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McDonald’s • Hotcakes • DELUXE • Hotcakes with Sausage • BIG Breakfast •

April 7, 2009

Sample #7

In case you were wondering, the plethora of goodies I discovered on March 1st didn’t end with the Heinz Ketchup packets from my last post. My next find, two steps north of the condiments was the styrofoam lid of a McDonald’s Deluxe, BIG Breakfast, Hotcakes (with sausage) container. Discovered at 6:58pm March 1st, 2009 on the sidewalk along Maryland near the northwest corner of the intersection of Maryland and North Ave. this styrofoam variety of litter triggered an unexpected slew of childhood memories.

When I was a kid I used to visit my grandma Josie for a week in the summer. During those fantastical summer getaways grandma and I would go crazy eating at McDonald’s everyday (oh my!) and “taking in” (as grandma would say) as many movies as possible, sometimes up to 5 during the 7 days I stayed at her house.

I remember it was the summer of ’92. I was seven years old and had finally worked up the courage to leave my parents in Albuquerque to stay with my grandma a mere 60 miles north in Santa Fe. That was the summer “Batman Returns” was released in theaters, and after seeing the movie, I declared it our mission to collect not only all 4 McDonald’s Batman Happy Meal toys, but every single 32 oz. Batman collectors cup with corresponding glow-in-the-dark frisbee “Batdisc” lids.

To make it clear just how deeply ingrained my paraphernalia collecting convictions were, each night as grandma and I would prepare the living room couch for me to sleep on I would carefully arrange the Batman cups so that they lined the armrest of the couch at the top of my pillow. This was especially critical to making the most of the glow-in-the-dark lids, and to achieve the all-around ultimate accompanying glow-in-the-dark sleeping experience.

Batman aside, my grandma, although she often made breakfast, was also fond of buying breakfast from McDonald’s at least once during my annual summer sojurn. I remember waking up early enough to go with her a couple times, which involved jumping out of bed (the couch) and throwing on some clothes. Grandma on the other hand choose to remain in her flower-patterned night gown/muumuu (I’m dead serious) and slippers as we walked out into her dirt yard to hop in her sky blue ’88 Pontiac Bonneville. Apparently her logic was that since we were only going to the drive-up window there was no reason to don flattering attire.

After driving to the nearest McDonald’s and fetching our bag of breakfast we would return to her adobe house, unpack everything in the kitchen and divide up the order between her, I, and a family friend named Joe. (Joe has always spent the night at my grandmother’s house and has been a presence in the family since my grandfather died of polio when my dad was only two-years-old).

Now, I suppose there are certain ages when children either start doing things on their own or are told they are old enough to tend to themselves. One such rite of passage involves being allowed to serve yourself and cut your own food. For some reason in my extended family, due to our particular dynamic and my inherent shyness, those rites of passage were never discussed when I was a child and it was always assumed that I was either yet unable to do such things on my own or was still content having them done for me. In either case, I was never one to speak up to the contrary and if you know me well today you can attest that I still don’t often voice my opinion unless asked, in which case I have plenty to say after keeping my mouth shut all these years.

So even at the age of seven my grandma would cut up my Hotcakes for me while taking the liberty to pour on loads of syrup without thinking to ask how much I cared for. Therein lied my penance for refusing to say anything about the situation! As luck would have it both my grandma and Joe had taken quite a liking to sweets in their later years and had thus developed quite a tolerance for large amounts of sugar. So when my grandma helped me to her standard serving of two tubs of Hotcake syrup, my exuberance for McDonald’s Hotcakes was soon drowned in more sugar than my seven-year-old tolerance could handle. To this day whenever I think of McDonald’s breakfast, much less Hotcakes I always cringe just a little bit.

Anyhow, you can now understand the sudden obliterating emotional reaction I had to this particular piece of yellow styrofoam, which in terms of packaging structure has not changed at all in the past 17 years. I swear the mold they use for these things is the exact same one they used in 1992. Too bad the printing on the styrofoam is non longer the same! Seriously, if you have the gusto to continue producing arguably unnecessary styrofoam packaging these days, at least grace it with an awesome design!

I’m sorry McDonald’s. I must admit my love affair with you has fallen into a steep and bitter decline in the past several years. Compared to my glorified infatuation with the franchise when I was a kid, my recent awareness of this behemoth’s mastermind marketing practices has shaken my trust. The chemically injected, scientifically designed-to-taste-good “food” that McDonald’s manufactures is frankly quite disturbing, and the design on this Hotcakes package doesn’t do much to comfort my critical eye.

Why it was decided that all the text needed be forced into ovals is beyond me. Perhaps each little formation of type is supposed to look like a stamped seal of… Approval? Quality? Certification? Nope. Sorry. All I see are stamps of contorted type crimes which almost always equal bad design. Granted, in small doses this kind of tampering with type can produce wonders, but such beauty requires finesse which is unfortunately substantially lacking here. “DELUXE” for instance is on the brink of passing for cool, but when coupled with the 3 other stretched and squished typographic blobs it very suddenly looses it’s punch.

Next I question the decision to place each oval as though it is independently orbiting the McDonald’s arches. A cardinal rule in design, and all art for that matter, is that nothing should ever appear as if it’s arbitrarily floating in space. Unless the McDonald’s logo is the mothership from which each of these ovals is strategically detaching to commence their alien attack on earth, some solid vertical or horizontal alignment could do them some good. Plus this might allow for the arches to be enlarged in relation to the placement of the ovals. And what company in corporate America would argue with making their logo larger whenever possible?

I must say though what really throws me off, and quite frankly ruins the whole thing is the ever so delicate (and highly inappropriate) oblique treatment applied to the group of shapes. It completely escapes me as to why everything is sheared at such a slight angle. It’s as if at the end of the day the designer, at a complete loss for how to wrap up the abomination decided to add insult to injury and accentuate their work by “italicizing” it.

Furthermore and lastly, please tell me that the batch of styrofoam lids this particular sample was taken from were all accidentally printed out of alignment? I know in my heart that the printing was meant to be centered on the lid. So rather than blame the designer for nonsensical placement, how about we give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk up this faux pas up to poorly calibrated machinery at the printer, eh?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bryan Rountree permalink
    April 8, 2009 2:03 AM

    The DELUX McDonald’s breakfast lost its allure with me at about the same time I was able to pinch open the styrofoam lid between my thumb and my pinkie finger. After that, I had reached the age when it became difficult to wake up in time for a McDonald’s breakfast.

    I imagine the supposedly “free floating” forms of all the text ovals to be representative of subliminal marketing. Granted that the brightly lit and colorful design of a McDonald’s itself is utilized to grab your eye, bring you inside, and compel you to eat your food as fast as possible and get out (so you can make room for more customers), I’m doubting that visual comfort is the main goal of the McDonald’s corporate identity.

    The yellow styrofoam is wrapping, like a Christmas present you bought for yourself, or in this case your grandson, that you tear through to get to the DELUX breakfast present! Considering that our parents bought us our McDonald’s and that Happy Meals come with a different toy each week, McDonald’s gives children 52 Christmas presents a year!

    And those type ovals that look like they arbitrarily float in space don’t rest on any design solution. They are an alien attack on earth, attaching themselves not to the packaging but into our minds! The next time we see those golden arches floating amidst the urban clutter, we hear a beacon for new toys that come with a meal of hamburgers!

    Or, if you do get up early enough to still get breakfast, those floaty ovals might just put you into enough of a hypnotic trance to convince yourself to go ahead and order that second cup of lawsuit-enducing, scalding-hot coffee. Just don’t spill it on anybody’s grandmother…

  2. April 8, 2009 2:26 AM

    You are a maniac my friend! I can always expect a detailed response from you. Dynamic Duo Conclusion: McDonald’s is actually an alien entity sent to take over earth and enslave us all – addicting us to artificial food from a young age by giving us “Christmas presents” 24/7/365. Hmm… do I taste some Woozle und Lorax plot potential here? OH YEAH! …You are welcome to be a guest speaker on FOUNDesign anytime buddy!

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