6. Themed Menu Design

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company theme r...

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company themed chain restaurant.

Theming refers to “the use of an overarching theme…to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue.”  In an overall sense, theming can be categorized under either experience; what an individual sees and feels in their current ‘themed environment’ or décor; which is utilized to make an individual remember something through the portrayal of the theme, whether it be generic or specific.

The most common purpose of theming is to make an event memorable, though theming can also be a means to create a niche. It can be thought of as a method to narrow down a broad event or aspect. A holiday can be, in a sense, generalized a theme. ChristmasEasterValentine’s DayIndependence Day, are all celebrated themes. In this case, the themes mentioned would be derived from history. However, themes are not limited to just that; many themes come from different cultures and fantasy. A prime example of a fantasy theme would be from the book series, Harry Potter by author J.K. Rowling. By using major aspects of the book in order to create a themed party, one is using a fantasy theme since the books are works of fiction. Nevertheless, theming is not limited solely as a means of characterizing.

More often than not, restaurants prevail in this area. An example of a “themed restaurant” would be Magic Restroom Cafe in Los Angeles, California. Customers of this restaurant are served their meals in miniature toilet bowls and are seated on toilet seats in order to obtain the full dining experience. Theming is usually used to portray a notable experience by taking aspects of the past and integrating them into original ideas and/or extravagant events. It can also be seen as a creative medium used to attract attention or embellish an otherwise ‘plain’ event.

Additional Resource Links:

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 8.55.53 AMAssignment: Menu Design—Theme Restaurant

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 2.47.19 PM Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 2.47.34 PM

Create a title, theme, and overall design look for the restaurant’s menu based upon one of the following five restaurant locations:

  1. Family restaurant at a national park (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, etc.)
  2. Family restaurant as the “anchor” restaurant in the food court of a shopping mall. (not the hotdog stand, Orange Julius, or Tacotime, etc.)
  3. Family restaurant in the historical area of a medium-sized city. (Chinatown, original town square, home of a famous person, cannery row, etc.)
  4. Adult restaurant specializing in a specific ethnic cuisine in a large city. Italian, Chinese, Hawaiian, etc.)
  5. Adult restaurant in a large city that is part of a nightclub, hotel or
    entertainment venue.



Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 8.58.08 AM You need to add additional information and graphics (beyond the meal choices) to enhance the theme of the restaurant. Careful consideration of font, layout, color, images, graphics, name, paper, and binding are typical examples of these design decisions.

You must use InDesign to assemble your layouts, although it is likely that you will also use Illustrator to create graphics and Photoshop to edit images for import into that layout.

Use a baseline and document grid system to organize and size elements.

Use typographic variables to control the emphasis, grouping and hierarchy of type elements.

It may be very helpful for you to imagine what the entire actual restaurant would look like for you to better interpret its theme on the menu. Visualize the colors, architectural details, lighting, general ambiance of the entire place. Ask yourself, “How might the theme be interpreted throughout the restaurant itself, not just in the menu design. Then use that information to help direct your design for the menu.

Keep in mind the location, potential clientele, and other competition that your restaurant specifically faces. Competition falls mainly into two different categories, direct competition with other restaurants and indirect competition with other forms of entertainment that your clientele might choose instead of dining out. Knowing this information about what marketing niche your restaurant occupies is essential for you, the designer, in determining what will appeal to your target audience. It is a common and costly mistake to try and design something that will appeal to everyone. Choices such as color palette, typeface choice, style of wording, type of binding and paper are examples of design choices that are directly affected by what you know about the target audience and how the restaurant is perceived by that specific group.

Your choice of typeface and treatment of type are critical considerations. Typically, the name of the restaurant and names of the entrées are both opportunities for you to use type in a more visual way. The ingredients or the meal itself, in contrast, are usually written with readability given the higher priority. Both general categories of type must be treated in such a way as to also indicate typographic hierarchy. This means treating different information in consistently different ways and similar information treated consistently in the same way. Use bold, italics, size, weight, etc. differences to indicate these different levels of hierarchy and emphasis.

Names of entrée items are an additional opportunity for you to extend the design concept/theme. You may use a humorous or saterical approach to writing the descriptions of meals if you wish. The key here is to make choices that are appropriate for the type of restaurant that you are doing and how that is marketed to its target audience. Another example of this is the addition of “background” or historical information about the culture, a historical site or person, or other details beyond the ingredients or meals themselves. Enhance the experience of dining at this restaurant. It is to your advantage to pick a type of restaurant that will allow you to develop this type of approach. Do not pick a type of restaurant where exploiting a theme in this manner would be inappropriate. (High end restaurants typically favor a minimalist approach)

The type of restaurant that would be appropriate for this assignment is a restaurant that would be called a “Themed Environment.” There are many different types of examples of this. For example, Disneyland is a themed amusement park. Six Flags is not. However, you could apply the general theme of “amusement park” to something else, like a restaurant, for example. A successful themed environment is an environment where everything, down to the smallest detail, is designed within the context of the overall theme. For a themed restaurant this approach would include the details of its menu design. Do everything you can to enhance the theme. Be sure that the type of restaurant that you choose to work with is, in fact, themed. Not all restaurants are so. The type of menu that this assignment calls for would not be appropriate for a non-themed restaurant.

Your final design should be a creative balance between Form and Function. In this case it means that the Form looks the way it does because of the theme. Choices of material, binding, images, story, color, typeface, name, etc. are all examples of how the Form should be thematically influenced. The Function is the consideration of practical requirements or how it will be used. Because a menu typically must endure excessive handling, be adaptable to entré and price changes, resist food stains, be readable in low lighting conditions, etc. the ease of reprinting, choice of size, material, and binding should all be made for practical reasons also. Your menu design must reflect an attention to both of these areas—Form and Function—and strike a reasonable balance between the two.

Fill out this Design Brief and turn in with your final assignment. Menu Design Brief

As an alternative version of this assignment, you may choose to create a themed menu that is not intended for print, but instead to be used from a smart device such as an iPhone or tablet. All the requirements concerning theme/concept are still relevant but you must find alternative ways to enhance it. In other words, since it is not a print version, considerations like choice of binding and paper are no longer means of expressing the theme. Alternatively, for a mobile device version you have the possibility of including audio and video in addition to type, naming, color, images, etc.

Use one of these prototyping programs to help you develop this interactive working version. Prototyping Tools

Examples of themed restaurants are:


David Letterman Top Ten Suspect Entreé Descriptions
(in other words, we wouldn’t want to see these descriptions on a menu)

10. Food-like

9. Dumpster-raised

8. Gristle-licious

7. Long-suffering

6. Youth counselor-approved

5. Recycled

4. Gently vibrating

3. Gypsy-cursed

2. Slow-fondled

1. Freshly-exhumed

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