The home of the whopper just got a lot more fun.
Burger King is ringing in the New Year with a vibrant new brand identity, designed by the agency Jones Knowles Ritchie. It’s the fast food company’s first brand redesign in 20 years, and it includes a new logo, packaging, restaurant merchandise, menu boards, uniforms, restaurant signage and decor, and social media, digital, and marketing assets. The brand identity has a custom serif typeface and retro colors, like mustard and burnt orange, that mimic the organic shapes and colors of Burger King’s menu items. The result is an expressive, natural look, that feels distinct from competitors.
Burger King’s redesign comes at a time when major brands across sectors are flattening and simplifying their look so that it’s functional and legible in digital spaces. That’s part of the reason for this redesign too, according to Lisa Smith, executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie, who worked with Rapha Abreu, vice president and global head of design at Restaurant Brands International to bring the identity to life. But unlike the many monotone treatments that have resulted so far—Petco, Foursquare, or Lenwich, to name a few—Burger King has kept its personality.
The brand identity was designed to emphasize fresh ingredients in an industry that’s not exactly considered healthy. “We wanted to use design to close the gap between the negative perceptions people have of fast food and the positive reality of our food story by making the brand feel less synthetic, artificial, and cheap, and more real, crave-able, and tasty,” says Smith.
This plays out in a few different ways. They moved away from the synthetic-looking 1999 logo, with a circular blue swish around a burger icon. Smith and her team replaced it with an updated riff on the 1969 and 1994 versions that is a toned down, straight on, flat cartoon burger that reads “Burger King” squished between the buns.
The new look also has a new custom variable typeface aptly called Flame. It’s a groovy and expressive semi serif that reads like a throwback to the ever popular ’70s typeface Cooper Black. This might come as a surprise, but to Smith, the type treatment was a natural way for the brand to stand out. “Obviously sans serifs have fallen into what has become a trend of blanding, where there’s nothing distinctive about that brand,” Smith says. “The idea with developing this typeface Flame was that it led us back to creative principles of ‘mouth watering’ and having the irreverence evoke natural organic shapes of food. It looks a little bit squishy and delicious so you can almost taste the typeface.”
The new design also has playful illustrations by Spanish duo Cachete Jack, which create a new way for Burger King to brand everything from error messages on the website to digital ads and social graphics to the paper that goes on top of your tray when you’re in a Burger King restaurant. They playfully show cartoon people twirling onion rings, eating fries, and using pickle slices as binoculars. The color palette is drawn directly from key Burger King ingredients—beef, lettuce, fries—and looks unabashedly old school.
Smith was executive creative director at Chobani when the company rebranded and introduced homespun, friendly Americana to the yogurt aisle. It was such a fresh concept and in such stark contrast to other yogurt brands, it launched a retro trend we’re still seeing today. There’s a parallel here in foregoing minimalism in favor of expressiveness. “I’ve always loved textures of photography and illustration and having a really rich toolkit that brands can use but that are very recognizable. This could’ve gone so many different ways but this is what was right for this brand.”