Saving Face: How Corporate Franchise Design Can Respect Community Character

PAS Report 503/504

By Ronald Fleming

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Corporate franchise design usually cares little for community character. This report, a revised and expanded edition of an earlier best-selling work, was coproduced with the Townscape Institute. It shows planners, citizens, and officials how they can successfully advocate for sensitive and contextual corporate franchise design that can respect and even enhance community character and local economic development.

It is easy to document the all-too-obvious visual blight that franchises can inflict on a community. This report concentrates instead on offering positive examples of what communities and franchisees have done working together. The examples and case studies attest time and time again to the positive economic aesthetic outcomes for the corporation and the community. But there are also stories of great conflict, community strength, and corporate intransigence.

This new edition contains more than 30 new photos; information about the implications of the Lanham Act, which affects how communities address the issue of trademark colors; and a special section describing McDonald's Youthful Spirit Campaign, which has sparked a new round of conflict between communities and the corporation. 

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Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2002
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Table of Contents

1. Design review: issues and economic benefits
Design issues have philosophical implications • The economic benefits of design review for the community and the franchise

2. The gasoline and fast-food industries: Design implications of marketing strategies
Gasoline franchising: from comfortable neighbor to giant canopies and convenience stores • The changing condition of the fast-food franchise • Looking closely at McDonald's franchise design issues • Conclusion

3. A visual essay on design alternatives: identifying conflicting goals
Finding design solutions: use site planning to reinforce the streetscape • Finding design solutions: reject token corporate efforts • Good design evaluates contextual choices • Redressing the anatomy of the structure: defining the vocabulary of the structure as a kit of parts • Redressing the anatomy of the gas station: defining the vocabulary of the station as a kit of parts • A fast-food anatomy lesson: looking closely at the parts of one attractive facility • New construction in the townscape • New construction on the auto strip • Adaptive use • Transcending the merely appropriate:can corporate America support "place making" as good corporate marketing strategy?

4. Five success stories
Brookline, Massachusetts: a streetcar suburb with high visual standards • Radnor Township, Pennsylvania: creating "a past for the future." • Palm Springs, California: a resort city that has "learned from Las Vegas" • Carmel-by-the-Sea, California: An environmental heritage, a tradition of concern • Claremont, California: an education center where citizen enlightenment supports public values • The structure of the design review boards in the case study communities

Appendix A: A list of references

Appendix B: Transcript of Massachusetts Superior Court holding


"Ron Fleming addresses in Saving Face one of the key factors responsible for discordance and ugliness in our urban environment, our suburbs, our countryside: the aggressive corporate logos and corporate design of gas stations, fast-food places, and other franchised enterprises, which stamp their uniform mark on every place and turn it into an any-place or no-place. These emblems and structures can be tamed, and better incorporated into the frameworks that define our neighborhoods, towns and regions, and Fleming shows, in hundreds of examples, how this has been done: how communities with some sense of their distinctive characteristics have worked together with corporations and franchisees to modify trademarks, logos, and designs. There is no more important task for historic preservation, or in the making of good new places, and Fleming has given us an invaluable handbook on how to do it."

—Nathan Glazer