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EP 27 / Bill Gardner / 2021’s most notable restaurant rebrands

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I always love my conversations with Bill. He's extremely insightful and profound in his design thinking. On this week's episode, we dive into the rebrands for Burger King, Papa John's, and Pizza Hut. We unpack what's driving the throwback, retro approaches to these restaurant brands and whether or not it's successful.

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Bill Gardner on Papa John's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and other notable restaurant rebranding projects of 2021
EP 27 / Bill Gardner / 2021's most notable restaurant rebrands

Show Notes


  • “Back in the 70s 80s and maybe 90s, there was a lot of character in restaurant brands… it seems like there was a push to eliminate that.” – Joseph
  • “People forget that the McDonald’s golden arches were the original arches on the building. These things draw this language and vernacular of the architecture of the restaurant. That’s where the color comes from, the pattern, the textures.” – Bill
  • “There’s been this regrasping from the 70s especially – with Stranger Things – the typography, wonderful fat swervy, bold, and spoke of food, people love that.” – Bill
  • “If you didn’t live through it, it’s new to you, but you remember it in a retro way – you remember the good, not the bad.” – Bill
  • “I rarely say this about design … but God, it’s sexy.” – Joseph
  • “If we all believe that brown rectangles are the ugliest thing in the world then why are we building them?” – Joseph, paraphrasing Sagmeister
  • “We brown-rectangled logos and design elements for so long.” – Joseph
  • “Familiarity is what we consider ugly” – Bill, interpreting Sagmeister
  • “If you come to me, I can do (Burger King’s) 2050 logo, the bun will be just enormous on the thing … but the type will be the same.” – Bill
  • “I’m not speaking about how good the product is, I’m just speaking about from a design perspective, I love the fact that they’ve picked up that vernacular and pushing that forward as a brand component.”
  • “Is it lazy? I don’t mean in the amount of thought or work, but it seems like a parlor trick to leverage nostalgia.” – Joseph
  •  “The logo was king, and the application, the visual vocabulary, was the court that went with the king … and it still is to a degree but what smart branding is finding is that the things we remember first are color, pattern, then we get down to the fine granular imagery that you find inside a logo. The color and pattern are becoming more important to brands.” – Bill (edited)
  • “I think it’s only smart. It’s not being lazy. They’re taking advantage of equity that they’ve had over a period of time.” – Bill
  • “Taco Bell ushered in this bright pink purple yellow fluorescent taco bellness, and now they’ve almost gone too far, it’s just a purple bell.” – Joseph
  • “Reminds you of a prophylactic that hasn’t been unrolled.” – Bill
  • “I have kind of a love hate for it. In design we’re always told to take that mark and keep pushing and pushing it until you have pushed too far and then you take a step back because that’s about where people are going to recognize it. I felt with that mark, they pushed it one step too far and forgot to come back.” – Bill
  • “The typography has been completely sanded down to be forgettable and unownable. It’s lost its beauty.” – Joseph
  • “They dropped the apostrophe, which is always a bitch.” – Bill (about Papa John’s)
  • “They labeled ingredients – and I get the thinking … but it’s mozzarella. It’s tomatoes. You don’t need to label them.” – Joseph
  • “Their advertising now is all typography, no product – and I’ll go to fisticuffs on this – you gotta show the product, I don’t care what anyone says.” – Joseph
  • “If you’re saying ‘better ingredients’ then I still have questions. Namely, how is better? Why is it better? What has shifted? Now with 100% less racism?” – Joseph
  • “Where the skies are not cloudy all day – is that the best you could do?” – Bill, about Home On The Range, the state song of Kansas
  • “When we talk about pizza, I’m just realizing that my wife has her preferred pizza from a local chain … I’m still good with a $9 pizza from Pizza Hut.” – Bill
  • “I think they have the same issue as recent Taco Bell, they worked it just a little too much. I see a world where they step back and put the serifs back on.” – Joseph
  • “Dollars and Franchisees” – Bill, on how you make the decision to evolve or rebrand.
  • “Not just how the public will respond to this, but how will the ownership respond to this? Most rebranding that happens, the public is unaware.” – Bill
  • “One brand that has done a fantastic job of evolving is Starbucks.” – Joseph
  • “It’s not as simple as making something in Illustrator … there’s a lot of garnering support within the organization and within that next layer which is the franchisee groups. You gotta get people on board, get people excited, or it will fall flat.” – Joseph
  • “Nothing dulls as quickly as the cutting edge” – Bill, quoting Thomas Schumacher
  • “When something gets abandoned, broadly, somebody else is going to notice that it’s been abandoned and they’ll fill that void.” – Bill

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