Founded in 1983, Papa John’s Pizza has become the third largest pizza delivery and take-out restaurant chain in the world back in 2015. Debatably one of the best pizzerias in America, Papa John’s has a long tradition of using better ingredients to make better pizza. So, let’s take a quick look at the Papa Johns logo and see what got the company so far.
Starting out in a broom closet in the back of Mick’s Lounge, his father’s tavern, “Papa” John Schnatter eventually became one of the most renowned food industry CEOs in history. Even though the company hasn’t been around for as long as other fast food establishments, Papa John’s and the Papa Johns logo have already made their mark on history.
With more than 4,700 locations opened worldwide and a revenue reported at $1.439 billion in 2013, Papa John’s came a long way from consisting of a broom closet and used pizza equipment worth less than $1,600. But there’s time for more backstory later on. For now, let’s see where the Papa Johns logo and image came from.
Papa Johns Logo Design Elements
The elements featured in the Papa Johns logo are unmistakable. The ribbon, marquee, and text featured in the logo are joined by the registered trademark symbol. The simplistic, yet appealing logo is memorable, evoking ideas and sentiments of nostalgia, traditionalism, and quality.
While it is, objectively, by any standards or postulates of graphic design, a somewhat poorly thought out logo, the Papa Johns logo still is one of the staple logos in the American restaurant industry. Plus, despite the fact that the flaws within the logo are glaring, it has, in fact, received very little criticism whatsoever.
Changes and Evolution
In its 31 years of existence, the Papa Johns logo has never changed once. It has become a symbol, as it is one of the very few successful restaurant chains to manage to go this long without a major rebranding or major logo redesign. We will talk about how the Papa Johns logo first saw the light of day later on but for now, we will focus on the logo and what it is meant to evoke in people.
Of course, the fact that the logo never changed after all these years is meant to stir up ideas of stability, traditionalism, and loyalty. The most likely situation is that the PR firm hired by the company had to deal with John Schnatter’s refusal to change the logo for which he already had a soft spot, so they decided to make it into a well-established, staple symbol of the Papa Johns image and brand.
The marquee-like shape around the Papa John’s text is topped by a ribbon of a strange shade of green, not all that uncommon for delivery services with light-colored backgrounds. Despite having mostly rounded corners, the Papa Johns logo doesn’t shy away from a bunch of sharp ones, either.
It’s pretty clear from the start that the logo was designed with functionality in mind, so that it can easily be applied on both storefronts and merchandise, as well as on company inventory. Still, it doesn’t look as rushed as it could have looked under the circumstance, and it did make some creative choices.
For example, the rounded corners surrounding the big Papa John’s text give the logo a mild, non-threatening nature and look. Meanwhile, the sharp corners present just above it, in the ribbon shape, draw the eyes to it, strongly hinting at the premiere, award-deserving quality of the pizzas behind the Papa Johns logo.
The main color of the Papa Johns logo is, of course, the red. A very common color for restaurant or food brand logos, red is associated with energy, determination, passion, love, and desire. It is a very intense color, increasing the blood pressure and respiration rate, and enhancing our metabolism. Other food companies using red in their logo are Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, KFC, McDonald’s, etc.
Meanwhile, the green is yet again used in a very creative way in the frame of the Papa Johns logo. The color is generally used in association with feelings and meanings of freshness, harmony, and growth. In this context, however, green was put to great use, made to suggest that the better, fresher ingredients suggested by the Papa John’s slogan actually do make for a better pizza.
Last, but not least, the white present in the Papa Johns logo is meant to suggest benevolence and purity, as well as to draw in hesitant customers to the safety and comfort of the pizzeria. It is also very likely that white was also to symbolize a successful beginning back in 1983, when the first restaurant opened.
By far the worst part of the Papa Johns logo, there are two big problems that plague the ingenuity of the logo’s creator – namely, two extra fonts. Yes, we had to get into this issue. The Papa Johns pizza logo features three distinct fonts, all three trying to draw the customers’ attention to what they have to say.
This, sadly, makes the so-far highly creative and visually pleasing Papa Johns logo into something quite tiring for the eyes. Despite the fact that all three fonts use serif, there isn’t much in common between the three. And the fact that they are so strikingly different, with all three even having different colors, greatly diminishes the effects described so far.
First of all, the white font present in the ribbon is meant to draw attention to the premium quality of the product. Next, the big, red, arching Papa John’s font draws attention to the restaurant’s name, and it is also meant to get people hungry. Last of all, the font present in the slogan part of the Papa Johns logo, while in the same color scheme as the rest of the design, simply feels out of place.
At the start of this year, John Schnatter came out with a very cute and fun story about how the Papa Johns logo first came to be. Having had pizza on his mind since high school, Papa John even considered dropping out of college at some point, so as to pursue his dream career. His parents, however, were adamant against the idea.
During his college dorm days, Schnatter lived six doors down from a marketing major. Both of them sleeping in the LaFollette dorm at Ball State, the future restaurant owner went up to the marketing major and asked him for a name and a logo for his concept. Three days later, the logo was complete, and only minor changes were made to it ever since.
After being so pleased with the results, Schnatter promised the marketing major one free pizza a day for the rest of his life. Of course, since they were still a few years away from the inception of Papa John’s, the two lost track of each other. Now it’s almost 35 years later, and Schnatter is still wondering what the man to whom he owes so much pizza is doing.
Since we are still on the subject of how Papa John’s and the Papa Johns logo first came to be, let’s talk about it. Always having loved pizza, John Schnatter opened the first Papa John’s restaurant in a broom closet at the back of his father’s tavern. However, the place became so popular, that in less than a year, Schnatter afforded to move into the space next door.
Despite their traditional values and usually conservative marketing strategies, Papa John’s had to apologize to LeBron James back in 2008, after a D.C. franchise distributed offensive T-shirts of LeBron James. Everything was settled with 172,000 single-topping pizzas sold at 23 cents apiece.
Papa John’s also got in trouble back in 1997, as Pizza Hut filed a lawsuit against the Papa Johns logo and brand for making false advertising. The claims involved the inaccuracy of the pizzeria’s slogan, which suggested that fresher ingredients automatically made for better pizza. While it was initially decided in the favor of Pizza Hut, an appeal determined that the misdirection in no way impacted the customer’s decisions.
The third-most successful pizzeria in the world, Papa John’s has had a long, successful history of respecting tradition and delivering the best products they could make. The Papa Johns logo and brand have definitely made a lasting mark on the American fast food industry, showing that taking care and pride in your products does indeed pay off.