Wendy’s, the third biggest fast-food chain in the United States, right behind McDonald’s and Burger King, has an annual revenue of $1,734M. It was the brainchild of Dave Thomas, who launched the first Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969. The iconic Wendy’s logo featured a smiling redheaded girl that looked similar to Thomas’s daughter, who also inspired the restaurant’s name. Thomas’s excellent leadership took Wendy’s to great heights, with the brand’s 1,000th store launching within a decade of its inauguration.
The Wendy’s logo is an important part of the brand’s visual identity and is proudly displayed across 6500 international locations, making it the 3rd largest restaurant chain in the world. The history and meaning behind Wendy’s logo is quite inspiring and will fascinate everyone, no matter if they love fast food or not.
Wendy’s Journey – How It All Began
Wendy’s began its journey with Dave Thomas, who was born in Atlantic City in 1932 and adopted by Auleva and Rex Thomas soon after his birth. As he turned five, his foster mother passed away and he was taken care of by his grandmother as his father went around in search of a job.
Dave bagged a job at The Regas, a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was just 12. He soon lost his job but this experience had an intense impact on him as he looked forward to starting his own eatery business.
Soon after Dave was deployed by The Regis, he started working at Walgreens as a soda jerk, but that too didn’t last long after his employer found out that he was underage (not yet 16 years old). Nothing could deter Dave and he once again bagged a job at the Hobby House Restaurant. He even dropped out of high school to continue with his work.
Dave joined the Army at the age of 18 and when he returned he once again resumed his job at the Hobby House Restaurant. 1956 was a turning point in Dave’s life as he, along with his boss Phil Clauss, launched The Ranch House Restaurant. It was also now that he first sat down with Colonel Harland Sanders, originator of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the trio signed an agreement that allowed Dave to own four KFC outlets.
This was a struggling phase for KFC, and Sanders, awestruck by Dave’s dedication towards the Hobby House restaurant, gave him a business offer if he could turn things around. As luck would have it, Dave not only managed to make a good profit out of the KFC outlets, but also made surplus money to launch more restaurants.
Finally, in 1968, at Dave turned 35, he sold his KFC restaurants back to its owner and the following year, fulfilled his long-cherished dream of starting his own eatery business. Wendy’s first Old-Fashioned Hamburger Restaurant was inaugurated in 1969, at Columbus, Ohio.
The fast-food joint was named after Dave, the founder’s daughter Melinda “Wendy” Thomas. Her childlike countenance became the face of the company and is still used in Wendy’s logo, with some modifications of course. The business received immediate attention and fame because unlike its contemporary rivals, they offered customized burgers with fresh ingredients. Additionally, the company gained a special recognition for providing delicious, high-quality food products at competitive rates. While Wendy’s is still famous for its hamburgers, they also offer healthier options for kids and health-conscious people.
Wendy’s Logo – History and Meaning
1969 – 1971
The very first Wendy’s logo features an emblem as well as some text. The former is a cartoon sketch of Dave’s fourth child, Melinda Lou Thomas, lovingly called “Wendy”. The text consists of the company’s name “Wendy’s” in big red letters and a slogan “Old Fashioned Hamburgers” right below.
The brand name has a slightly wavy look, and at the bottom, there is a thin winding pattern that turned into a circle. The image is that of a smiling girl with red hair, friendly eyes, a blue and white attire, and two short pigtails with matching bows.
The catch line “Old Fashioned Hamburgers” goes in two horizontal sections. The upper caption (Old Fashioned) is written in Old English font with curly letters and dual-sided pointers in the middle of the legs. The lower caption (Hamburgers) features the Show Guide Normal font with very wide serifs. The middle part of the letters is thin and extended.
1971 – 1972
The second version of the logo looks similar to the first one, but has an added catchphrase “Quality is our recipe”. This emblem was introduced to commemorate the launch of Wendy’s second restaurant, which had an added window to serve customers on the go. All the design elements in the logo remained intact except one inclusion – the slogan “Quality is our recipe” was positioned above the girl’s head in a semicircle.
All elements in the logo remain the same. The only update that touched the circle with Wendy: the designers placed the slogan “Quality is our recipe” over the girl’s head in a semicircle.
1972 – 1977
For the first time, the portrait of the girl of the company’s logo was redrawn in a distinctive style. The designers dropped the childish humor and vivid emotionality from the girl’s face, and replaced it with something more formal and mature. The blue stripes on Wendy’s dress also appeared on her collar. The decorative circular pattern was detached from the circle containing the girl’s image. The phrase “Old Fashioned” featured a new font, and the whole emblem was given a pale yellow background.
1977 – 1983
In 1977, the Wendy’s logo was divided into two distinct zones – red and yellow. The upper red segment (with bevelled corners) showcases a portrait of Wendy in a white circle with black borders, decorative curls, and the brand name in a wave-like format. The lower yellow segment features the catchphrase “Old Fashioned Hamburgers” in two separate horizontal rows and two different fonts.
1983 – 2013
The fifth and probably the longest-used Wendy’s logo had its origin in 1983 in the United States and soon ventured into Canada the very next year. While the image of the girl and other design elements were left intact, there was a major change in their positioning. This time, the word “Wendy’s” was placed right below the circular emblem, which brought the brand name into focus. White letters on a red backdrop with refined black curls made the logo look bright and promising. The font for the tagline (placed further below) “Old Fashioned Hamburgers” was modified once again. The previous stylized font gave way to a bolder, simplified one.
During this tenure, another logo was used alongside the previous emblem. It was a simplified version of the former one, without the lower yellow section featuring “Old Fashioned Hamburgers”.
2012 – Present
Wendy’s escalation to a higher-end hamburger franchise led them into rebranding and the fast-food chain got a new logo for the first time in almost 30 years. The new logo design was first introduced in November 2012, and received final approval in 2013. There are two key parts to this logo – the brand name and the image of the pigtailed girl with freckles. The noticeable difference is that the girl’s crown and her blue-bowed braids now go beyond the black border of the circular emblem. Wendy’s shoulders aren’t visible anymore. The brand name is written in careless handwritten style with wide strokes. You may also notice the word “mom” in blue and white on her costume’s collar.
Several critics have raised obligations against Wendy’s new logo as it supposedly impacts human sub consciousness, which could be harmful. The company, however, implied that they were not aware of this. This is hard to believe because it’s atypical for a giant organization like Wendy’s to not know about their logo’s psychological implications.
Key Design Elements of Wendy’s Logo
From the very beginning, the Wendy’s logo has been associated with the image of its founder’s daughter. Even after several redesigns and modifications, the girl’s image has remained more or less constant. The logo always featured a freckled, smiling teenager with two pigtails and a striped costume. Only the drawing style, expressions, and hair and skin tone were updated from time to time. The latest version is friendlier than the previous ones, since the redundant surrounding details have disappeared and all the focus is on the girl’s radiant smile. There is also a special handwritten encryption – the word “mom,” hidden in the girl’s collar.
As for the typeface, the designers chose a retro style for the initial designs: the text in the upper segment was written in Old English, and one in the lower section in Show Guide Normal style with large rectangular serifs. The present logo uses an individual typeface, reminiscent of handwritten notes with extensive strokes.
Wendy’s signature logo palette consists of red, blue, black, and white. Yellow was also used previously, but currently dropped by the designers. Reportedly, the company is very strict about their branding style and color in all its franchise outlets.
There’s something fresh and unquestionably positive about the present Wendy’s logo that draws your attention. Wendy is the face of the company, and easily the best part of the logo. A closer crop, subtle changes in hairstyle (the front part), a nose job, and an eyelash clipping are some of the detailed modifications that gave the girl a matured, more professional look. There’s something about the image that’s so captivating and enticing. Overall, it’s a well-planned and well-executed logo modification that worked wonders for the company.
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.