Part 4: Menu Card

Exercise details and initial reflection

This exercise is to produce an illustration for use on the menu of a quality fish restaurant.  This feels very different to the other exercises so far.  Very precise, very focused, and for the first time, corporate branding.  This exercise seems more like a graphic design task, which in itself prompts some interesting thoughts around graphic design compared to illustration, i.e…

How would a “graphic designer” approach this task?

How would an “art illustrator” approach this task?    Are there any differences in the creative process, thinking, and technical approach between the two?  Or is the very notion, a false premise?  Creativity is creativity after all?

My quick online research shows many different views on the “what is the difference between a graphic designer and illustrator?”   For instance, on one blog (, a small team of designers hypothesise the following:

The goal of graphic design is generally to convey a message or persuade an audience. Graphic designers convey a message by communicating visual information. A graphic design professional is typically involved in page layout, typography, branding, and image development.”

contrasting with an illustrator:

“Illustration work requires a more creative visualization, such as using pictures or drawings to visually represent or decorate… Illustrators sometimes also do design work and [can] excel in both fields. An illustrator might be a great designer, but the reverse will not necessarily be true.  In most professional settings, the graphic designer determines the call for illustration. The designer requires an image, and this work is assigned to an illustrator. An illustrator creates a picture, and a graphic designer decides how the picture will be used in the layout.”


Generating ideas

I think this exercise is particularly suited to producing a moodboard as there is a huge variation of branding for fish restaurants and that can help with the ideas generation process; I’ve gathered examples of branding/images for fish restaurants and anything that caught my eye on the nautical theme:

The fact that the restaurant for this exercise has been described as quite classy definitely determines the direction of the artwork and choice of media.  Thoughts:

  • No visual cliches around the sea theme.  e.g. trident spikes, bubbles out of a fish’s mouth, etc
  • Avoiding anything that could be perceived as charming or cute.  Certainly not creating any sea based “characters”.  The smiling fish beloved of Fish n’ Chip shops comes to mind.
  • Probably not vector artwork.   My instinct is telling me to avoid the vector look.

And in terms of what I do want to achieve:

  • Quite simple
  • A style which looks hand-rendered.

I continued to play around with thoughts and sketches in my sketchbook:

After some reflection, I decided to pursue the idea of drawing a lobster.  Lobsters have an association with luxury and that suits the restaurant.   Also I think they are quite interesting, so would be engaging for me to draw.  However, I’d describe lobsters as fairly visually complex, so reducing detail down will be quite important in my drawing.

So keeping with my intentions set out above (simple style and hand-rendered) I produced a lobster which hopefully has a contemporary and “fresh” look for the fictional restaurant.  It was produced free-hand with a graphic tablet and Sketchbook software, and using a photo as a reference for the drawing.

Then as a visualisation on the menu board and on a business card:

Note: I made up the name of the restaurant to be “Versa” and placed on these blank business cards.

Final thoughts and evaluation

I think that the lobster image works well on the visualisation (probably more so that it does on its own).   When I look back to my moodboard I can see that the Rick Stein was probably sitting most in my head as an indirect influence.  I wanted the character of the seafood to be drawn out in simple outline lines.  But I used a slightly splatty and bleeding ink (around the edges of the lobster) is a loose homage to the Illustrator, Emma Dibben, who usually has such ink bleeds and splashes around her drawings, e.g.:,  25th June 2017


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s