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The evolution of the McDonald's logo

There are few logos in the world as iconic and recognizable as the McDonald’s logo. But did you know that the golden arches that you’re familiar with today are a far cry from the company’s original branding?

Since the business started as a roadside stand in 1940, it’s gone through a huge evolution to become the massive global brand it is today, and so has its logo. From a no-frills typeset logo to a whimsical winking tubby chef to golden arches, the McDonald’s logo has really changed a lot.

Here, we’ll take a look at how the McDonald’s logo has evolved through the years, including some of the subtle changes you might not have even noticed.

1940: McDonald’s famous barbecue

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This was the year the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino, California. The menu was quite different from what you’ll see at McDonald’s today: It focused on slow-cooked barbecued meats. When the restaurant first opened, their specialty was a barbecued beef or pork sandwich for just 35 cents — including fries, of course. At the time, the logo was fairly simple and to the point, reading “McDonald’s Famous Barbecue.”

1948: McDonald’s famous hamburgers

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In 1948, realizing that the majority of their sales were hamburgers, founders the McDonald brothers changed their business model, paring it down to just nine items and a fast method of serving that they called “Speedee Service System.” To promote the system, they created a sort of mascot-logo featuring a winking tubby chef called, appropriately, "Speedee."

1950s: McDonald’s

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With a growing brand, the McDonald brothers revamped their image, redesigning the restaurant itself with an architect. The snazzy new establishment featured golden arches flanking either side of the building. When viewed from an angle, they formed an “M." This was the beginning of the logo as we know it, though it wasn’t adopted as the official logo until later.

1955: Ray Kroc enters the scene

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Ray Kroc joined McDonald's as franchise manager in 1955. While this didn’t change the company logo, it’s still important to note. Why? Because his entry to the company brought some massive changes to the brand — and the logo.

1960s: the iconic golden arches

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In 1961, Ray Kroc took over McDonald’s, buying out the McDonald brothers. During this time, the golden arches became the official corporate logo of McDonald’s. A slanted line was added, crossing through the arches to symbolize the shape of the store. Thus, the golden arches logo was born.

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At a certain point, the slanted line was dropped from the logo and replaced with the word “McDonald’s,” which bisected the arches of the logo. From that point on, the logo went through various iterations, but it never really departed from the classic "golden arches" shape.

For example, between the 1980s and early 2000s, there was a version of the logo on top of a red rounded square background; from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s, there was a shadowed version of the arches with no background.

Since the 2000s, the logo has appeared simply as the arches, sometimes with a red background, sometimes with just the arches. But the logo is so recognizable that it’s no longer necessary to even say “McDonald’s.”

Are you lovin’ it?

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McDonalds is an iconic American brand that has evolved in some very big ways since its humble beginnings as a single roadside restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Just as the business has evolved, so has its logo. Which version of the iconic brand’s logo do you like best?