brand + new + image

 2013-07-30 13.12.57

For the past year or so I’ve noticed changes to the design of a few of the most popular fast food restaurants. Essentially they are investing in a new image to go along with their brand. I’m not here to discuss the quality of the architecture; for now I find that somewhat irrelevant.


I too spent time this year redesigning my own brand with new business cards, letterhead, and web graphics for my own business. All of these graphic changes are to support my vision and business plan just as these renovations support the marketing plan for these well-known restaurants. I may share more about that another time.

logo 2013

If you are a business owner, this is a conversation you need to be having with design professionals. This is a topic of discussion I have with all of my commercial clients. Even if you’re a start-up small business, how you and your business space, façade, office or dining room appears to the public is extremely important. It is common that clients will ask to scale back on the “architecture” of their project because they believe they need something more functional than fancy. They are very stingy frugal in their upfront investment for obvious reasons. This may be hurting more than helping.

With any commercial structure, especially one where a service or goods are offered and sold, shouldn’t the architecture support the image and branding of that business? If you are a business owner (whether in an office, a clothing store or an auto repair garage) the visual appearance of your building or tenant space is as much a part of your brand as the service or goods you sell. To be honest they go hand in hand. I’d go as far to say that if the appearance of the building both inside and out brings business in, then it’s not just aesthetic, it’s functional.

 2013-07-30 13.54.00


Budget is always a concern; everyone has a budget. Therefore the “language” of your expression has to fall within those limitations. However, it doesn’t have to be unappealing. I have seen plain buildings painted vibrant colors with interesting well-designed signs come across as being very appealing and relevant for the type of business they are.

 vacation 2012 246

bright paint and a cool laser cut sign

vacation 2012 275

pink paint and a sign (or that icing?) works for this eclectic richmond, va neighborhood

If you are thinking about this like I am, here are a couple of memorable suggestions

Germane Graphics – design composition, colors, fonts and the business logo needs to be chosen carefully but strategically. Be bold and unique but choose something that says something about your business. Your sign may be just the thing to catch someone’s attention and give your building/tenant space the fresh look it needs. This can even work with a business card. Hire someone to help match your graphics to your image.


this simple, but well designed graphic is the only beacon for this fredericksburg, va restaurant. it announces the entry through an open passageway back to the restaurant beyond. the remaining façade is mostly solid existing brick. it’s message is clear, clean and concise. and yes, the food(e) was really good and the atmosphere pleasant and relaxing.

Double Duty – Whatever visual renovation moves you make should serve as more than architectural bling. An awning could actually provide shade and cover over the entry; don’t just paste it on. Consider a trellis or canopy instead of a fabric awning – it’s permanent just like you want your business to appear. Tinted glass (instead of clear) can provide interesting color as well as solar protection. To save money on the interior, expose your ductwork and roof structure above as part of the ceiling design (careful of acoustic issues). Extend the backs of your booths or banquette to become part of the wall covering.

abie and bimbos pizza

a tired old porch was removed and replaced with a new storefront with an unusual harmonic pattern of bronze and green tinted glass. the storefront serves as solar control against western sun as well as wind control. it provides a new image to the 1950’s building beyond.

Minimize Maintenance – Invest in materials that are durable and will last. Some materials may look great on day one, but months or years later they may look weathered or stained unless cleaned often. Visit buildings in your neighborhood and see which materials hold up to your local weather and people traffic. Brick, stone, tile, metal and other “real” materials tend to last longer and keep their original look. (Avoid “simulated” materials).

 Rialto (15)

bare metal steel railings were used here for lower cost and to avoid having to repaint them. the accessible ramp serves as a gathering space and display in the showroom window too. the functional need of the ramp is made useful for everyone, all of the time.

One last thought to gather from our high caloric food service friends is avoid being a “cartoon” of a style (I won’t even stoop to show a graphic). One may find these revived restaurant renovations as being “modern” in style; I see them as clean and fresh. Think simple and avoid pastiche. Work with the inherent bones of your space rather than covering it with make-up.

If all you have is a concrete block building with exposed wood framing, then show it off like that with a bit of color here and there. Adding bling will make it look cheap and gaudy like the many nouveau celebrities who appear on cable reality TV shows. If you don’t like a contemporary expression, then be authentic with whatever response matches your business (not necessarily the way you’d decorate your house).

Calisti (02)

this blank patched brick wall of a hardware store only needed an awning for cover over the new entrance door…why not make it out of…hardware? image and function combined with bent aluminum plates, bolts, clevises and turnbuckles.

As stated before, hire a design professional to help guide you. You may think you have taste, you may think you know what you “like”, but do you know what will best represent your business, sell your product or support your service?

invest in image
(and lay off the fries)

Related articles:

Wendy’s Embraces Contemporary Look
McDonald’s Pushes Ahead with New Look
McDonald’s Revamps Stores to look more Upscale
Two Newly Remodeled Restaurants Open in Columbus, Ohio
Would You Like Arches With That? When Famous Architects Design McDonald’s
McDonald’s Canada invests $1 billion in brand transformation

brand + new + image

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