Looks Good, Tastes Great
Can good design rescue fast food? That’s one of the questions posed in The New York Times Magazine’s fourth annual Food & Drink issue, out this week. This year’s issue is themed “Everything You Wanted to Know About Food (But Didn’t Know Whom To Ask).” Times business reporter David Segal asked Pentagram Austin’s DJ Stout about his recent rebranding of Popeyes and how graphic design can change the perception of fast food.
From the Times:
In late 2008, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits changed its name to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. One by one, its more than 2,000 franchises worldwide are ditching their bright blue-and-yellow color scheme in favor of richer shades of red and orange. The new takeout box features those hues and a new, more refined logo, which includes the fleur-de-lis, which is ubiquitous in New Orleans.
The company has said the changes were made to emphasize the brand’s Louisiana heritage and to appeal to younger diners, but the makeover also had the effect of making the food somehow seem more healthful. Was that a goal? “Yes,” says DJ Stout, who oversaw the rebranding for the design firm Pentagram. “At the beginning of any redesign, you have lots of conversations with the owners, and a big part of the packaging assignment was to make the food look healthier.”
Pentagram has performed this trick for more than a few chains, including Ruby Tuesday, Chicken Now and Bobby’s Burger Palace. In each case, the design consultancy favored uncluttered surfaces, strong colors and bold lettering. The results leave diners with the sense that there’s something intelligent about the packaging, and by extension, the restaurant and its food.
Greg Vojnovic, Popeye’s vice president of development, says, “We wanted to convey freshness, authenticity, real food, fresh food.” And it seems to have worked. Since 2008, Popeyes says, the company’s share of the fast-food chicken market has risen by three percentage points, to 18 percent.