Time To Remake The Donuts

By Brett McKenzie on Jun 04, 2019

JKR's James Taylor on their Pencil-winning Dunkin' rebrand

The One Show 2019 and the ADC 98th Annual Awards are behind us, and that marks a brand new season of Gold on Gold, our ongoing speaker series where we learn the stories behind some of our favorite Pencil and Cube-winning projects.

Our next Gold on Gold takes place this Thursday at The One Club Gallery, and will feature the work for a delicious combination of burgers and baked goods— FCB New York’s “Whopper Detour” for Burger King, and Jones Knowles Ritchies rebranding of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Ahead of Thursday’s Gold on Gold, we reached out to James Taylor, Creative Director at JKR's New York office, to get a Munchkin-sized taste of what went into the rebranding of America’s favorite donut shop.


I'm Canadian, where Tim Horton's sits in the Iron Throne for all eternity. What makes Dunkin' Donuts — as a brand — so special, so meaningful?

Dunkin' doesn't take itself too seriously; from ads that poke fun at coffee snobs to a wonderfully odd logo and color palette; Dunkin' walks to the beat of its own drum — much like East Coasters — whose fierce love and loyalty for their hometown brand is like nothing I've ever experienced before! You also know a brand is something special when the entire agency raised their hands when we were looking for a pitch crew.

Jones Knowles Ritchie was appointed by Dunkin' Donuts last year to shepherd its brand identity. Did you have an idea of the direction you wanted to take the brand ahead of time, or did that develop after the ink dried on your respective contracts?

I’d say ahead of time — I think it was all in our collective gut. We knew it wasn’t about changing them or chasing fads, but about celebrating what makes them uniquely Dunkin’ — that font, that tone of voice and innovative history, and refreshing it for the modern audience. What makes Dunkin' stand out against Starbucks and McDonald's is its success in feeling like a local, homegrown brand while still being able to expand across America and 31 countries. We immediately just saw the opportunity in celebrating the positive connection to local community as something Dunkin' could own.

They say that Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC because they aren't legally allowed to call what they serve "chicken". So with my tinfoil hat firmly in place, did you drop the "Donuts" because these aren't really donuts anymore? On a less ridiculous note, was it a challenge to suggest to the company to drop half of their name? Was the brand at all hesitant to break tradition?

(laughs) Well, the death of donuts is greatly exaggerated. Dunkin' still sells over 3 billion donuts a year!

Regarding the name change, we would like to say it was our idea, but we can't take credit although we were quick to offer our opinion that it was an absolute no brainer! Your customers already call you it, you sell more coffee than donuts, and it's in your tagline. Honestly, it should have happened ten years ago, if you ask me.

Of course it was scary; customers and employees love Dunkin' —they love it!— and we are all uncomfortable with change, but we were listening to culture and what our customers were already doing, so it wasn’t a big leap in the dark. Alongside the brand refresh, we developed an engagement strategy, working closely with the client to bring franchisees and the public along for the ride so I wouldn’t call it breaking tradition – the aim was to respect the legacy and latent love of the brand.

"... we are all uncomfortable with change, but we were listening to culture and what our customers were already doing, so it wasn’t a big leap in the dark."




Jones Knowles Ritchie / New York


Dunkin' Brands

Annual ID



2019 Design: Branding / Identity System


What's the biggest lesson that a design student should take away from your case study?

Be yourself, everyone else is taken. In a sea of brown mahogany, why can't a coffee shop be Orange and Pink? The font and colors used for Dunkin' is arguably their strongest visual equity. Bold, approachable and highly visible. Though consumers may 'give permission' for you to change everything, think carefully about why. Four decades of building equity shouldn’t be thrown out at the drop of a hat.

What's your regular Dunkin' order?

A coffee and a box of Munchkins for the team. Yes... the team. Sure.

Gold On Gold takes place this Thursday, June 6 at the One Club for Creativity Gallery.



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