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


Exercise 24 – A children’s book cover


Create a full cover front jacket for a children’s book about the history of animals around the world.  Aimed at 7-11 year olds.

Identify/responding to key words:

Animals from around the world – easy to recognise animals, silhouettes, striking, big, varied, different, regularly seen, fur, patterns, exotic, different, countries, safari, protected, different.

Generating ideas/Research/Drawing ideas up?Thumbnails:

https://www.pinterest.com/Superhilbo/exercise-24-childrens-book-cover/  for a range of cover styles that I gained inspiration from.


Shapes to go for  –  circles for earth, circles to represent ‘around’.

Colours – primary colours for brightness and attracting attention.

What is appropriate for this age group?  Are primary colours too basic for 7-11 year olds?  According to Jean Piaget(ref 1-4) and his assumptions about the cognitive development of children between the age of 7-12, their thinking is more concrete.  This would mean abstract ideas don’t work as well for them and their ability to learn and remember is developing.  They engage better with classification of information.  Based on this light study of this range of children, I thought it would be important to give the cover a sense of organisation and order so the world and the animals around it would convey a sense of literal meaning easily understood. However, I wanted to try something different too, so I experimented with the positioning of the animals and the circles to see how it would work.

I went with the literal meaning of the animals around the world.  A number of silhouettes of seven familiar animals were chosen.  Watercolour was used to colour them in without features as they were to be recognized by their shape only.  Colours picked were at random to see if the design would benefit from it as the silhouette of the animal would be recognized easily.  This may be too abstract however so would be observed as I went with it.

I liked this idea but it felt flat and I didn’t like the choice of size with the animals.  It didn’t feel fun enough either but the colours, although random, were catching the eye.

I decided to try something a bit freer and so tried to set up a scene in which the animals interacted with each other.  It wasn’t planned but I went with it and wanted to see what could be produced.

I used a box and a blue background and decided to put a comic scene into it.  The dialogue between the giraffe and the kangaroo was mean to be friendly, curious and fun.  This may appeal more and encourage the book to be investigated by a young child.

The images show the process for this idea, and how the box was set up.  I even tried out lettering with print as a way to give it a more handmade feeling.  It didn’t quite work as well as I hoped but it was good to experiment with it.

The final image was a digital version of the diorama.  It was tidied up and some cloning of the grass inserted along with some basic shapes to imply a river with animals passing by.  The whole scene was definitely projecting a handmade feeling, so I kept that going by painting the words ‘Animals’ and ‘World’ and then scanned them in and adjusted the size and shadow effect.


Overall this worked well.  The image is definitely fun, it is eye catching and there is a strong chance of it being taken off a shelf for a further look.  The colours are primary but a little bit softer so it doesn’t look too pre-school.

The changes I’d make though are to the colour of the gorilla and rhinoceros.  Their true colours would be more appropriate perhaps, so I would change the animals to reflect a better likeness.  I can see it works with the giraffe so I’m not sure why I didn’t continue with that.

As a further exploration of what could work,  I explored the circular logical theme that I had thumb nailed.  I wanted to see if the order of the animals might be easier to read and more interesting.  I inverted a lot of the colours as I liked the effect however I am not sure this would work for kids.  It might be a little too abstract.

The same cover but the left has a gradient layer and the silhouettes were inverted while the right was merged with layers and has no gradient.

I tried going back to the animals positioned around the world again, only this time I tried it in landscape form and went for one colour and an accent in the font in dark red.  It works, it isn’t as busy but maybe it isn’t as attractive either.


Final images:

In the end I felt that just two of the images worked well for the brief.  The first one works because it has a bright cover, it is fun and it would appeal to 7-11 year olds.  The depth from the diorama gives a lovely effect to the image and it feels friendly.  The second image could work because it feels ordered.  From a 7-11 year olds perspective it lends a sense of order and structure to things which at this age is an important focus.


Final thoughts:


I had to revisit the brief before being able to finally complete the work.  The initial approach to the exercise felt so random and it felt too all over the place.  I managed to get it together after a very stressful period of trying to.  The biggest stress was in misunderstanding the brief.  My original thoughts were that this would be for a 7-11 year old group, teenager group and then older.  I misread the brief!!!  It wasn’t until I had finished it that I realised that is what had happened.  I went back and revisited my work, approached it from the steps perspective and moved through it that way.   I had generated ideas but the thumbnails had become sketches that moved into final images before considering tone/viewpoint/content.  I had considered the composition, had researched and used references, but hadn’t done any word associations or maps or doodles.  It all felt rushed, even though many hours were thrown at it.

As it turns out my images could be adjusted and manipulated so that I didn’t lose a lot of good study work.  However, my big revelation to myself was how much I prevent my own progress.  When I read the brief it made me stress out.  Instead of reading it and then letting it sit for a bit, I launched into the project.  I didn’t follow the steps and I went from receiving the brief to visuals and final artwork.

It took me down a very stressful path where I didn’t know what to focus on and ended up putting in many hours producing elements and images without direction.  It basically wasted a lot of time doing it this way.  It meant that instead of going from A to B in a linear fashion, I went for a trip to the moon, ran around a bit, stressed, distracted, came back and then went ‘ta-da!’ with a finished piece.  Too random, too stressy and with other things going on it just doesn’t work.  Plain and simple.

Stepping back from it, taking some time out and then resetting my thoughts on it were the best idea.  I went back, reread the brief and went through the steps again.  I realized that I had good ideas but needed to focus them more and bring them to order.  The end results are good.  I’m happy with it but the way in which I got there is something that needs to be worked on.

A sense of self belief is always good to have, and doing the exercise in a random fashion only serves to eat away at this.  It makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t show myself my own thought processes.  The value in the steps is that you show yourself your ideas, you become less precious about your drawings and it frees you up to have fun and creatively explore solutions to the brief.

The other way just creates stress, frustration and makes it so hard to backtrack or explain an idea.  It also makes you uptight about holding on to one idea because you feel like you won’t have another good one!  Restricting in every way really.

When I hang my ideas and processes on a method it frees me up to be me and have fun with creating.  It’s important I remember that.

Reasoning behind choices:

For this exercise I wanted to stretch out a bit more and find some information that could inform me and help with the direction of my choices.  I found some great sites that gave me information on the developmental stages of a child.  It was really interesting to read. The link for the design for kids was fascinating.

As a result most of the reasons behind my choice of layout and colours stemmed from the information gained via the links below.  Cognitive development in children aged between 7-11 seemed to come from better structured thought processes that are referred to as concrete operations.  7-11 year olds may appear like ‘little adults’ but they are still children.  As such primary colours would still appeal and order and clear construct would also appeal.  Abstract ideas can be processed but not fully so avoiding too much of this style of illustration was best.


Ref1 – Jean Piaget – https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Ref 2 – Cognitive Development: Age 7–11 – https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/psychology/development-psychology/physical-cognitive-development-age-711/cognitive-development-age-711   17.31 11/02/2017

Ref 3 – Design for kids pdf – http://rosenfeldmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/DesignforKids-excerpt.pdf

Ref 4 – http://getkidsinternetsafe.com/blog/crash-course-for-7-to-11/