“You can make the best food in the city,” says Scott Williams, chef and part-owner of Sydney’s Angel Place Italian-outpost Ragazzi. “But if you miss out on the branding, half the people that [would have] absolutely loved your food aren't going to come. It's a super important part of running a restaurant.”
Williams would know. With previous chef stints including Movida Sydney and Bacco Osteria e Espresso. Initially training in Spanish food and spending a number of years working in Spain, it wasn’t until he returned home to Sydney that Williams realised he had a knack for pasta.
But after approaching business partners Nathaniel Hatwell and Mathew Swieboda to get co-sign on the idea for a pasta bar, Williams knew the venture hinged on more than just great pasta. A visual identity would be essential.
“Putting it all together when you're setting up a new venue is a great experience,” says Williams of deciding on a venue’s identity. “It's one of my favourite times to be honest. Because everything you see, whether it's the branding on the menus when you walk in or something like our "ciao" coasters, which are a fun talking point, it's all part of the dining experience. So everything has to be bang on.”
When looking for inspiration for Ragazzi’s visual branding, Williams and the team cast their eye back to Futurism, the Italian social and artistic movement from the early 20th Century. A modern design ethos that sought to liberate Italy from its ancient past, the appeal was obvious to a team with a desire to create something new in the Italian space.
What’s in a logo?
Across the restaurant and online, Ragazzi’s strikingly angled logo is what first stands out. Inspired by the sound poems of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, it’s the perfect symbol of the restaurant’s fun, energetic image. The team was aided by Jarmaine Stojanovic from SCCO Studio, who was responsible for the overall graphic design.
“Ragazzi [which loosely means “group” in Italian] is a great word and we've got a fantastic logo,” says Williams. “It's sort of like a megaphone, like someone's shouting "Ciao Ragazzi" across the room. It's quite playful and symbolises a sort of vibrant movement.”
That extends to the colour. “It's a bold colour - a visual shout,” says Williams. “It’s a red-Italian-tomato. Which is also ironic as it's a red sauce and we don't really do red sauce at Ragazzi.”
Marcus Marchant, CEO of design and marketing company Vistaprint Australia, also emphasises the importance of selecting the right hue. “Colour is such an important element in design. We associate feelings, emotions and even cultural moments with certain colours – think millennial pink overtaking our feeds or the influx of eco-friendly brands using green in their marketing.”
Moving into the space
While the goal with the branding was to be playful and entertaining, it didn’t mean plastering the logo across every available space.
“We don't put Ragazzi everywhere,” says Williams. “On the front door we've got a small Ragazzi, but the main thing people see is the white boxes that say ‘wine’ or ‘pasta’. A lot of our merchandise doesn't say the word Ragazzi on it, it says ‘ciao’ or ‘wine’ or ‘pasta’. I think it’s quite important not to just overload people with your brand name.”
That subtlety extends to the restaurant. “A lot of it works in tandem,” says Williams. “Our restaurant style is quite warm. We've got a very sharp fit out and then there’s quite a lot of subtle colours, but with this red coaster in the middle of the table. It really stands out – it's like a colourful dish on a white tablecloth.”
This approach naturally extends to the website, which emphasises visual impact rather than overloading the visitor with information.
“I think in this day and age people don't really use websites that much,” says Williams. “They're on their phone, they're like ‘Bang, what's this place?’ They'll find out what it's like from Google maps. And they'll be like, ‘What's the food? What's the wine? Let’s book now.”
Of course some of that thinking must include Instagram, which requires its own approach. “It's not just like putting up something on a personal account,” says Williams. “We'll do full photo shoots and then go through what we like and plan it. It does feature a lot of our branding – obviously the coasters get a good run there.”
Ultimately, Williams says getting the branding right and maintaining it consistently is as much a core element of operating a successful restaurant as curating the food and wine lists.
“If you're going to spend so much time considering your food and drink offering, but don't consider your branding, I think to be honest you're pissing into the wind.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with design and marketing partner to small businesses, Vistaprint, and its 99 days of design campaign. A global initiative partnering with small businesses to give them a fresh new look, marketing materials and a $15,000 donation. To nominate a business or learn more.