McDonald's Innovation Center—
From Scrappy Utility To Scrappy Chic
Primo Orpilla, Mindi Weichman, Alex Bautista, Elizabeth Vereker, Paulina McFarland, Kaylen Parker
Romeoville, Illinois is a midwestern sprawl that is home to Mcdonald’s unassuming facility which drives the company’s experimentation and product innovation. A metaphoric brain in a jar—the IC center is a lab-like environment where kitchen equipment is tested and new processes are fine-tuned and optimized.
Space, however, due to its heavily utilitarian character, was often described as “hangar-like”, and filled with purpose-lacking clutter. It did not feel like a part of the global food brand and was not in sync with the recently revamped Chicago HQ. O+A’s team was tasked with creating a more successful space layout, as well as elevating the design to match the brand.
A Meaningful Story
I was responsible for matching the new materiality with meaningful graphics and developing a narrative that would inspire and accentuate the sense of pride the employees feel in the company and its innovative practices.
The clunky and utilitarian function of the space was not to be avoided and had to become an integral part of the story. Since the client was proud of the innovation aspect and wanted to exhibit equipment parts I decided to amplify the focus on the small parts—they became the inspiration for the large graphics. Much like the people behind the face of the brand, continually testing and reinvigorating old processes.
The colours we had chosen were a continuation of the brand–we focused on primary red, yellow, and blue to maintain simplicity and purity. Further, we looked at more utilitarian aesthetics of boxes, shipping crate containers, and stamps on wood. from that language, we extracted a stencil font that was both utilitarian and clean.
We poured over original McDonald’s patents to extract elements for the super graphics and re-drew screws, burners, and parts of the equipment. I wanted the designs to bring joy and comfort to the employees and to complete OSB that defined the space and brought the necessary warmth.
The second-floor lab-like desk area, in contrast, was kept minimal, and white with simple black and white patent drawings are blown up to span an entire wall. They honor the innovative spirit of engineers and technicians who create the experience of the brand behind the scenes.
The client desired a simple logo that replicated the iconic look and feel of the famous “M” but spoke directly to the idea of innovation. I presented several versions that embodied the spirit of discovery but the simplicity of the light bulb had won them over. Having distinguished the IC from the McDonald’s brand has brought the employees a sense of pride and visibility to their unique and significant place in the company.
When I visited the space for a final walkthrough, the mood of the employees was cheerful and inspired. The space felt uplifting and colorful in contrast to their cluttered past. The graphics tell the unique story of the people and technology that are the backbone of the brand in a way that is independent of the larger corporate brand.