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Naturally great design


It’s no secret…I love food – eating it at home, out with friends, cooking it, looking at it in beautiful cook books….it’s one of life’s great pleasures! And I’ve really enjoyed having the chance to work on developing branding and packaging design for our food sector clients Wrights and Sacla’. So I’m always on the look out for design inspiration from the food and drink sector, and having recently read Leon’s Jo Ormiston’s comments on the Design Week/Creative Review Advertising Week Europe panel I was really inspired by the successful restaurant chain’s approach to design…

“…we try to engrain our design and brand into every thing we do…When it comes down to the importance of design for Leon we are quite intuitive. It’s quite difficult to rationalise what we [as a business] do, so we try to implicitly communicate it. It’s similar to ‘don’t tell people you’re funny, make them laugh’ – don’t tell them this is good food, show them it’s good food and our design work is really valuable for this.”

The unique restaurant chain, which has been in operation since 2004, pride themselves on creating ‘naturally fast food’, a concept which we are familiar with now, but at the time was quite novel. This quality of food, coupled with a deliberately unconventional approach to design, has helped Leon to make their mark on the restaurant market.

The brand’s identity centres around colourful and vibrant images inspired by vintage packaging. This look and feel portrays the message of a fresh, high quality, Southern European menu, without having to overtly mention it in copy.

What is unusual is that Leon do not use one single logo, there is a mix of visual styles, colour palettes and lettering which allow the identity to change with each restaurant location – a brilliant achievement, which means the brand is both recognisable, evocative and flexible.

LeonThe design team at Leon draw from a bank of visuals inspired by found ephemera, which has been developed since the conception of the brand. The mix of colours, typefaces and graphic devices create a distinct aesthetic which manages to look retro and hand crafted, but not twee or contrived. Interestingly, the team also use a book of dos and dont’s, highlighting past mistakes, in the absence of set visual guidelines. As their food menu changes throughout the seasons, so too does their design for menus and packaging, allowing a constant evolvement for the brand.

Stretching wider than just print and digital, this approach is also applied to the interior and signage of each restaurant, which vary across every location, often drawing on the buildings former use for interior design inspiration and remaining respectful of the building’s character.

Its a forward thinking approach which now sees the brand expanding out of London to build its portfolio of restaurants, alongside a series of successful cook books, which extend the personal approach of the brand right into the home of the consumer.