Our Goods and SWAG were in desperate need of a revamp. The items we had when I started had a few problems: they weren't on brand (the logo was being used poorly, for instance), they didn't have a strong design aesthetic, and the items we were producing were low quality and easily tossed in the garbage.
With these problems in mind, I chose three themes that would drive our products.
This work applies to multiple markets, including folks who are brand new to OpenTable.
Our booth at any given event will be the one everyone floods to for cool SWAG. Our restaurant partners should feel pampered through relevant, useful goods.
Focus on high quality items that are made to last. Everything should serve a purpose and have a decent lifespan
Not all markets are made equal. We need to be aware that, when designing, some of our SWAG needs high brand recognizability, while some can be subtler. These terms are directly related to how we talk about our brand recognition within our brand guidelines.
With different events come different budgets. We need to create a variety of items that can support even the smallest budget. We also need items that are luxurious even for Michelin level chef. This was my original brainstorm for items we should consider, bucketed into categories by price. We ended up producing a fraction of these items. Bolded items went into production.
$ Cost effective
$$ Mid range
My original direction was copy heavy, but we decided to move away from complex lettering because of the need for localization and efficiency of production and design. After totally scrapping the first round, I started looking at our product and value as a company: what we provide. This process of moving from a design-first approach to a content-first approach was a big learning point for me in this project.
This lead me to start looking at some of the best restaurants on OpenTable to find inspiration that would be specific, and nationally comprehensive. Each of them has an emphasis on fresh food.
From there, I scoured their menus for ingredients and dishes that best represented these restaurants and showcased OpenTable’s diversity.
Mama’s Fish House
Once I knew I wanted to focus on fresh food and ingredients, I started looking at visuals. I personally have a passion for surface design, textiles, and printmaking, so I started there.
Modular design system
Because we had so many items to design, not only for the first offering, but also in the future, I decided to approach the problem using a modular illustrative design system. This solved a couple of problems for us. Creating a modular design system of illustrations enabled us to target more specific markets and engage with users on a more personal level.
Design is not a block
Often, it takes the brand team some time to ramp up on an event, and with the need for new goods every week, it was important to me that I create a system that allowed us to deliver faster, and with more beautiful results.
Giving our audience an opportunity to make choices about what SWAG they want to take home (and thus, what symbolizes them) makes them an active participant in the process.
By offering a modular system, we won’t have to keep redesigning the wheel when we go to new events where we may encounter similar users more than once. We mitigate visual fatigue from the core of the system.
Inspired by the three chosen restaurants, I created a series of illustrations that could be rotated, scaled, and recolored.
I originally tried a dozen color schemes, but we settled on red, black, and cream/white for printing purposes, with the idea that we could recolor when we had the opportunity to make customized goods for a specific event.
Final color palette and illustrations
Type styles and copy
Developed from some of my other hand lettering work at OpenTable, I drew a typeface that could be used for goods, as well as other projects.
Because there was no copywriter on our team at the time, I was also in charge of copy. It made sense to attribute a phrase to each of the themes. These words represented each of the restaurants, but also food in general. The copy style is light, playful, and casual.
Using our primary hand lettering style, we add ribbons. These should only be used in conjunction with illustration or more complex lettering, never standalone.
I also considered upfront, how the ribbon style could be applied to other phrases that we might need for internal design or more complex copy.
From there, I put together a library of all the ingredients I'd created, plus some new ones (we were running parallel on other goods projects for events, so I was applying the system as I was going). This allows other designers, or agencies even, to use my system without having to reach out to me.
While we mocked up a significantly large batch of items, this is the paired down, final selection of items to be released for our 2020 collection. The idea being that we focus on these phrases, items, and restaurants for 2020, and then choose a new set for 2021, as well as a new color palette. Keep things fresh, without redesigning the wheel.
No project is complete without production work. Once all the items were finished, I created a folder for templates from out printer, as a reference for future items, as well as a folder with ready for print item files. As OpenTable is an international company, it is important teams in other offices can pull item files to send to local printers.
Custom bandana series
Variety is the spice of life! While having these beautiful items is great for teams to order for sales, events, and internal use, often our events team wants to create something custom for a particular event, especially since we want to co-brand with partners. I knew this going in, which is why the system flexes to accommodate for a variety of use cases, from lightly to highly customized.
Eater Young Guns
This bandana for Eater Young Guns was being designed while I was designing the overall system. The event had a strong color palette, so we wanted to incorporate that, plus their logo. Conceptually, each item represents a specific young chef receiving an award at the event - with each item being tied back to their specialty (eg. wine, pastry, seafood, etc). Originally, we wanted to put their names alongside the items, but that was nixed by Eater. The phrase 'Stay Cool' relates back to the event theme, which was yearbook. We used this type styling and palette around the event.
These bandanas were so popular that the events team ran out at the end. Our event coordinator said this was the most successful activation she'd had at an event, and that this would be her item going forward for all consumer-facing events. Big win for our teams.
Denver Food & Wine
This event didn't have a strong brand or theme, so we decided to pull colors from the event website. Instead of creating new items or a new layout, we used one of the bandana designs, and added the co-branding style. Similar to the other event, they ran out!
Chefs for Farmers
Another example of a brandless event. This event however, had a strong message - locality. I created a slogan and swapped in items from the library that best represented locally grown American food. Because it was set in Texas, we decided to swap black for blue for a more patriotic note.
Contrastingly, Cherry Bombe has a strong brand that is present at all its events. We worked with them to determine the copy, content, and color palette. This branding was then applied throughout our space within the event.
Feast Portland (Smoked)
OpenTable had a booth at a campfire themed consumer-facing event called Smoked. We had a little extra time, so we produced highly customized bandanas that used Feast's color palette and theme. I also drafted new copy that felt on brand for us, but related back to Feast.
Feast also had a brunch for chefs, so we designed this bandana, plus a mug. Chefs were then able to use their bandanas all day while cooking which was a win for them and for us! Here, we used a slogan from our main set, but added in some new items like bacon and butter.
We also delivered a variety of digital assets in the same style for the event. Typically, we'd have to come up with an original idea and it would have taken a lot of time. Now, with the modular, flexible system, we reused assets and made something cohesive and beautiful.
This project was, not only a great chance for the brand team to flex creatively, but also gave us big wins on the business side. Our items at events drove more conversions than previously seen at an event for OpenTable. We produced items that don't harm the planet as much or end up in the trash. We are being more inclusive about how we represent our restaurants, and we are actively mitigating visual fatigue. Our partners are happier, as are our customers. Plus, we are all ready for the 2021 collection next year.