Identity Designed is a showcase of brand identity projects from around the world.

The Rum House

Contributed by Jonathan McElroy, principal of New York-based Warren Red.

The Rum House brand identity

The Rum House, known as a piano bar and late-night haunt for theatre workers, had seen a lot of wear and tear over its 25 years. This Times Square dive bar even had a help-yourself beer cooler. When its operation changed hands last year, the space underwent a thoughtful renovation to breath new life into this aging gem. As part of bringing back the Rum House’s vitality, Warren Red were engaged for re-branding. With live performances on the original stand-up piano, and the charm of the newly restored interior, it was natural that the Rum House’s graphic identity reference Time’s Square’s heyday.

Initial concepts
Times Square and 42nd Street have experienced a colorful history, its fair share of ups and downs. Our search for inspiration was broad — we were drawn to graphics and imagery of the cinema, theatre and music of what we loosely regarded as the “golden years,” and it was our goal to evoke in our guests the romance and gaiety of the era.

The Rum House logo concept

The Rum House logo concept

The Rum House logo concept

The Rum House brand identity

Logo
Cartoonish, larger-than-life type from an old 1940s movie poster was the inspiration for the final logo. It’s whimsical and fun, and speaks — no, shouts — volumes of the sensibilities we were to evoke.

The Rum House logo

Signage
There was no question, considering the Times Square locale, that The Rum House sign would be neon. The logo lent itself well to the task, and the generous curves were outlined with neon. Sequenced marquee-style lights animate the giant arrow to invite folks inside. The greatest compliment we received for the neon sign was when another client of the sign maker remarked on it half way through fabrication by saying what a great restoration job they were doing on “that old sign.” Great pains were taken to create just the right luminosity and warmth of the neon.

The Rum House brand identity

Business cards
How to evoke the frenetic, dynamic world of the Times Square of old? Like collecting old movie posters, or memories, we have 13 unique house business cards — there was so much variety in the imagery and graphics of the day, a whole collection was created. Additionally, each of the three owners of the Rum House were given card designs that best suited their individual personalities: a cyclops shooting fire from its eye, a bandit, and a suave private investigator.

Traditional offset printing was used for the cards. They were printed by Sandy Alexander on Mohawk Super Fine, 130 lb cover with an overall satin aqueous coating for a muted sense of color and soft feel.

The Rum House brand identity

Postcards
The postcards were also printed traditional offset on Mohawk Super Fine, 130 lb cover with an overall satin aqueous coating.

The Rum House brand identity

Menus
The menus provide a good example of how paper choice can play a big role in communicating a brand’s identity. They were printed on a shimmering gold paper for that extra glitz of yesterday’s Times Square.

The menu covers are made from FiberMark Sued Tex black 25pt — an extremely durable paper with a soft feel — and hot stamped with a gold foil to match the paper of the interior. The interior pages are printed digitally on Stardream gold, 81 lb text and are saddle-stitched. The interior pages are bound to the cover with a gold elastic band and are easily changed when required.

The Rum House menu

The Rum House menu

The Rum House menu

Website
With at least one piano performance per night, the website needed to work hard and provide a system for the staff to easily update current and upcoming events. Working closely with Deko Design Consulting, the web developers, the site was built with automated features to highlight the most current show on the homepage. The navigation reads more like an old newspaper advertisement than a traditional list of the usual suspects.

The Rum House website

The Rum House website

The Rum House website

View more identity work on the Warren Red website. Follow Warren Red on Twitter.

8 appreciated remarks about “The Rum House”

  1. Wow, this really captures an era — not just in spirit, but it also crops the culture down to a distinct little window. I really love what Warren’s going for here.

  2. Staying strictly the past, what is the relevance for today and why should I visit this place? This is not a question about design per se put about the concept behind the identity. What is the reason to go out in the first place? While I can drink and eat at home and can do this with friends there, too, by going somewhere else I’m looking for some inspiration that leads to thoughts and conversations that I am not likely going to have at home. But for this to happen I believe a place needs be rooted in today and possibly looking ahead and not back. What is the audience for this place?

  3. Overall, I really like the look – but I tend to be a fan of the era anyway.

    As Christian asks, who is the audience? Still theatre workers? The general public? Fans of the 1940s?

    I would have loved to have read more about how and why they planned to ‘breathe’ new life into the place. I love the idea of a help-yourself beer cooler. Has that now been removed? It’s the little details like this that I love, and it’s these little details that would really fill out the brand for me, and make me want to visit this place (which is, presumably, the whole point).

    I would also remove the ‘Hey, Folks!’ from the logotype. I’m not really sure what the point if it is. It also makes me think of ‘That’s all, folks!’ from Looney Tunes cartoons, which doesn’t really fit with the otherwise glamorous image.

    The website is pretty nice, but I can’t help but want more. Where’s the story of the place? How can I find out more about the people behind it? The business cards seem to list three partners – who are they? Having their faces on the cards in 1940s cinema poster style would be a wonderful touch.

    I also can’t help but think that if somebody passed one of the business cards to me, my first question would be ‘what is it?’ Is it clear that it’s a bar? Having asked that, I’m actually still a little unsure myself – is it still a piano bar (I know there are piano performances, but is it still described thus)?

    Lovely images, but it still feels like it’s missing something for me.

  4. Richard, I agree about the “Hey, Folks!” It seems unnecessary, and very reminiscent of the Porky Pig quote. But then, the logo is described in the post as “cartoonish.” Perhaps there’s a link and it was a requirement for inclusion.

  5. Truly beautiful, inspirational work. I do, however agree the ‘hey folks’ feels like an unnecessary addition to the logo. It just feels so… random. As if it’s an afterthought. I believe this is not the case, as the designers clearly know what they’re doing but I can’t help but feel somewhat unsettled by that addition. Perhaps I’m just over thinking things…

    Nevertheless, as I said earlier, TRULY beautiful and inspirational work! Congratulations to the creative team.

  6. Actually I like colours and style, images and typography. But it is not a deeply clear concept. I agree with Richard about the business card also. It is true that my first question would be “what is it, where is it?”

    Despite deficiencies in concept (in my opinion) it’s good work.

  7. Really good work here indeed. Captures the era of old Time Square nicely. Not to nitpick but I did notice that their website as well as signage doesn’t have the comma in “Hey, Folks!”

  8. David, nice of you to chip in. Ironically, I didn’t think the logo looked cartoonish until I read that it was supposed to. I thought it looked quite stylish, as seems to befit the bar (judging from the photographs), which is why I found the ‘Hey, Folks!’ so incongruous.

    Ashley, I agree – random is a very good word to describe it. As David notes, I can only imagine it was a requirement.

    inci, again I agree – I like the overall look, there just doesn’t seem to be a clear, cohesive concept.

    I really do like the overall image, although I’d like to know more about the process. Were the images created or simply ‘collected’? If it’s the latter, a friend of mine owns a bar and did the same thing for himself by collecting old American magazines from the 1950s.

    As I said above, it just feels like there’s something missing.

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