Pack of the Month: The Doritos Redesign Concept That Went Very Viral
by Bill McCool on 05/31/2021 | 5 Minute Read
Typically, in our ongoing Pack of the Month column, we highlight one of our top-performing posts from the past month.
This is most definitely not that.
Running a media site or online journal means obsessing over page views and dreaded “clicks,” constantly analyzing demographics and what people are actually reading (or even not reading). Earlier this month, we noticed a massive spike on a project we ran last year from designer Michael Irwin about a conceptual, minimal Doritos redesign. It seemed that folks were taking this concept as gospel, and the project was going viral across social media. As of this writing, it’s already become the 4th most popular story in Dieline’s history.
It was fascinating for several reasons; first and foremost, no one bothered reading the post highlighting Michael Irwin’s project where they would have discovered that it’s, as we mentioned before, a concept. But it also provided some insight into the power of brand redesigns and how emotional they are for consumers—especially when it comes to beloved junk food staples like Doritos.
Irwin is no stranger to conceptual redesigns, as the creative director often takes to his Instagram feed, performing them as a means of doing a helpful design exercise. The Jersey native has been working in design, at both agencies and in-house, for 13 years and has worked with clients like Disney, the NFL, Heineken, Nike, AT&T, Pepsi, and ESPN. For our May Pack of the Month, Michael sat down with us to talk about his viral Doritos rebrand and staying fresh with creative warm-ups.
So what sparked the idea for the conceptual redesign? Why did you favor a minimal design in place of the typical maximalist stuff you get from Doritos?
My original post, which the meme world failed to read, was an idea for a Doritos rebrand if they ever lost their minds and decided to go uber clean.
I think we can all agree that Doritos is known for embracing the extreme. Whether it's packaging or advertising, they shoot for the moon and really bring energy into every facet of their brand. Although the identity and packaging shifted over the years, the branding has been seen in script form, often accompanied by an illustration of a tortilla chip. The logo appeared very close to connecting the chip with the letter "D," although they never committed to it. I saw this as an opportunity to use the chip as the intentional “D.” The shape would shift color to define each flavor and provide a container for imagery and content. Since Doritos is notoriously known for being extreme, this versatile shape would become a vehicle for expression, individuality, and creativity. People know what they are getting when they buy a bag of Doritos. The taste, the texture, all of it. That pushed the notion that a long-standing product like Doritos could still have just as much brand success with minimally designed packaging. The idea was almost that of a contained explosion within each bag.
Essentially, Doritos received a free case study on what would happen if they changed their packaging. Good, bad, or indifferent, they saw first-hand what the reaction would be with a minimal design. And they didn't need to hire a research or strategy team to do it. It was all out there on social media, as they could sit back, take notes, and watch how it got received. I'd say, if nothing else, this case study is a big win for their marketing and brand team.
How did you find out that your Doritos concept was going viral?
Someone had sent me a message on Instagram that a prominent page in the UK had posted it. I had never heard of them. Before I knew it, more and more messages were coming through with links to Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. From there, it started catching traction everywhere, with retweets and shares. I was pretty shocked when I went on my IG discover page and typed in "Doritos." It was completely flooded with posts of the redesign.
What was your immediate reaction to the attention that the redesign was getting? Why do you think so many folks are gravitating toward it?
My immediate reaction was to laugh, but I also thought it would be fun to watch this unfold. I'm happy to say that the response did not disappoint.
I thought this idea going viral was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it showed the current state of how we obtain news and information. Millions of people saw this post and immediately took it as fact, without even doing a quick Google search to check its authenticity. It also showed the passionate connection people have with their brands. Whether it be nostalgia or fear of change, this "concept" had sparked intense reactions. I even saw a petition on Change.org (with signatures) to change back a logo that was not even real! Having been involved in various rebrands, I understand the deep-rooted and emotional feelings of the general public when they see something new. We are creatures of habit by nature, so any disruption of that (or proposed idea) can really stir up a fire in people.
It seems like you're always redesigning (just looking at your Instagram and various sports logos) something as an exercise? Why is that something you still do?
My Instagram page is a mix of client work and personal projects that I create in my free time. I'm not sure exactly when I started redesigning brands for fun, but it has very much become a design exercise for me. I find it a useful "creative warm-up" to imagine everyday, familiar things in another light. I'm a strong believer in pursuing your creative ideas and seeing where they take you. Sometimes it could result in a simple mark, other times an entire design study. To me, that's the most exciting part. I will always encourage other designers to experiment and explore alternate solutions, even if it's just to sharpen their skills. As my page has grown, I have started to get more requests to reimagine a specific brand. It's been great connecting with other creatives about these projects.
Has anyone from PepsiCo contacted you about using your design?
No one has contacted me from PepsiCo, but I did see that Doritos retweeted the original post and said, "appreciate the creativity." They also replied to some fan comments by saying, "just to clear the air, this is not official, and we're not changing the logo to this." It was very cool of them to play along and have a little fun as well. It's also interesting that this post made its way back to the official Doritos handle and caused enough of a stir that they addressed the matter.