Louise Fili

At a time where everyone can’t stop talking about “branding,” it’s nice to actually just get to the artists behind this overly-discussed concept. When it comes to brand identities in the hospitality industry – from restaurant logos to packaging and book design – Louise Fili is who most restaurateurs and purveyors are turning to. We’re not talking about the small potatoes in the industry, but the biggest and most iconic. Whether it’s the undeniably recognizable packaging on Sarabeth’s jams and Tate’s cookies, or the logos for The Mermaid Inn and Picholine, Fili has made her own kind of imprint on the hospitality industry (and a beautiful one at that). Her newest book, Elegantissima, is an irresistible 256-page monograph on her brilliant forty-year career. If nothing else, it’s the pure definition of eye-candy; you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy. Fili is an icon in her own right. We took a tour of her studio (a creative director’s dream) and chatted with her about what goes into creating iconic legacies for her clients…

How did you get into branding restaurants? Was the hospitality industry something you were always interested in?

Restaurant branding had always intrigued me, but it was a difficult business to get started in. By the time I would read about a new restaurant endeavor, it was already too late to approach the client about a logo. My first restaurant experience was a complete fluke. I had recommended a local restaurant to a friend, who got to know the owner, who was starting a new venture.

Soon after that, I started collaborating with architects specializing in restaurants, which was a much better way to find reputable clients.

What things do you consider when creating a logo?

A logo is a typographic portrait, and in the case of restauarant, it must exude appetite appeal. As I always tell my students, setting a word in a font does not make it a logo!

When you start a new restaurant project, how concerned are you about the chef’s and/or owner’s point of view or story? How do you balance that with your creative vision?

Before I get to work, I like to hear whatever I can from the owner, chef and architect. I’ll walk through a gutted space while they descibe their visions, and we will discuss colors and materials, and how the logo will be used. I will then translate all of this information into the logo design.

What are some of your inspirations?

I collect a great deal of typographic reference, much of which comes from Italy and France in the twenties and thirties.

What spots do you go to for inspiration?

My own collections – Italian and French labels, photos of restaurant and shop signage, orange wrappers, posters, etc.

How important is the food to you?

Very. I have to like – or at least respect – the food, or I can’t really take on the job. The same goes for food packaging. I can make a package look good so that someone will buy it once, but no matter how great the design is, if the product isn’t good, they won’t buy it again.

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