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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?

Douglas Riccardi

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.

Memo’s signage design for Paul’s Daughters on the Coney Island boardwalk

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 …

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.

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