Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Branding The Underground Restaurant

I've decided to 'brand' myself. I sourced little vintage French pinnies for front of house. The bibs are pinned up with safety pins (nod to my punk days), garnished with skulls and little silver 'charms' of food that I have found on my travels.

I also asked young designer Rachael Rodgers to come up with designs for my food range 'The Underground Restaurant'. I'm going to sell salsa, guacamole, pickled lemons and other products. The notes I gave to her were "I want it punky, edgy, pirate, foody with feminine, French, gingham and vintage". In short, include influences from my personal history, travels, and the illicit, clandestine, guerilla nature of The Underground Restaurant.
Here are some of her sketches. What do you think?

I like this one, it's like all my blue and white china.

This would be good for the labels on my jars.


  1. I love the top one on the checkered background, but the skull is a bit overdone.

    Drop some of the detail on the skull, emphasize the chef hat I would say!

    // Manne

  2. Thanks for your feedback Manne.
    I like some of the detail because it's like my vintage crockery...also quite Mexican.

  3. i dig #4 but the font is a bit hard to read...

  4. I agree Krista, that's why I asked for a more French vintage handwriting font like below.

  5. I like the 2nd one, but the first one is good too! i think vintage/punk are easy to pair, but french/vintage/punk can get a teeny bit more difficult. love the safety pin ideas though, so cute!

  6. The safety pins are cute aren't they? I want a little bit of diamante to put on them too...

  7. Mmmm. Not sure if I'm honest.

    If you were set on the skull route I would soften it a bit like: http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-illustration-8406514-valentines-skull.php

    or these remind me of Mexican day of the dead images which is eddgy without being too harsh: http://www.iwantyourskull.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/birdsjpeg.jpg

    Kitchen objects could be incorporated and I like the knife and fork crossbones.

    Also, something that is easily replicated as one colour (no gradients) would keep printing costs (and problems) down for labels etc...as is something that can be resized without loss of too much detail for smaller items. The gingham could be actual fabric on the jar lids to bring in colour. The one colour would look good with the food product too and not er, jar, too much.

    The type needs to be tight, especially as you may wish to use it independently from the skull imagery in future.

    God sorry, blah blah, I really could go on for hours about this!

  8. Fascinating. Do feel free to go on for hours...graphicfoodie. I should have known you'd be the one to know about this stuff
    I wanted the classic French handwriting, like on the Bonne Maman jars...that's easier to read than this font...

  9. This may sound a bit off the wall, but I don't like #1 and 2 because of the mouth - it looks like the skull's mouth has been stitched shut. And that is definitely not you! Writing very hard to read on #3, but 4 and 5 are winners in my book. I like the font better on 5.

  10. Ha! Yeah, can you tell I work for a branding consultancy!

    The Bonne maman brand popped in my head actually - just more punk-like in tune with the whole Underground restaurant movement. Maybe black gingham? The Bonne Maman style of font could work really well.

    I dunno. Branding is just about getting the flavour right of what you are representing and not making it into something it isn't so it communicates what it is to someone who may not know exactly what the company/product is.

    Great quality produce, a tinge of illicit and the personality of the Underground Restaurant is where I would take it. Different to own produce which tends to go down the wholesome, kraft paper and organic route so it will have stand out.

    If I think about this any longer my head will explode with ideas. It's a great project.

  11. Joe Warwick's beaten you to it with the skull and crossed cutlery thing http://www.galleyslavery.com/

  12. It's awfully similar to the logo of The Ghetto Gourmet, one of the original underground restaurants...


  13. It seems like it's a symbol of all that is a tad illegal. What she has designed is quite different in detail though...?
    It's more feminine...

  14. I like the top one but like the idea of black gingham. And I agree the toque should be larger. I wouldn't worry too much about the crossed cutlery having been done before, it's an obvious thing to do in a pirate-ish (or pirate-esque maybe?) themed food project, just important that it's done with your own style, which yours is. Great that you are doing this. How exciting!

    The safety pins are SO SO fab!

  15. Love the idea, and wish you all success with it. Got to say, I don't like the skulls, but I love the last sketch.

    So you going to be pickling lemons then?

    All the best,


  16. Oh, I love this idea! And my favourite image is the one with the red gingham. Very cute and raw.

  17. I love that skull with the crossed cutlery. Very imaginative, especially with the chef's hat. But Manne's right; the skull would look best a bit simpler. Hey, will you fly that flag outside your house on restaurant nights? :-)

  18. I've just added the last drawing, the file was corrupted yesterday. This is my favourite drawing.
    I agree the tocque needs to be bigger.
    Maybe the skulls aren't a good idea and I should have my face drawn Paul Newman stylee, instead.
    I think the skull and knife and fork thing have been used quite extensively. I do think that this design departs from the ghet one...it's a general symbol for the movement. I'll ask the ghet what they think?

    I'd love a flag! I even have a wrought iron post to hand it from, which I bought a few years ago from a French brocante. I just need to get someone to put it up.
    Black gingham would be interesting.
    My kitchen uses alot of blue and white gingham.I thought I could use different coloured ginghams for different sauces...
    Thanks for everybody's comments, keep em coming.

  19. Like most ... styling is great ... but skulls and food ... I don't get it ... go with punk/frenck/lace/shock colours ... much more you (as far as I know you) ...
    Mat x

  20. Overall I like the first one best, with it's pretty blue and white crockery theme softening the pirate skull theme. I also really like the circle of the plate rim behind the knife and form behind the skull.

    But I don't like the skull itself in that one, I vastly prefer the one in 4. Though I can't decide whether a side-on skull like that would work in front of the plate or not.

    Perhaps your artist could re-work number 1 trying out different styles AND different orientations of skulls.

    Personally, I'm not so fussed about the mini chef's hat on top of the skull but can take or leave it so if you're really keen would leave it in.

    Whilst I like your thoughts on gingham I'm not sure it doesn't make it all a bit too cluttered. Certainly the second design with smaller plate, product name banner and red/white gingham doesn't work at all for me.

    But maybe keeping the plate as large as it is in number one nad putting a folded gingham napkin beneath it, tucked in under the plate a touch, at a diagonal angle to the lower right, to offset the chef's hat, might work? Don't know, would need to see it done to decide.

  21. for my two penneth black gingham works for me - it's also what the Balinese use to indicate bad times for certain deities. They will wrap certain statues in black gingham to indicate it's their 'time of month' so to speak. Good match for you I think! Like everyone else I feel the skull is too dominant and too complicated. What about introducing it as decoration on the blue china / engraving on the cutlery? More underground perhaps? Anyway it seems you have access to great designers already - use them and abuse them - they love it!

  22. Pretty funky designs and colours, though as a marketeer I'd be wary of the skull in a skull a cross bones pose. That is the symbol for poison and you certainly don't want to give the message that your food is that! It is cool but some people will inevitably read that message... But hey, that is just my humble opinion...I love what you do so please don't take this as any criticism...just trying to be helpful! I love the idea that you are designing a brand and that you will be doing your own food! xxx

  23. PS It is really actually quite an interesting concept the more I think of it - the skull with the food -that you have gone for...I studied Classics for my degree and we did a module on the importance of death and food in the context of Roman dining. Romans used to have skulls and mini sarcophogai at their dinner tables and great terrifying statues in their dinner halls because they believed that it was a very important reminder and helped one to appreciate their life and give thanks all the more as they ate the food that would inevitably prolong their lives...there is so much material on this subject that if you fancied, you could explore further for ideas and inspiration...anyway just a thought...

  24. "designers...use them and abuse them - they love it!"

    Yeah, we find it a real hoot Green Drawers to be though of in such derogatory fashion. Muppet.

    Love this open forum though Ms Marmite. One design agency is using public voice to design the new London brand. Great idea to get feedback at the early stages.

  25. I'd go for the 4th one. Looks the least like the one that says you're going to die if you eat this :)

  26. Love the idea of a gingham napkin Kavey brilliant way of incorporating it.
    Mat: yes a few people have said that...skull means poison...danger. But I guess it's also subverting that somehow. Like running the Union Jack upside down.
    Green Drawers...putting the skull as part of the plate pattern design, a sort of punk version of blue willow. Like it!
    cc: Very interesting your information on the memento mori theme
    Graphic Foodie: Green drawers is a really lovely woman, I'm sure she was joking...thanks for enjoying this open forum. It's been so informative and interesting for me; articulating ideas that I sort of knew I was thinking but couldn't quite put my finger on.
    James: :)

  27. I love the last banner, and I LOVE the safety pin with charms... could you use the safety pin somehow instead of the skull?

    I am not sure that the skull is good subliminally, as others said, it is a bit "poison" or at the very least not necessarily pleasant...but maybe that edge of danger could also be turned into a definite USP? Underground Restaurant as Sex Pistol kind of thing....

  28. Will throw in my comment, although you seem to have lots already!
    I really like the gingham background, but am not very keen on skull/bones imagery. I wonder if it would be possible to incorporate the underground/punk aesthetic in another way?
    I'd also maybe think about limiting the colour palette so it's not too multi-coloured swapshop.
    Definitely worth taking lots of time until you get somthing that you're totally happy with!

  29. Skull = death, poison

    Will put people off. Perhaps if you want to symbolise the pirate nature of the enterprise you might use a crossed scimitar and fork?

  30. Would a pirate's hat over knife and fork work?

  31. thank you for defending my honour Ms M. Can't quite see myself as a muppet - can you? Perhaps I could be Animal? Or maybe one of the old men on the balcony, in drag... Anyway, cannot wait to see the final images, and especially looking forward to the food. xx

  32. Hey mis marmitelover. Your new food range sounds yummy. Do you know the Kitchen TAble cafe in Mill LAne NW6 - close to you I think? I'm sure they would love to flog some of your wares as they a reel foodies and enterpprising folks too. Pop in and see Jennie or Tom. Good luck wiv it.
    Ps I like to skulls, they remind us that life is short and so we should enjoy it (including good food) while we can

  33. My favourite, and the one that I think best captures the vibe of your restaurant, is the blue and white onr. However I don't really like the skulls, as for me it says "death", and being a very vegetarian friendly restaurant (and chef, and product) you're doing yourself a bit of a dis-service. Liked the suggestion somebody made of a pirate knife. Otherwise, why not steer away from pirates - in practice piracy is rather unpleasant, unlike your products!



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