Food, Art and Design

Food, Art and Design

Often with high-profile, highly visible design and branding projects, there’s added pressure on the creative team that might not exist when making, say, a sales brochure. Some projects, like the opening of an exciting new restaurant concept in downtown St. Louis by a James Beard Award-winning chef, can feel so public that they feel like they carry the weight of the branding firm’s reputation.

At least, that’s what it always feels like in our heads. Will people like it? Is this any good? How does this stack up?

Creative professionals are more fragile than you think. At the end of the day, they really want you to love what they make as much as they love it. Yes, the work in itself is the reward, but the reaction matters, too.


For the past couple of months, our team has been working on branding and collateral for Porano Pasta, the restaurant concept I mentioned earlier. And while there’s pressure to make something amazing that everyone will think is unique and cool, strangely, our team has been calm, focused, and having a lot of fun in the process.

Porano-Restaurant-Branding-and Design

We fell in love with the work. We’ve laughed, argued, stressed out about installing things, scrambled and even panicked a little. But never over the concept. All of the tension was about making the concept we loved come alive. So we were willing to push past whatever we needed to to get there.

I have to do a lot to separate the idea of art and design in my mind. Maybe too much. For me, art asks questions, and design solves problems. Art either moves you or it doesn’t. Design either works or it doesn’t. They’re two separate things, but they can work together. There’s always art within design, and elements of design within art.

With this project, and in a lot of restaurant identity work, design and art come together more than usual. We’ve had to work through the functional design challenges of menu systems, making ordering easy, wayfinding, signage, etc. But we’ve also had the chance to make some more freeform expressions of what the concept embodies for us. These pieces are far from functional or critical. They’re more art than design, and our team had a great time putting them together.


So, back to the pressure. Will our branding be a hit? Will the public like it? Will critics love it or hate it? Does it carry the weight of our entire agency’s reputation?


Who knows? While we were working on this project, I came across this Andy Warhol quote on Instagram, and it’s stayed in the back of my head throughout the project.

Sometimes the answer is to just keep going.



Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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