Jack’s back

March 27, 2009

In California, there are very few icons that both halves of the state can embrace - especially when it comes to fast food. When In-N-Out Burger made its way up the coast, Northern Californians like me rejoiced (and Southern Californians became just a little more smug). Even Taco Bell, which first opened here in the Golden State, has a special place in our ... stomachs. And then there's Jack, the beloved icon and figurehead (pun intended) of Jack in the Box.

Jack is one of the most popular figures this state has ever produced. You can't drive to the house next door without seeing one of his smiling antenna toppers swaying in the wind. He's more admired than Ronald. He's more appealing than Wendy. He's more respected than the Colonel. He's even more powerful than the King.

Many of us saw the Super Bowl ad this year when Jack was hospitalized after being struck by a bus. The company even launched a new website - www.HangInThereJack.com - so that his loyal fans could monitor his condition. For us Californians who grew up with Jack, this ad really hit a nerve. Would they really kill him off? Would they start planning some elaborate funeral? Would Phil really head up the company, only to be ousted by Jack who wasn't really in any danger? Would this saga drag on for months while they divulge the story over multiple thirty second spots? And what would happen to all of those left-over antenna toppers? Fortunately, the beloved character was never really in any danger. Jack was hospitalized for about a month and emerged reinvigorated. So invigorated that he even decided to update his company's image.

On the Sunday before Jack in the Box launched its new identity, Jack was teasing fans on his Facebook page about his new logo and website. The next day I noticed a banner ad for Jack's teriyaki bowls; the ad where Jack has a bowl haircut (it makes me laugh out loud every time I see it). But there was something different about this ad. The name "Jack" appeared larger than I’d seen it before before.

The new Jack in the Box logo featured the name "Jack" in large, hand-drawn letters in white, placed over two sides of a stylized red cube. The bottom right leg of the ‘k’ extended outward to suggest a smile. Beneath the red holding shape, the words "in the box" appeared in a contemporary font, in all lower case.

Old Logo

New Logo

When I first saw the logo I thought the new "Jack" script was meant to be his actual signature. But then I read the official press release which explained that the new logo is, "infused with the personality of the chain's iconic founder". OK, so it's not his actual signature, but I still don't buy that it's his personality. Jack is sarcastic, witty, and irreverent. I realize he wears a suit, but he still isn't proper enough to use an initial cap for 'J', followed by a lower case "ack". Jack is an ALL CAPS MAN. And second, I don't believe for a moment that he would add a smiley face to his signature – he’s just not that "cute".

Graphic designers love to use scripts and hand drawn letterforms to make something appear more humanistic, approachable, or down to Earth. Scripts are also great for making something appear upscale or trendy. The problem is that Jack's personality is much stronger than the new "signature" suggests. He's not soft and he's certainly not upscale. Maybe that's where the company is headed, but the Jack I know is bold. He has attitude. He's confident. Kind of like the old logo.

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