Triggering Culinary Memories with Type
Douglas Riccardi talks about restaurant branding and his NYC restaurant suggestions
Douglas Riccardi’s upcoming Typographics talk, “A Culinary Abecedary”, is a logical extension of the designer’s work at his studio, Memo, specializing in culinary branding for restaurants, cook books, and other hospitality projects. The talk promises to be a Proustian journey through letterform/culinary associations, and how this type of thinking can inform the work of restaurant branding.
It is common knowledge that a scent, a song, a flavour can be the strongest trigger for a memory. I wondered if Douglas thinks a typeface or even a single letter form can have a similar effect?
DR: Sure, typography can trigger a memory. For the culinary traveler, the memories of vernacular signage from places like Paris, Venice, or London can bring us back to foods we enjoyed in those places: a colorful, decadent macaron, a seafood stew over soft polenta, or a simply perfect fish and chips. I, personally, can’t see a blackletter (especially one hand-rendered, perhaps even with a touch of a drop shadow) without recalling the first taco al pastor I had in the Condesa in Mexico City. There is such a deep tradition of the use of that style of lettering for store and restaurant signage all over Mexico and for me it is indelibly linked to the food I enjoyed there.
YP: People sometimes talk about “tasty” typefaces. When you design restaurants identities, how do you marry the voice of a typeface to a certain cuisine or flavor?
DR: Where possible, we start with typefaces that reference history or geography. But we also try to nuance those choices to make something more contemporary for today’s marketplace and to reflect a particular restaurant’s emphasis on flavor, service, and point of view. The combination of typefaces can work like a recipe — some add depth, some add spice. Others add boldness, others pure fluff. The magic comes from knowing the proportions of each to add to the mix.
YP: What is your favourite place to eat in New York City? Can you recommend an address (or two, or more)?
DR: Believe it or not, I don’t have one fave place. But I do have a few recommendations for the Typographics crowd …
- McSorley’s Ale House: Just because it’s a NY tradition and literally steps from Cooper Union.
- Russ & Daughters: Another NY tradition, super cool again with a fantastic new identity.
- Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria on Great Jones Street: Always awesome with a classic Mucca identity.
- The Mermaid Inn on Macdougal: Great oysters and Louise Fili identity.
- Freemans in Freemans Alley: A hip, cool hideaway.
- OTTO Enoteca on 8th Street: Stand in the bar area for drinks and salumi.
- The Odeon: Just because it has been there since when I worked with Tibor Kalman.
Finally, if you’re in town for a few days and want a real taste of NYC, make the trek out to Coney Island for beer and freshly shucked clams at Paul’s Daughter. The boardwalk, the people, the ocean, the hand-painted signs — it doesn’t get better than this on a summer evening. Follow it up with a ride on the historic Cyclone roller coaster if you dare.
YP: Thank you for these suggestions — I can’t wait to try some of them. It was nice chatting with you, Douglas.