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Little Rock is rapidly becoming a cultural hub for restaurant growth. As a local foodie, I’m excited to see growth in cuisine and expertise. From a designer’s perspective, I notice when a restaurant has made calculated efforts to build and market their brand. And when they don’t.

Building a brand encompasses many components. One small but very important part of your brand is the logo. This is a symbol used for marketing purposes to distinguish and identify a product.

Being able to recognize a stand-alone icon out of context or without text, is considered a successful feat. You would probably easily recognize those giant golden arches or the green siren anywhere without the words McDonald’s or Starbucks. These global companies have invested many years and resources into building instantly identifiable brands. While they may seem like giants from a smaller restaurants’ perspective, you can follow the same principles and apply them to your own brand to give your restaurant a leg up on its marketing efforts.

Size and Complexity Matters

Consider where your logo is going to appear. Applications might include a business card, the side of your restaurant, or on a large billboard along the interstate. It may be used at any scale and thus needs to maintain its integrity across the board. For example, a very vertical design may not work well in a horizontal format (like a billboard), so design accordingly.

Brand style guides include a section dedicated to defining how a logo is to be used in terms of scale, color, in conjunction with photography, and more. Specifically, the guide will designate the smallest size the logo can be shown. As an example, a logo may be limited to be used at no smaller than one inch wide. As a designer creating or using a logo, you want to be sure that the text and icon are legible at the smallest designated size.

A favicon (i.e., a website icon) is even smaller, displaying an icon at 16×16 or 32×32 pixels. That’s about the size of a ladybug. It’s important that your icon is recognizable when scaled to this size.

This brings me to complexity. Text can be scaled down only so far before it is no longer legible. The same is applied to complex graphics, which as expected, will lose detail clarity when used on a small scale.

In the above example, the golden arches hold up better overall as a favicon, while the detail of the siren is really too small to notice the minutia. However, they both work because the companies have spent so much money making sure you know their brands. Worldwide, customers are familiar with these logos and they are still instantly recognizable.

You’ve probably heard of the KISS rule. I like to say, “Keep It Simple Sweetheart.” If your logo or company name is too long, complex or busy it’s going to be difficult to apply the logo across all marketing platforms.

Color and Logo Usage

As a restaurant, you want to promote your brand in-house to build recognition. Whether you’re interested in extreme minimalism or using a broad spectrum of color, you can capitalize on your existing resources in a way that will help build your identity. A great method to build recognition is to utilize your restaurant’s wall space, menus and signage to display your logo and colors prominently.

Be aware that there is cost associated with color. Monetary cost plays in as four-color process printing is typically more expensive than one- or two-color process printing. While cost may be negligible at certain quantities at your local print shop, it can make a significant difference in cost if you’re screen printing or embroidering merchandise.

If you’re interested in learning more about color processes, here are a few resources you can check out. Pantone: Spot vs. Process. Wikipedia: Four color model. Offset vs. Digital.

Most print shops I’ve worked with will offer a tour of their facility and answer any questions concerning their printing processes.

You might consider having multiple cohesive versions of your logo. Plan for horizontal and vertical logo adaptations; aim to default to your primary logo values, but also have one- and two-color renditions ready for more expensive or restricting media; and an icon-only option.

Menu Structure & Navigation

There is a technical and logical approach to consider when structuring the design of a menu. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Branded approach
      • Use your logo and brand colors.
      • Remember: Consistency is key.
  • Organization
      • User experience is important. It should be easy to navigate the menu.
      • Name your categories with easily recognizable terms (apps, entrees, desserts).
  • Obtain Hierarchy
      • Give the reader direction: where to start, where to finish. Establish a flow.
      • The most important information is larger, bolder or brightly colored.
        Ex: Categories (Header text, 30pt) should have more emphasis than entree descriptions (body text, 10pt).
  • Choose a legible typeface
      • Your content should be legible.
      • Smaller type is easier to read with a serif or sans serif option.
      • If you decide on a script, use it sparingly and size it to be read.
  • Use a grid
      • Proper alignment, consistency and spacing makes it easy to navigate the menu.
      • Here’s a book I have continued to reference since college.
  • Keep it clean
    • In most cases, I recommend keeping the photography on your website, and limiting the menu to text and supporting graphics.
    • If you use photography on your menu, make sure any text overlay is minimal and the text is still readable
    • Large, professional photography can be beautifully executed on the cover of a menu. But, keep in mind your menu might change over time and you will need to keep it up-to-date.

Consistency is Key

Building a successful brand relies heavily on consistency. Your tone, colors, logo and campaigns should maintain a cohesive look and message. Consider Coca-Cola, which has been around since the late 1800s. Their logo has been through some minor transition, but overall they have maintained an unwavering commitment to their logo and brand. They are recognized worldwide with their distinct script and bright red lettering.


To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a clever, abstract or pun-driven marketing campaign that makes me think, and instantly gives me that lightbulb moment. The goal of advertising is to elicit an emotion, and preferably a call-to-action for the customer base to buy into their product. When you have that “a-ha!” moment with a logo or brand campaign it sticks with you, and that company has promoted itself effectively.

Taco Bell has created personalities for their sauce packets. Chick-fil-A chose renegade cows as their mascot. Brilliant campaigns produced by Budweiser, Guinness and Heineken bring in millions in return for their marketing efforts.

If you are going for a more conceptual direction with your marketing messages, be sure to run it by several people or a focus group for feedback if you’re worried it may get lost in translation.

The goal is to make sure your audience gets it when it comes to your logo and brand.

To sum it all up:

  • Your brand is you.
  • Consistency is key.
  • Size matters.
  • Think about structure, navigation and user experience.

You don’t have to be McDonald’s to brand yourself successfully. Need some help? Call us.

Author Thoma Thoma

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