Exercise 25

Fish Menu

Exercise 25 – Fish restaurant menu

Brief:  create an illustration for use on the menu of a sophisticated quality fish restaurant (European chain of restaurants)

Identifying key words:  fish, fresh ingredients, modern, bright, contemporary design, visually appetising, quality, used as logo, sophisticated.

Responding to words: 

Sophisticated    –    clean, crisp, simple in design, elegant, classy.

Fresh ingredients – asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, avocado, lemon, limes, bright colours

Modern/bright/contemporary design – clean, fresh colours, white environment so similar logo.

Visually appetising – fresh and bright colours with an echo of freshly caught fish, freshly picked veg.

Quality – sunshine packed food, clean menu, minimum choice, clean colours

Logo – simple design, round edges, fresh colours

Generating ideas:

Fish bones – for the main logo and then fish bones on a plate could be used to imply a finished dinner.

Fresh food – quality veg would include asparagus or home grown organic food.  Fresh lemons and limes go well with fish and seaweeds as veg would also imply sophistication and quality ingredients.

Muted colours – blue but not a primary or pastel.  Muted tones of blue with fish nets or some colours from the sea and from fish and crabs.

Fish net – somewhere in the image, to imply freshly caught produce.

Franchise – it has to be easy to be reproduced

Modern – most of the modern styles would lean towards hand lettering styles of menus and simple designs with a focus on various styles of texts overlapping.




some of the images on my Pinterest board portray simple brochure size style menus with an antique finish or vintage look.  This appeals to a wide variety of people.  Red seems to be a strong colour for menus, it works for attracting attention.  Variety in the font in a soft black on the vintage style paper is also really popular.

For a more rustic feel the menu is often pinned on a clipboard or just has one page.  For more sophisticated restaurants they seem to be more like a slim book with a small logo or lettering with an effect on it.

In franchise restaurants they might use an oversized paper placement on the table to act as a tablet mat as well as the menu.  This might be too plain and not sophisticated enough for this restaurant.

A handmade menu effect with a simple design that shows fresh ingredients would most likely work best as it is a franchise and needs to show quality but not alienate their customers as being too sophisticated.  Modern restaurants seem to like this theme.

Drawing Ideas up

I drew up some images that came to mind with fish in it.  I wanted to use a new gadget I got too, the bamboo slate.  It allows you to sketch and save it as a pdf/jpeg and sends it straight to your phone.

Other apps on my phone were then also being experimented with, such as the PS app and the sketchbook app.  They allowed me to generate some ideas, jot them down and save them for later.

The sketchbook app allowed me to work on the go and any ideas jotted down on the bamboo would transfer over to this app easily.  In this way I experimented with the veg and fish images to see what would work together.

Some of the images worked really well together.  There were a few more sketches but unfortunately the sketchbook they were in got lost between work and home.  Not sure what else was in it but the loss of it is a real stinker to say the least.

The images that were on my phone and slate were saved at least, so they’re included here in the exercise.  The first batch were done with the idea of a table mat style menu.  They were coloured in and played with by adjusting opacity in the layering or reversing the image.  Overall they’re fun and quirky, but they look better for something else.  They lack quality and sophistication and they’re far too basic for the restaurant brief.  The fish are a tad too comical looking too, and that doesn’t work.  They’re too far removed from a neutral fish look to be used in a rustic and hand lettered type style or design.


Too comical looking and pink for a restaurant doesn’t work.


The arrangement has a nice repeat pattern and the fish faded out looks okay but it isn’t right for the brief.


The vintage colour of the paper appears more lemon in colour and looks like a surface pattern for a drying towel or table cover.


Too pale here with this and the blue isn’t a fresh blue.


This is moving towards a more sophisticated colour scheme but it doesn’t work.


This is just a hot mess.  I went for a mix of the layers of the fish and veg and there is no clear visual arrangement here.  I was happy that the app worked though and that I could use it!

So with these ideas out of the way I could see that the images of the fish and veg were a good idea, but they needed to be used sparingly and in a much more sophisticated way.

Further research into menu design yielded some interesting information about how to approach this.

According to an article featured in the Daily Mail (ref 1) that outlined tricks restaurants use on their menus, colour plays an important part as well as the layout.

Using green implies fresh ingredients while orange stimulates appetite.  Nostalgia is a powerful force and having a limited range of choice is better while storytelling stimulates imagination.  Higher quality restaurants use the texture of their menus to convey this to their customers while cheaper ones use vinyl to imply cost effective but good value for money.

With this in mind, I wanted to ensure that my brief was met so I decided to go with the following:

Green, blue and orange in the menu

Rustic and organic and clean and limited imagery of fish 

As the restaurant wanted to use the image for a logo too, I wanted to keep it simple and elegant so it would work on the top of a letterhead or on the side of a van.  Keeping the colours limited would work too so it would be easy to print.  The nostalgic effect would be used by using antique or vintage colours but fresh colours for the veg and fish.

The layout was worked on in PS rather than creating a thumbnail.  Not perhaps the best idea but as I was working in mixed media it felt more fluid to move into digital without thumbnails.  This meant that I would be working on composition and viewpoint as I was working on the layering of the image.  It felt easier to manipulate the image and organically compose it in Photoshop.

I wanted a vintage feel so I sourced free images on google that would lend to this by having that aged paper look.  Some of the images had extra details on them so they appealed as they could provide noise in the background of the image.

I also wanted to use the sketch of the fish that I had done earlier and put it through the image somehow.  I had no name for the restaurant, so in order to give it something to anchor to I made one up.  This wouldn’t be done in a real situation but  I felt it worked for this exercise.

I arrived at the name ‘Fishbones’ to imply good food eaten quickly because the quality of it was so good.  I wanted to appeal that modern rustic style too so going for this type of name felt less overly fussy.

Next I wanted to use the ingredients I had sketched so I manipulated them in PS to go on a plate.  The plates had little on them, to imply small portions but quality food.

There were two layouts I wanted to explore, the first being a big image of the logo, the second being a triangle effect of dishes that adhered to the psychology of food description taken from the article in the Daily Mail (ref 1).

I used a free image of fishbones taken from google and used this as the main focus for the logo.

Two images were created as the process of considering viewpoint/composition/content was explored as I layered images and added colour and text.  I wanted to create an effect of vintage mixed with the impression of being under water.  The text has a a texture in it similar to fish net and the hand written font of the menu give it a rustic feel.

Key information that I felt would be important to have on the menu were included on the front, while an example of a possible layout for the details of the menu were outlined in the third image.  An overlay of a brighter colour was put in to give a clearer view of what the food is.


On this occasion I followed most of the steps from the ‘receive the brief’ first step.  BUT…I still found myself doing the thumbnails and layout while in the middle of Photoshop.  This was something I really wanted to stop doing.  I really wanted to hit each step of the way and really think about the design BEFORE going for the visuals and final artwork.

I also felt that the designs of the two menus were okay…not great…and didn’t actually hit the brief key word of ‘sophisticated’.  So  I went back and revisited the steps from the very start.

I sketched down a few layouts and considered the fact that the company would want to use their image on different things.  So I considered what type of image or logo would work as a way to distinguish the company and yet be transferred to any menu or image they wanted to promote.


I also felt that keeping the design palette simple would be best and a nod to the nostalgia design in some way would meet the insights gained from the article on menu psychology (ref 1).


So the range of colours were going to be a fresh sea turquoise with a slightly greener tinge to it to give the impression of sunshine and exotic beaches and seas.  Holiday vibes.  Then the sketches of the fish that I had done would be put in to give it a hand crafted feel.  I wanted to include the net in some way as I felt the font that mimicked netting would look great on a menu.

I went with the image of the first one and put a band around the fish and included a short description and the name of the place ‘Fishbones’.  I included the name to give me something to hook on to.

I experimented with various colours of blue, but it make the fish look radioactive and not healthy, so I adjusted the layer filter and levels and got this lovely turquoise effect that worked great over antique paper.

I am really happy with the result.  I feel this logo gives the image something strong to focus on.  This logo can be easily transferred to anything that the company wants to use.  It’s easily recognised and on the menu is easily distinguished and represents quality.


The slim design of the menu is a little more sophisticated and the variation in fish caught in the net implies freshly caught produce and quality.

The brief was met and what I am really happy with is that I explored repeating the exercise, following the steps properly and honouring the process.  The results echo a much better finish than I got from the first batch of images.  It shows me that my first attempt produced an image that was still in the composition and thumbnail phase.

The effort of producing the work as a finished piece prevented me from exploring other options of design fully.  I became too precious about the art even though I thought I wasn’t being that way.

Admitting that and restarting helped me to put that aside in favour of following a range of ideas and exploring a few possibilities.  It was more freeing doing that.


Ref 1 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-3283235/The-14-tricks-restaurants-use-menus-make-diners-spend-money-revealed.html