The Design of McDonalds’ Weirdest Locations

McDonalds is, literally, everywhere.

The fast-food giant is a huge part of the world’s perception of America, and exists everywhere from Guantanamo Bay to being the first American chain in Soviet Russia.

With over 35,000 stores worldwide, it’s somewhat surprising how little uniformity there are in the design of some of the buildings the franchises are held within. Although some are strict to the same scheme, others are only identifiable by the iconic Golden Arches.

One reason for that differentiation was McDonald’s repeated experiments in creating concept pilot restaurants: think McDiners, China’s new bicycle seats, or the ‘Epic’ McDonald’s that serve expanded menus including pizza. Or, they are defined by local restrictions, like Sedona, Arizona, forcing the Golden Arches to go turquoise as to not disrupt the city’s beauty.

However, it’s often the result of franchising, in which owners are licensed the McDonald’s business model, and go to any lengths to make their franchise stand out to the masses - or, specifically, to children. That meant animatronic mascots, obnoxiously coloured plastic, and chaotic theme park-like exteriors. Franchisees have also placed McDonalds in historic locations, creating near-surreal results - take the McD’s in Hangzhou, China, situated in the former home of a Taiwanese leader.

That design was too a result of a generation of drive-by commuters, the biggest and brightest design catching their eye as they drove by. It’s part of the childhood memories of many as a result. Accounts like Non Standard McDonalds on Twitter have even taken to documenting the most outlandish locations, and documenting their histories.

In recent years, you might’ve noticed you see fewer and fewer outlandish McDonalds, as a corporate movement towards modernist design was pushed. You’re now more likely to find Starbucks-esque clean lines and wood than the plastic of the past. The move was made to appeal to adults, turned off by the sickly feel of McDonalds restaurants after documentaries like Supersize Me.