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Fast Food Fonts, Part 1: Wendy’s

Sam sacrifices his waistline to bring you this type spotting report from the field.

Contributed by Sam Berlow on May 12th, 2011.

A Wendy’s web ad.

“Wendy’s Asiago Ranch Chicken Club”, read the banner ad on ESPN.com. It was set in tightly stacked, all-caps Verlag.

Asiago — cheese from the Veneto region of Italy in an American fast food sandwich. Small world.

The type caught my eye because it was beautiful. Then the irony slowly sunk in: a custom typeface for the Guggenheim Museum is now selling Wendy’s chicken sandwiches with Italian cheese.

Later that same week I was driving up Highway 93 from Boston to New Hampshire. As I pulled in to get gas and food I saw the signage in the Wendy’s window. I had to get a closer look. To my delight, Verlag was everywhere. Big beautiful signs for fries, burgers, and yes, that Asiago chicken sandwich.

Having read Michael Pollan’s books and been stunned for months after watching Food, Inc., I know that the industrial chicken I was about to eat most likely never saw the light of day, nor did it live or die with a beak. But I was hungry, had 4 hours left on my journey, and to see the store graphics up close I decided to eat in and not drive through. I wanted the full experience.

Verlag in use on Wendys.com.

The signage throughout the store was appealing, colorful, and well set. Every sign, teaser, ad, menu, was beautifully crafted.

So I ordered. I was unable to keep a straight face while saying “Asiago chicken, please”, so I ordered the “number 6, medium drink, thank you”. Pretty tasty, as I would expect from a fried chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato and more salt than I had eaten in a month.

Wendy’s new identity is a slight variation from the Neutraface and its distinctive italics that were used in early 2010 and before. Both looks are a bold move away from the traditionally banal, unsophisticated face of fast food. Verlag is used throughout, from the website to the posters in the stores, and every sign, inside and out. I shy from describing Verlag’s typographic inspirations because H&FJ’s description is so darn good.

[Editor’s note: We were unable to identify the studio responsible for this identity work. The supporting script face, in the manner of Marydale, is unknown. It could be a custom font — the quality is slightly higher than most handwriting freebies — but it doesn’t have the natural flow or alternate glyphs of a true writing emulator like Suomi Hand Script. Update: the script is FG Matilda. Thanks, Rob. — SC]

Wendy’s 2007

Wendy’s in-store menu, March 2007, using Copperplate. Photo courtesy Phil Freo.

Wendy’s 2010–11

Wendy’s in-store menu, March 2010, using Verlag. Photo courtesy Andrea Gennari.

My stomach satisfied, I began to crave more type. This was a typical American highway exit: McDonald’s across the street and the Burger King next door, KFC and Subway all within type identification range. Walking through each one, I was surprised to see the chains are executing interesting typeface choices and rather exquisite typography.

During the next week I hit every fast food joint I could — type spotting, of course. More results to come in the next installment of “Fast Food Fonts”.


8 Comments on “Fast Food Fonts, Part 1: Wendy’s”

  1. Sam Berlow says:
    May 12th, 2011  1:06 pm
    Edit

    Just a note: Wendy's is dedicated to animal welfare and has fairly strict policies for their meat.

  2. Kevin says:
    May 12th, 2011  1:32 pm
    Edit

    I believe the handwritten type they employ is Louisiana.

  3. May 12th, 2011  1:44 pm
    Edit

    Lousiana is similar, but not quite it.

  4. Rob says:
    May 12th, 2011  2:32 pm
    Edit

    Hadwritten font is FG Matilda and the firms that work on advertising and signage are Kaplan Thaler Group and Saatchi X.

  5. May 12th, 2011  5:01 pm
    Edit

    This is absolutely fascinating; I, too, had noticed typographical design changes going on in the fast-food world, particularly when I noticed that McDonald's, on some of their menu boards, were sporting a typeface rather similar to Akzidenz Grotesk.

  6. May 13th, 2011  3:03 am
    Edit

    Super Size Me 2 - I'm lovin' it bold!

    I think that typography finally is getting the attention

    it deserves, not just in the fastfood market, but in general!

    Thanks for putting type before your health!

  7. Mark says:
    May 13th, 2011  1:25 pm
    Edit

    Guess I know where I'm getting lunch today.

  8. Cheshire says:
    May 16th, 2011  1:27 pm
    Edit

    I'd noticed a similar movement over at the Church's Chicken near my office: they're doing a decent job with Museo Slab and Bello, as weird as it is to see those faces hawking fast food.

  9. Nate Keegan says:
    Jun 16th, 2011  1:23 pm
    Edit

    IHOP is rockin' some Verlag as well in their menus. It's weird to see words like "Bacon" on IHOP's menu in the italicized Verlag that I've already begun to associate with Wendy's.

  10. Nate Keegan says:
    Jun 16th, 2011  1:25 pm
    Edit

    False. Misread this. Not sure if IHOP actually does have Verlag in their menus, and they certainly don't have all caps. There is some font run-over, but it's a body font and I'm not sure it's verlag. Whoops.

  11. Cory says:
    Apr 22nd, 2012  11:36 pm
    Edit

    I've noticed Verlag being used to sell pies as well, at one of those Marie Callender's places.

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