Established in 1958 with the opening of its first location in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, IHOP (International House of Pancakes) is a chain of family dining restaurants serving all meals from breakfast to dinner. As of March, 2015, there are 1,650 locations worldwide — 70 of them outside the U.S. in places like Bahrain, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Philippines — of which 99% are owned by independent franchise operators and it employs more than 70,000 people. I have had breakfast at an IHOP maybe twice out of necessity and while clean and not horribly-tasting it’s not the pinnacle of the American culinary experience. (Or perhaps it is). It also has an unfortunate history of attracting fights. I once showed a client a first round of logos at an IHOP in Waco, TX, which I should have taken as foreshadowing that he would bail on paying the remaining 50% of the project fee. Despite these misgivings, IHOP is a fruitful business, raking in over $3 billion in sales in 2014 and that’s reason enough for them to smile and introduce a new logo and identity designed by Kansas City, MO-based Studio Tilt.
(Check back later in the day as we might be getting more visuals from Tilt, but I did want to get this post running first thing in the morning.)
Update: New images from Tilt added at the end of the post.
For nearly 57 years, IHOP restaurants have helped millions of guests each week start their day with a smile. Today, with the launch of a new logo that prominently features just that, the brand will bring those smiles to life.
The logo change is the first in more than 20 years for the brand that was founded in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California. It exemplifies the iconic family-friendly restaurant’s commitment to continually evolve its look, feel and offerings to maintain its position as the leading restaurant brand in its category and stay ahead of trends to meet and exceed current guest expectations. Featuring elements consistent with the heritage of the brand—including the recognizable blue and red color scheme—combined with a more modern look and the prominent smile, the logo is representative of the brand’s mission.
Although the previous logo wasn’t an amazing piece of design, it was (it is) remarkably recognizable when you are on the road, be it in a city or highway. IHOPs are very easy to spot from miles away because of the short name and large footprint that the wordmark occupies. One thing I had never noticed — that IHOP’s VP of Marketing, Kirk Thompson, told BuzzFeed News — is that the “RESTAURANT” descriptor in the logo looks like a sad face and once you see that you can’t really unsee it. In honor of BuzzFeed’s investigative reporting I’ve put together this alternate review of the logo change:
But back to the serious critique and grown-up analysis… The new logo is basically the same typography as before, liberated from its holding shape and the frown has literally been turned upside down to create a smile. It’s a cute idea but it starts to look too much like a kids-only restaurant or a children’s TV channel. While, yes, it is a family restaurant it now feels even less upscale than before. I appreciate smiles in logos but I don’t think this was the best case for it. Part of the problem is the execution, where the “op” are too thick in contrast to the smile, making the eyes look like they are bulging out of their sockets as if someone sniffed the powdered sugar off their pancakes. Nonetheless, the logo does benefit from being outside of the rectangle and happens to look quite decent on a coffee mug.
Not much to see in application yet. The mugs are nice and their website looks peppy and fresh. Despite my own lack of enthusiasm for the logo I do think this is a positive change for IHOP, even if it’s just to stay relevant and not feel like a 60-year-old brand, which might have more to do with the look of some of its locations than the logo — at least the buildings won’t look sad anymore.
The following are new images provided after the post was originally published/written.