CHICAGO - Over the past year, McDonald's Corporation's iconic new 480,000-square-foot global headquarters, designed by the renowned architecture firm Gensler, has earned rave reviews. Acclaimed as a symbol of the company's new direction, even the West Loop location of "MHQ" is noteworthy... while the combined superpowers of Studio O+A and IA Interior Architects ensure each and every design touch is spectacular.
For McDonald's executives, employees and visitors alike, stepping inside MHQ is an immersion into an ambitious, globally minded company with a bold vision for a sustainable future, a constant appetite for high-caliber talent, and daily commitments to educational, charitable and social causes. To capitalize on the richness of its history, its initiatives, and its ever-expanding human capital, McDonald's Agency One TwentyThree selected another key collaborator to shape-up MHQ's unique digital experiences.
To find experts in experiential design, the partnership didn't have to look far. Specialized creative agency Leviathan established itself in the West Loop in 2010, and its expertise bringing phenomenal narrative content and emerging technologies into physical environments is considerable.
According to sources at McDonald's, company leaders had numerous ideas for in-depth information they wanted to display creatively throughout the building. Ranging from simple welcome boards to details promoting corporate initiatives to profiles on donors of the Ronald McDonald House, Leviathan was reportedly one of the few firms interviewed which took a holistic approach to communicating all of this.
"Every day, McDonald's is bringing a very inspiring mission to life in countless exciting ways," said Leviathan's CEO Chad Hutson. "Having the opportunity to organically embed digital interactives into their monumental headquarters with the goal of stimulating and educating employees and visitors is truly a dream job for us. I think it's fair to say, it's also a challenge we are perfectly suited for."
"In collaboration with Agency One TwentyThree and with their strategic insight and direction, we set out to design the digitally unexpected, to deliver innovative stories that resonate with visitors, placing humans at the forefront of technology," added Leviathan's Chief Creative Officer Jason White. "The resulting experiences are thoughtful and impactful, reinforcing the magnificent, multifaceted McDonald's Corporation of the present and the future."
From the Ground Up
Covering the entire Randolph Street block previously occupied by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, most of McDonald's 2,000 local corporate employees access MHQ via Carpenter Street. Guests enter the opulent ground-floor McDonald's Global Menu Restaurant on Randolph Street.
Beginning with the public before advancing the engagements for new company recruits, Leviathan's first installation graces a large LED screen in the lobby, which is programmed with compelling original content that evolves throughout the day, season to season. On floor two, Leviathan's largest interactive experience greets Hamburger University management trainees. Responding to motion and touch, capable of accommodating scores of interactions simultaneously, this incredibly powerful experience engine educates through elegant use of interactive timelines and an expansive video archive, inviting users to engage directly with the brand's far-reaching legacy.
Near the Hamburger University Interactive, a wall with over a hundred wooden-framed digital displays updates to show photos of each university student in current attendance, with fun personal facts and a graduation takeover mode to celebrate class completion.
For the past 45 years, McDonald's and Ronald McDonald House Charities(R) (RMHC(R)) have actively supported children's happiness and well-being. With active programs in over 64 countries and regions worldwide, RHMC helps lessen the burdens of millions of families experiencing illness each year. Also on MHQ's second floor, visitors will find an educational kiosk dedicated to RMHC. Controlled by touchscreen and using a large-scale mosaic presentation style, the feature is constantly updated to relate the ever-expanding story of RMHC's vital work, and its impact.
On the third floor, RMHC donors are showcased in another interactive display, allowing sorting and further information discovery related to the charity's contributors.
McDonald's continues to proactively address its Scale of Good platform, demonstrating its desires to leave the planet a better place, and to improve continuously. Another fascinating digital installation on MHQ's third floor brings the company's quest for sustainability to life vibrantly. Touching the screen begins a deep-dive exploring the many ways McDonald's is using its scale for good, leveraging rich media resources to relate quandaries and achievements to educate the most curious minds.
Rising to the top, Leviathan's Hall of Visionaries installation makes its home among the executive offices on MHQ's eighth floor. Activated by motion, any encounter with the experience conjures a kaleidoscopic video tribute to prominent cultural figures who began their careers at McDonald's.
Behind the Scenes
Referring back to Leviathan's holistic approach to this massive undertaking, several of the agency's leaders joined together to further illuminate the team's work behind the scenes.
"Although each of the experiences is housed within McDonald's Headquarters, individual touchpoints feature content that is unique to specific business units within the organization, each having its own set of identity standards and messaging practices," said Leviathan's Executive Creative Director Kyle Shoup. "We had to be careful to remain true to each of these identities aesthetically, while providing a consistent interaction experience throughout."
"Also, because of the number of interactives and the various business units within the organization, the content collection and approval processes were big endeavors," added Leviathan's Executive Producer Luvy Delgado. "Building all of the experiences to be able to scale in content and possibly to live in different locations presented even more daunting challenges."
Despite the great number of distinct considerations, the bold ambition in digital storytelling and the many specific communications agendas to be addressed discretely, in the end, Leviathan's graceful solution is driven through a single, robust content management system.
"In short," concluded Leviathan's Jason White, "we've co-created a revolutionary visitor experience that inspires, empowers, and builds everlasting impressions. And the adventure continues with McDonald's leadership: We have just been invited by McDonald's Agency One TwentyThree to help create two exciting new MHQ interactives that will debut in the months ahead."
Complete project credits are available upon request. The McDonald's Global Menu Restaurant at MHQ is located at 110 Carpenter Street in Chicago. Hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central time.
Leviathan (https://www.lvthn.com) is a specialized creative agency that transforms distinctive environments into exceptional experiences. By blending artful content, digital technology and physical space, Leviathan designs destinations that engage audiences, change perceptions and drive transactions for bold clients worldwide. Established in 2010, Leviathan's innovation has been recognized by top-tier publications including Communication Arts, The Creators Project, Fast Company, Forbes, The Verge, Vox and Wired, among many others. The firm is a key component of cross-discipline design and innovation consultancy Envoy Group (https://www.envoygrp.com).