurant from a different angle. Literally: Schindler took an abstract view of a McDonald’s location from an angle, where the two arches intersected one another at an interesting way.
From there, he drafted the very first McDonald’s logo, which was developed over time into the logo we know and love today. Isn’t that neat?
Of course, on the internet, there are competing theories as to how the Golden Arches were actually formed.
In the book Fast Food Nation, the author Eric Schlosser thought that a consultant named Louis Cheskin figured that the rounded M shape we see today would attract customers to the restaurant, because they looked like a bit like a pair of breasts. That subliminal link to infant nursing time would drive customers to the restaurant like never before!
It sounds crazy, but when you consider how successful McDonald’s really is, Louis Cheskin might have been onto something. Can we posthumously reward him the Nobel Prize for Psychology? No matter if the Golden Arches were down to the genius of an architect or the result of some Freudian thinking, you can now tuck into that combo meal knowing that you’re underneath the most recognizable logo in the world.