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McDonald’s Cultural Evolution

McDonald’s revamps with a set of four culturally inspired designs. Christie Lee reports.

NCDA McDonald's

BY Janice Seow

June 5th, 2015

While flashy graphics and plasticky furnishing are de rigueur for just about any McDonald’s franchise around the globe, the American fast food chain is determined to change that with a set of four “culturally-inspired” designs.

Commissioned by McDonald’s APMEA and designed by Hong Kong-based NC Design & Architecture (NCDA) the “Minimal” and “Eatery” themes are being rolled out in Asia Pacific in phases.


The design brief given to Nelson Chow of NCDA was to design a line that is global in its outlook, yet adaptable to the local market.

In adapting the Eatery theme to the China market, Chow put together a quirky assembly of design elements that reminds one of an open air food market. McDonald’s bold graphics elements and shiny laminates were retained, freshly presented next to the use of natural materials such as wood and bamboo, in place of plastics.


“The food displays at McDonald’s are as busy as they are with the bombardment of information. We wanted to develop a design that is clean and simple,” Chow says of his design direction for the global chain.


Whimsical elements are abound in the dining area: partitions reminiscent of Chinese abacus while bamboo canopies evoke steaming baskets. While the former adds a dash of colour – red, the brand’s signature – to an otherwise muted palette, the canopies, suspended above, act as screens for the round tables below, imbuing a sense of intimacy. Patterns inspired by Chinese window lattice are printed onto laminates before being pasted onto the table tops and walls.


The place is decked out in custom-made lighting and seating, with the stools resembling button mushrooms, a ubiquitous food item in Chinese cooking. Cashiers are conceived as individual units, rather than propped up on a long linear bench, to narrow the distance between the customer and server.


To cater to different audiences, the usual two and four-seaters have been constructed, as well as communal dining and benches that can seat up to ten, the latter catering to those who are dining alone. “If you’re someone who finds it awkward to dine alone, then eating at a communal table will actually make you feel like you’re part of a bigger group,” Chow explains.


Seven McDonald’s in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Guangzhou and Fuzhou have already undergone makeovers. Aside from China, the Eatery theme will be introduced to the Korean, Malaysian and Japanese markets.


“Each country can choose to have its own localised version of the palette developed based on its own cultural signature,” Chow says.

NC Design & Architecture