Sol Korean Restaurant Brand Identity
Art Direction, Brand Identity, Graphic Design
Sol is a Korean restaurant that was opening in Koreatown, LA. The owners wanted to recreate Korean food using local ingredients and bold Californian flavors. This concept of contrast was the foundation of the brand identity as we focused on as we explored a look that captured the story between old/ new, East/ West.
Working with the right people can bring out sweet results, but sometimes those projects don’t see the daylight. This is sadly one of them, but I wanted to share what we worked on!
I was approached by a friend and his business partners to help craft a brand and story that encapsulates their vision and mission for a Korean- American restaurant in Koreatown, L.A.
The business owners set out to create a fresh hip new take on Korean cuisine in Koreatown which was dominated by the traditional authentic Korean food scene. They wanted to create a space that attracted young professionals to a quickly diversifying neighborhood to taste the familiarity of traditional Korean comfort food but elevated with local ingredients and bold Californian flavors. As they were working out their menu and solidifying their concept, I began to translate that vision into a visual identity and brand.
While brainstorming and conceptualizing with the owners, it was clear we wanted to create a visual identity that stood out, eye catching, new and told a story.
A few factors and goals helped me gravitate towards this particular art direction.
-Californian/ Korean Food. California is rich in history with Korean food. It’s where Korean food Americanized, and delightful culinary experiences like the Korean Tacos started. For this menu the partners wanted to elevate traditional Korean comfort food with local ingredients and California flavors and take this concept further. They wanted to explore, pay homage and define what Californian/ Korean cuisine was.
-The partners wanted to create a space that was casual for friends to come, drink and eat tapas. It was a place to hang with friends for a good night out.
-The expectation was that a majority of the customers would be the young working professionals and girls as they tend to explore the restaurant scenes together and try new things.
With these factors in mind, I started to look at ways to visualize a concept that would bring Korea and California together as well as the old and new. The name the partners had arrived on was “Sol” which was close in pronunciation to the South Korean capital of “Seoul” but also Spanish for “Sun”.
The concept we eventually decided to explore further was building a visual identity and system around a character, a Korean girl wearing a hanbok but also modern fashion accessories and the Californian lifestyle. We wanted a strong individual to build around and let their personality and attitude show.
The problem was that building out every aspect of the brand identity system would be too consuming, and the team wasn’t sure if they wanted to pursue the concept for sure. The menu wasn’t finalized and the space was being built out.
For this concept, just having a logo and colors wasn’t going to tell the complete story of what I wanted to do, but without the time and complete buy in of all the owners, I had the daunting task of trying to sell a vision of how the story would scale into the restaurant space through art and graphics.
A visually striking identity was created with a strong girl being the face of the brand. I wanted to capture the modern and old mixing together by showing a Korean girl wearing the hanbok, a traditional Korean dress and modern looking sunglasses soaking in the Californian sun.
I wanted to use white and blue as the predominate colors for the brand. I felt white and blue had a lot of significance for both Korea and LA and I found inspiration from:
- Beautiful vases from the Joseon Dynasty
- LA Dodgers and celebrated Korean pitcher Chan Ho Park
- Californian Street Signs
- The blue ocean that separates Korea from LA.
- the beautiful white buildings and architecture of LA
- the sun bleached and old look of materials found in LA
Lastly I introduced yellow which would signify youth, the Californian sun and energy. I wanted to bring a little bit of pop in the color scheme to help build some contrast from the calm color schemes of blue/ white with a vibrant yellow.
Vase from Korean Joseon Dynasty
To help drive the visual identity, I introduced Solla, a hip girl wearing a simple Korean traditional dress, the hanbok, but with various fashion accessories that were modern. To further drive the contrast of old vs new & East vs West, I had her engaged in various activities that would be appropriate to the Californian lifestyle. I wanted to also have her have an adventurous and carefree attitude and the personality had to really show.
With the logo I wanted to show just enough of her hanbok to make it effective and versatile. But through the illustrations/ street art that would be used in different mediums throughout the restaurant like wall art or menus/ signage I wanted to really capture her character.
I found many illustrations and designs of hanbok that helped me design my own character. The work of 은지니 really helped me bring this concept to life. The intent was to show the style and execution of the concept, and then get the green light to do more original work.
Solla enjoying all things California. Skateboarding, chilling and listening to music and shopping
The logo and Solla were only a few parts of the design system. The execution and application was going to be very important.
Since the graphic style of Solla was meant to be like a sketch/ street art, I wanted different versions of her on the walls doing various activities. The clean, minimal aesthetics of something that is supposed to be old and vintage real helped deliver the story of how the old and new came together in the space.