Over the years
some of my own most enjoyable, challenging and visible
identity design projects have been those for restaurant industry
Much of the pleasure comes from an ability to push the creative envelope
and not be limited by the often-conservative boundaries of much more corporate
identity design. I usually have an opportunity to be more playful with restaurant
logos and have more fun with color. In addition, the architecture of the
buildings, the design of the interiors, the type of food
to be served and other elements
come into play. The challenges of such projects most often raise their ugly
heads in the form of budget limitations and the lateness
of some restaurant owners
to initiate the logo/identity design process for their new business in a
timely manner especially when the scheduling of projects for other vendors are
overlooked. The visibility, and multiple uses, of the completed eating establishment
image is a valuable marketing tool for a designer as easily recognizable public
exposure of ones design work. Unfortunately, with something like 50% of
all restaurants closing in the first two to three years in business the visibility
of such design examples often is limited in duration. (That figure is not necessarily
more dramatic than the failure rate of other start-up businesses the
boarding up of a local dining establishment is often just more evident to
person viewing from the street.)
For over 20 years Ive been having fun with the design of
restaurant logos. In my own work (above) I do tend to include a playful
quality in most of the projects. Within the retro image for the Seattle breakfast
Glos Broiler the keen-eyed viewer will find the lower-case g letterform
created by the cup of coffee and plate of food. The basic logo design was also
easily adapted to Glos Boys for the sponsorship of gay community
athletic teams. The Hamburger Marys location, in the same city, was represented
upon its opening by the image of a hand and arm holding up a burger in homage
to the silhouette of the citys landmark Space Needle. The Caribbean theme
of Indies Restaurant & Bar, in New York City, was conveyed with a palm tree
and the i letterform in the name being replaced with an illustration
of a man playing a steel drum. The font for the name, and all menu headings,
evolved from hand-cut tin letters I saw used in rustic signage while once
visiting several islands in the tropical region. Ten years later I have yet
designing the entire alphabet.
The Central Oregon steak house Crossings is located at a historic Deschutes
River cattle crossing. The graphic of cattle, with a reflection in the water,
natural solution to the clients location-based design element request.
The owner of the North Bank Café wanted a fun Northern Exposure look
for her business. She suggested a winking female moose with long eyelashes as
a possible image. Since a female moose doesnt have the familiar large antlers
we both decided that the resulting graphic is a representation of a wilderness
female impersonator. Celilo was the original restaurant and lounge in Portlands
historic Governor Hotel for which I did the entire corporate identity.
Much of the imagery, and interior design, for the hotel project was inspired
by the Lewis & Clark expedition to explore the unsettled Pacific Northwest.
Incorporating letterforms from the original journals of the pioneer explorers
created the logo text. The espresso machine identity for La Patisserie was
one of my first restaurant logos, and it served the business for many years
One from Column A and one from Column B
Designers often experience a variety of positive and negative aspects
in creating graphic imagery for restaurants. For Tracy Moon, of StudioMoon,
of the pleasures of such work is the immediacy of their impact. With many
identities you never have a clear gauge as to how they are received by the intended
audiences, say Moon. With restaurants (and hotels and other retail environments)
you can get feedback which is more timely, direct and personal - on an ongoing
Creative Madhouse principal, and Creative Latitude member, Madelyn Wattigney
grew up in New Orleans surrounded by restaurants and cafes. I developed
a love for good food, the pleasure of enjoying a meal, a cup of coffee, or good
conversation in a relaxing environment, she explains. I thoroughly
enjoy the art of cooking, and combining these ingredients with my love for
design is what makes the nature of this particular type of project so rewarding.
Also, I find it gratifying to create a logo that evokes a pleasurable dining
feeling and has the consumer anticipating the experience, Wattigney adds. Then
theres always the added enjoyment of wowing the client and
having them say, You nailed it!
Lets face it, restaurants are just plain fun to design for!, according
to John Sayles of Sayles Graphic Design. Many times the restaurants
concept or theme is the springboard for my designs.
On the other hand, if its a start up restaurant and the food
concept is still being developed my logo can set the tone for the establishment, says
Sayles. I especially like to work on projects where the logo is the
starting point and I get to work on the things that follow: interior graphics,
uniforms, even advertising and promotion.
Dan Stebbings, of the firm Fresh Oil, finds that designing for restaurants
brings culture, ethnicity and a sense of place into the firms work. We've
been fortunate enough to collaborate with a range of interesting and talented
people; owners, chef's, interior designers and artisans who make each project
unique and the work fun, says the designer.
In the other column of the restaurant design menu are some of the frustrations
and challenges previously mentioned in regards to such projects. The firm
Fresh Oil finds that construction and opening fundings are often much more
than initial operating budgets. Its often disappointing to see a
design program with great potential be cut way back once the essentials are
and the most daring and exciting concepts get canned for a more
ordinary one with much less potential, according to Stebbings. This
often happens when were brought into the project too late and the concepts
been locked down with no room for new ideas.
Tracy Moon agrees that the industry is so centered around other elements that
affect overhead such as the cost of food and less tangible activities, such as
identity and marketing are often left to the end of the planning process - or
I have actually had restaurateurs call and ask me to create advertising
for them when they didn't have a logo or a color scheme, or a visual identity
of any kind, Moon says. Many of them just arent focused
on this critical aspect of their venture until they meet with us, and by
it is do-able, by it can be too late in terms of budget, timing and the implementation
of key elements such as printed materials, awnings, signing, and other applications.
Often a restaurants logo is the only marketing tool they have especially
if they do little to no advertising. For Creative Madhouse, one challenge is
to keep this in mind during the design process always remembering the K.I.S.S (Authors
note: Keep It Simple, Stupid) factor. Wattigney feels that keeping the design
simple and clean will pay off in the end.
A restaurants logo needs to speak volumes in the blink of an eye
needs to evoke a good feeling and make the consumer feel confident about eating
there, adds Wattigney. Its the designers challenge
to accomplish all of this in a very limited amount of space.
John Sayles says, The most challenging part about designing logos for restaurants
is seeing a vision for a place and not being able to convince the owner to be
flexible and to incorporate new ideas. It can also be frustrating when you know
the name of the restaurant just isnt quite there, like when
the owner is fixated on some oddball or hard to pronounce thing. Another challenge from
a business perspective is the high failure rate for restaurants. No
one likes to get stiffed!
A smorgasbord of design challenges
Specific logo projects bring about veritable buffet of design and process challenges.
Each restaurant identity confronts a designer with a unique selection of potential
When taking on the Raccoon River Brewing Company (RBBC) identity project Sayles
Graphic Design found they had several owner/investors involved in the project
and to complicate matters further, they all lived in different parts of the country.
Getting them all on the same page at the same time was difficult.
As far as the logo, it was somewhat challenging trying to nail down exactly
the right look for the raccoon, says Sayles. I wanted him to
look friendly and sociable without seeming childish.
Sayles continues, On a side note, RBBC was sold to new owners a year or
so after it first opened. The new owner got rid of my logo and redesigned a new
raccoon character. I swear it is the most hideous, amateurish thing I have ever
seen. Usually the before logo is God-awful and the redesign is
a big improvement. Not this time. I still have a hard time going in there
and looking at the thing. Their beer is pretty good though!
With Jalapeno Petes, animating something as character-less as a pepper
means that as an artist, I had to give a food item a persona. The logo needed
to be simple because of the environment in which it appeared, Sayles adds. The
cantina is located on the Iowa State Fair grounds, and is only open during
the eleven-day run of the state fair each year. In this case the owner was
He asked good questions and listened to my answers. He made me want to work
extra hard and do my best. He is successful because he finds people who are
what they do and then he lets them do it!
In explaining Fresh Oils work with Tou Bagaille, a romantic
beach bar restaurant located on St. Maarten in the Caribbean Islands, Stebbings
recalled, The restaurant is owned and all logo applications were produced
by island locals - with very thick accents! So, when it came to communicating
via telephone, a lot of repetition and patience was required. The other challenge
was trying to work with a client and vendors who were using seriously dated
software and equipment. Following up and making sure files sent via the Internet
through OK took a lot of repetition and patience, too.
I didnt know it at the time, but when I started working on the Big
Fish logo, three designers had already given up on the project, says Stebbings. The
owner of Big Fish is a great chef and restaurateur with lots of creative
energy who, through the process of working with the others, had figured out
what he wanted the logo to be - or so he thought.
Stebbing continues, As a result, I had to capture his vision and I
wanted to put some of myself into it, too. He had become so frustrated with
earlier attempts, I saw this as an opportunity to go beyond what he expected.
15 rounds of revisions with numerous iterations sprinkled into each one.
The end result is a logo he loves that he puts on everything he can. Last,
entire opening of Big Fish was being filmed for a Canadian television show
so, on a
few occasions I had to meet with the owner on site and present concepts to
him in front of a camera & crew!
For Creative Madhouse, the Café Creole, Picasso Cafe and Vanilla Moon
Café logo projects all had one similar challenge distance from
the client. All three clients were located hundreds of miles from the designers
studio in Fort Worth. Through the use of modern technology phone calls,
email communication, online proofing, faxing and overnight shipping - these
difficulties were quickly overcome.
Since telepathic communication is not a prerequisite for being a graphic
designer I need to rely upon other tools when working with a long distance client, Wattigney
says. I utilize an in depth logo questionnaire, phone calls, and my gut
instinct when interpreting a clients thoughts, vision and dream for
their new identity.
The Lenox Room identity project is a good example of some of the
challenges described by Moon earlier. She literally had about 10 days to
do the work, from
concept to delivered printed materials. The architect on the project, Wendy
Tsuji, brought the designer in on the effort not the owner.
The architect was having some very expensive brass push bars made for the
front glass revolving doors of the restaurant and was horrified that they didn't
have high-quality graphics to go on them, according to Moon. She
asked them if she could rectify the problem and they said, in effect, sure -
as long as its done by next week!
The Lenox Room identity won the James Beard Foundation Award
for Restaurant Graphics in North America.
The Lenox imagery is a facelift done for Lenox Room about
8 years after it originally opened. In order to appeal to a younger, hipper,
less affluent clientele the owner asked StudioMoon to update the identity previously
created by the same firm while hopefully retaining some of the elements
of the original identity so people would know that management was the same. The
name was shortened to Lenox and new look, and feel, was designed
for the restaurant.
21st Amendment was a young brewery, restaurant and bar near the new baseball
park in San Francisco whose owners had named the establishment after the
amendment repealing prohibition. It did well with the ballpark crowd,
especially on game days, and with beer aficionados in general.
When they came to me they were drowning in a lot of home-spun graphics,
hand-drawn cartoons and archival photos centered around the beer protests from
the 20s, says Moon. It was cute, and fun, but not cohesive.
For StudioMoon the challenge was to bring the 21st Amendment into the 21st
century without losing the flavor and approachable feel they had cultivated
in this Cheers-like
place. Moon replaced their tagline We Want Beer with the more
sophisticated and creative Beer Here. With other graphic changes
she was able to create a consistent identity without making the business
seem too corporate.
Recipes for the restaurant logo design process
Different designers use different tools and ingredients to create logo images.
I was designing logos for almost two decades prior to a computer appeared
on my desk. The first program I learned to use was Freehand and all the identities
Ive produced since then have been executed with that particular software.
Im a bit old school, I remember when there were no graphic design
.I still start my logo design with a jar full of
pencils and a sketchbook, says Wattigney. Once I have the concepts
I usually scan the pencil sketches and then redraw.
In executing her concepts and final files she utilizes Macromedia Freehand almost
exclusively, but works with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop when necessary.
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop were used by Stebbings to create the Big Fish
and Tou Bagaille images, however both logos retained the feel of his original
pencil sketches. For the two Lenox restaurant identities, Moon used Adobe Photoshop
for all photographic imagery, and Adobe Illustrator for typography. The 21st
Amendment logo process utilized the Adobe InDesign software. Sayles and his staff
use Adobe Illustrator for the majority of the logos they design.
Research is part of the design process for any logo or identity. Some unusual
research is sometimes required when executing such projects for food industry
establishments. My own restaurant logo projects required tasting a wide variety
of foods, drinking numerous espresso drinks and having a cocktail or two.
In the case of the Celilo image I needed to do quite a bit of research on
historical aspects of the project, and I worked closely with the chef on
the feeling he
wanted for the dining room.
Tracy Moon needed to understand the evolving nature of the Upper East Side clientele
of the Lenox restaurants and how to appeal to them visually at different times
in the history and evolution of the same restaurant.
In the case of 21st Amendment, I needed to research and understand the
Prohibition era, as well as immerse myself in the brewing process because, first
and foremost, this is an on-site brewery, says Moon. And, of course,
I had to try (desperately) to understand the mind set of the Beer Guy.
For the Raccoon River Brewing Company, no research was needed
because I live in a raccoon-infested wooded area
my inspiration is everywhere, says
the principal of Sayles Graphic Design. Jalapeno Petes is a Mexican
cantina, so I drank mucho margaritas before starting work on that one!
Capturing Tou Bagailles Caribbean essence was important on this project,
and the design really needed to fit with the surroundings - particularly as it
applied to signage, Stebbings says. So, I looked through my honeymoon
photos which were shot on a neighboring island for good examples of hand-painted
signs, colorful buildings and clothing. I also referred to artwork purchased
on the islands for inspiration.
I felt like the research for Big Fish mostly involved getting inside the
head of the owner and getting to understand what he was after, adds the
Fresh Oil designer. Once I had managed that, I also looked at the coloring
of exotic fish and tropical underwater seascapes, reviewed some Circus and
Carnival imagery, and watched old WB cartoons, too - which helped me stay
the numerous revisions.
The Vanilla Moon Café project required me to endure
multiple trips to similar type cafes while consuming copious amounts of gourmet
coffee, Wattigney says. It was a hard job, but someone had to
do it. I also referenced my morgue of existing package labels from the food
and researched celestial/planetary images.
While researching the Picasso Café project, Wattigney surrounded herself
with art history books about Picassos work to get a sense of how best
to express the essence of Picasso while still maintaining an original design
Café Creole was an easy research, according to Wattigney. I
needed only to walk out my front door and breathe in the city of New Orleans
and order up a few pounds of boiled seafood for additional inspiration.
A full menu of end results
Some of the greatest exposure of a designers efforts
in creating a restaurant identity comes from the wide variety
of applications of the image.
I have had
logos used on aprons, hats, food festival banners, doggie bags, drink coasters
and many other items.
Fresh Oils Tou Bagaille logo was applied to signage, business cards,
menus, t-shirts and baseball caps. The Big Fish logo was applied to moving,
signage, stationery, menus - including a scratch and sniff dessert menu,
8 varieties of private-label soda, embroidered and silk-screened apparel,
tattoos, event banners and advertising.
Each of the logos designed by Creative Madhouse has been utilized in the
traditional manner: signage, menus, stationery, t-shirts, aprons, and other
Vanilla Moon Café took it one step further and had moon ornaments, matching
the logo, created as Christmas gifts for their patrons. Picasso Café also
had the icon etched into the glass of their front windows.
StudioMoons incarnations of the Lenox imagery found their way onto
signage, menus, matchbooks, business cards, stationery, postcards, advertising,
specialty promotional materials, glassware, posters and brass pushbars.
The 21st Amendment
logo is used on many similar items and the brewerys Web site, banners,
commemorative items, assorted clothing items and a readerboard outside
of the restaurant.
Raccoon River Brewing Company initially used the logo I created for a number
of items including: signage, menus and on beer glasses, and for a short time
the new owners were using both the old and new logo while they made the switch, says
Sayles. I still laugh when I think about my friends going in and asking
for their beer in an old glass.
Jalapeno Petes used the logo for signage and apparel, including clever
t-shirts that said I Ate the Whole Enchilada! and Drink til
You Want Me, Sayles adds. They always sell out of those.
Designing identities for restaurants and bars is fun, challenging, at times a
bit aggravating and provides a designer a highly visible result for the effort.
It will often leave them hungry for more of the same type of project.
Contributors to this Logo Notions column:
Madelyn Wattigney/Creative Madhouse
Dallas / Fort Worth, TX
Dan Stebbings/Fresh Oil
John Sayles/Sayles Graphic Design
Des Moines, IA
San Francisco, CA
Logo design book reviews:
How 200 Companies Successfully Changed Their Image,
by David E. Carter.
David E. Carters recently released book, from Harper Design International,
features great examples of before and after identities for 200 companies
including professional sports organizations, major corporations, products, restaurants,
educational institutions and mom and pop businesses. The designs
presented include logo recreations from numerous design firms, including Hornall
Anderson Design Works, Rickabaugh Graphics, Sayles Graphic Design, Alexander
Isley, Inc., Dotzero Design, yours truly and many others. Each identity representation
is accompanied by a brief explanation, written by the designers themselves, adding
to the readers understanding of the visually displayed transition from
old to new logo. If the book has any shortcoming, it is that the reader is left
wanting even more information about the projects presented or additional
concept visuals of the process of getting from previous to current identity.
Still, the volume is an excellent resource for any identity designer who may
need a creative jumpstart in taking on the overhaul of a clients
by Nigel Holmes
Ive been a fan of the work of designer Nigel Holmes, the former Graphics
Director for Time magazine and principal of the firm Explanation
for many years. His 1985 book Designing Pictorial Symbols was
very helpful in teaching me, early in my career, to distill concepts down
to their simplest
forms. With his newest book, Wordless Diagrams from Bloomsbury
Publishing, Holmes continues the entertaining form of education for which
he is known through
his publications and public speaking engagements. While not directly related
to the practice of identity design, this volume is an excellent creative
concepting tool for any designer interested in the creation of logos. Actually,
could benefit from the included lessons and have a few chuckles
in the process. The book reinforces the old K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
of design I learned in college three decades ago. In simple graphic forms,
chronologically numbered for ease of use, Holmes clearly illustrates nearly
100 tasks such as
how to wave like a Royal, how to make a snowman, how to pierce a tongue,
and how to cremate a body. In addition, readers will also learn how to
milk a cow,
pour a beer and keep a low-cut dress in place as they are taken on this
wordless, visual adventure. How to train for and then eat 53 1/2
hot dogs immediately
reminded me of the lesson in simplicity, visually and verbally conveyed
by Holmes, in a past HOW Design Conference presentation: Always line
up your sausages.
Other suggested logo design books:
With each Logo Notions update a few possible additions to your identity design
book library will be suggested:
Logos of Bars and
Restaurants and Logos
of American Restaurants,
both by David E. Carter.
These books offer many examples of logo designs, and usage, for the hospitality
industry and are great sources of inspiration. As the books were released some
time ago, it may be possible to find used copies online.
Terence Conran on
by Terence Conran
While not a logo design book, this volume by designer, retailer and restaurateur
Conran is a great primer for any designer about the restaurant industry and what
is required when opening such a business.
The books of Judi Radice are also great additions to the library of any
designer interested in creating graphics for the restaurant industry. Look
of Restaurant and Food Graphics, the Menu Designseries,
and the Restaurant Design series. Some of the books
are out-of-print, but copies may be found through Internet booksellers.
Future logo design book releases:
Be on the lookout for these upcoming titles from logo design book publishers
and for reviews of the volumes once the books are released.
Letterhead and Logo Design 9
This upcoming Rockport Publishers volume, also from Christopher Simmons and MINE,
is scheduled for release in September 2005.
Worldwide Identity: Inspired Design from 40 Countries
In collaboration with Icograda, Robert L. Peters has authored this book that
showcases logos from around the world from the perspective of the brief, the
client and the solution. Rockport Publishers will introduce the book in October
American Corporate Identity 2006
David E. Carters latest corporate identity annual will be released
in November 2005.
Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher
LogoMotives, has received over 475 regional, national and international graphic
design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured
in more than 75 publications on the design of logos, the business of graphic
design, and small business marketing.
Fisher is a member of the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board and is
also on the 2006 HOW Design Conference Advisory Council. His own book, The
Savvy Designer's Guide to Success," was
released by HOW Design Books in late 2004. An excerpt from the book may
be found at CreativeLatitude.com.
More information about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives is available at www.jfisherlogomotives.com.