Our Thinking

Subconscious Branding: Perfecting the experience

I’m one of those people who loves to go out on the town. You can always find me checking out the newest hotspots – my favorites are restaurants. Why restaurants? You would think it would be the food – a darn good reason, but no, I love to go to restaurants to check out the design. Taking in the various design elements such as the interior design, and graphic design (visual identity, signage, menu etc.) As consumers we often base our expectations on the visuals. It’s not surprising that many judge a book by its cover – in this case a restaurant.

Can we know what kind of food the restaurant will serve just by looking at the sign outside or are the two completely different? What typeface or colour did the designer use to convey this message? All this before I even sit down. It’s always interesting to see if it complements or doesn’t complement the overall brand.

A new restaurant I checked-out recently was Weslodge Saloon on King street west in Toronto. A dark charcoal exterior with bright yellow doors welcome you as you enter. I love the logo on the exterior signage. It’s lit up in Marquee lights to emphasize the old western saloon theme. The typeface used for the logo is a modern take on a western feel.  I’m thinking this place will have a lot of meat with a modern twist. As we enter, the place has a definite masculine, western vibe, even down to the wait staff wearing holsters.

Menu’s can often be a distraction – not what’s on the menu but how it’s designed, Weslodge’s menu is no exception. The designers have carried the Western theme throughout. It’s not overly ornate. Although certain small elements such as the werewolf silhouette, sheriff star badge and themed details carry the style. Simple, good use of whitespace and typography. Signs scattered around the restaurant also carry this same theme. They spent a lot of time thinking of their brand and making it consistent. They’ve managed to make this spot an enjoyable experience. Too often, companies forget that creating a consistent experience is beneficial to your brand.

Around since 1996, Bar Italia, one of my local haunts, is a restaurant you may have heard about. The food is fabulous, no question, Never had a bad meal at this place. The graphic design however is one of my pet peeves. I pass this restaurant almost everyday. They’ve got a serious identity problem. They have four completely different logos / signage right outside their restaurant. If you check out their website, you’ll find a fifth. If you check out their facebook page you won’t find it at all. None of them give you a sense of the type of experience you are about to have. One is ultra modern almost space age, the other is ultra conservative using the copperplate typeface on a marble background (something you’ll find in a lot of stuffy law firms or old school financial institutions). The third a simple typeface the fourth is a playful checkerboard logo (my favorite and most effective by the way), and the last, well it’s the fourth logo deconstructed. It looks like one of those modern hand drawn fonts used on some teen magazines. It’s almost like this restaurant is having a visual identity crisis. These problems are all about staying within the brand.

A well-defined brand uses subtle, stylistic messages to remind you of where you are – like Weslodge Saloon where they carried that stylized Western vibe throughout the restaurant, menu, website and facebook page. Think about your own brand. Is your design consistent throughout? By creating inconsistencies you confuse the customer and dilute your brand, opening your company up to being confused with the competition. Here’s some food for thought: Have you ever forgotten the name of a place, only to recognize their logo or décor? That would be branding having it’s way with you.

I’m always on the lookout for new restaurants with great design. If you’ve been to any good restaurants lately that you would like to share with me, post your comments on our Facebook page, or drop me a line at ashish@108ideaspace.com.