January 6, 2015 - Comments Off on Part 1: A Taste of Something New

Part 1: A Taste of Something New

A designer’s guide to becoming a connoisseur in the unknown.

When I began working at a small startup creative agency nearly a year and a half ago, I never thought I would be co-leading a team of designers and developers to brand, conceptualize, design, and develop a new high-end restaurant located in the heart of Downtown Orlando.

I was given the opportunity to put my skills to work on this project — even skills I didn’t know I possessed at the time. Thus began the acrobatics of jumping from creative director, to web designer, brand designer, print/graphic designer, typographic illustrator, photographer, interior designer, front-end developer, to project manager. I even got to dabble in the ever-so challenging position of a “taste tester.”

I encountered several “firsts”:
  • First restaurant project
  • First time designing a full menu for print and web
  • First time taking a stab at photography in a professional setting
  • First time assisting with the interior design of a restaurant
  • First time seeing my work take physical shape through signage in a high-traffic area and menus used by restaurant goers daily

No matter how experienced you are as a designer, there will always come a time when you step into a client’s industry, project or specific role that requires you to stretch yourself and take risks. This is a bite of the process I took to engage in something new.

Table for Two

“Thornton Standard Restaurant” — Internally, this was the working title we gave the endeavor before construction began. Without a name set, I was able to dive into the process early on and be a part of its transformation into what is now Soco. This was my first experience being involved in the strategic naming of a brand outside of personal projects. Being engaged with the multiple stakeholders enabled my team and I to enter into a two-way conversation with the client from square one. While we leaned into their expertise and wisdom from the restaurant industry perspective, they also listened closely to our recommendations and solutions as creative professionals.

soco-mockup

These were the initial sketches of the branding process and original naming. Sketchbook mockup credit — http://graphicburger.com/sketchbook-mockup-psd/

Once the name Soco was finalized, we sketched out and vectorized our most promising logos and ultimately landed on the final version as pictured on the far right below. The client desired for their brand to communicate that the restaurant was 40% Southern and 60% Contemporary — hence the name Soco. They were thrilled with our final version which contained several modern elements with a twist of southern flair. The font weights were carefully selected to also depict that ratio.

soco logo

Once a circle was decided on as the main geometric shape, we expanded on making this logo a bit more southern.

Do your homework

The next major piece to the pie was creating a food and drink menu that communicates, “Not only are we great for a classy restaurant experience,” but also says, “Don’t forget about our home cooking.”

To do so, I needed to extensively research to find out how other great menus were designed. One of the most hailed restaurant menus out there today is found at Balthazar in NYC. It is known for its well-thought pricing display, dish item placement, and strategic boxed-in “callouts.”

There is a science behind these decisions. In his book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), William Poundstone notes two examples of customer psychology the designers put into use:

Balthazar menu

Poundstone, William. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). New York: Hill and Wang, 2010. N. pag. Print.

In the upper right hand corner — an illustration is incorporated to draw the customer’s eye to the two most expensive dishes available.

&

With the absence of dollar signs and leader dots, the reader’s eyes tend not to move straight to the prices.

The care and research designers put into the psychology behind a menu can actually make or break customers’ selections.

The care and research designers put into the psychology behind a menu can actually make or break customers’ selections.

By following these simple rules, I was able to construct a layout that diverts customers’ eyes away from the prices and helps them to focus on the meal choice the really want.

Soco_Menu-front

As you can see, none of the prices have dollar signs or are aligned, there is a “feature” callout in the center, and the top right hand corner has some of the most expensive dishes.

Soco_Menu-back

The backside of the menu contains some of the main drinks available, also sans dollar signs or aligned pricing.

Even with five stakeholders who had the final say, we landed on a happy medium that we are all very proud of.

Become a life-long student and you’ll always be better off.

Taking a crack at it

Before bringing in a photographer, they needed a photographer. If you haven’t noticed, the featured image up top was shot by me with a personal DSLR, some rented mounting and lighting equipment. While I am certainly nowhere near a professional photographer, Soco needed a handful of shots taken to capture their brand new dishes for promotion. Without a budget or schedule that allowed us to hire a professional photographer on such short notice, I was able to step in and save the day… sort of.

Like I said, I’m not a pro, but I do know my way around a camera, have a creative eye from my background, can edit in Photoshop and Lightroom, and I have an Instagram account (kidding). Regardless of the expectations I willingly stepped up against, I took the opportunity as a way for me to hone in on different aspects of my creativity and stretch myself in my career.

Don’t be afraid to jump right in, even if there’s a possibility of failure.

Here are just a few photos I was able to shoot, edit, and deliver for digital and printed promo pieces during Soco’s earlier days. Enjoy.

soco-photos3

soco-photos2

soco-photos1

Take Aways

  1. Though it may feel like a lesson learned in Design 101, maintain a two-way conversation while laying the groundwork for the project. By establishing a solid foundation, you’re likely to help pave the way for a successful project and a happy client.
  2. Never stop learning and improving. Push yourself to get into the shoes of the audience. Become a life-long student.
  3. Jump in and try something new, even if you have minimal or no experience doing it.

Thanks for reading Part 1 of this article. Part 2 is coming soon… and don’t forget to visit Soco — Beau W.

P.S.For more information on the psychology behind the Balthazar menu, visit nymag.com

Alternatively, you can read this article on Medium.com here:
Part 1: A Taste of Something New

Published by: Beau Wingfield in Design

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