The thought of designing a new drinks menu for the world famous Ivy in London was a daunting task until we visited its beautiful period building. Inspired by its leading stained glass windows and Art Deco interior new menu designs subtly reference period architectural features.
I was introduced to Cascane Oh, the head bartender at The Ivy, by Sarah MacKaye who now works for Gordon Ramsay. We had a common interest in The Wire (the HBO series set in Baltimore) and hit it off and talked about creating a new menu. The old menu was set in Novarese, a relatively new font which felt completely ill at ease with the beautiful period building of The Ivy.
We searched for a new font to typeset the menus in deciding on Sabon which harks back to the 16th century. Sabon in its current form was designed by Jan Tschichold and we chose it partly for its beautiful numbers and the want to soften the presence of the prices.
The one thing we strove to achieve with the design was to fit the visual language with that of the building. We have for some time been working in the grey patch between architecture and graphic design and here was a building with personality and a pretty crap menu — we literally put two and two together. We took inspiration from the coloured diamond stained glass blind embossing and debossing these into the leather hardback cover. Having sketched out several variant designs on diamond graph paper we then took to hand stitching design directions and creating illustrations by deleting portions of a diamond grid. We also tidied up the existing Ivy brand.
The name itself originated from a chance remark by the actress Alice Delysia, who overheard Monsieur Abel apologise to a customer for the inconvenience caused by building works. When he said that it was because of his intention to create a restaurant of the highest class, she interjected, “Don’t worry, we will always come and see you, ‘we will cling together like the ivy,'” a line from a popular song.
Timing, collaborators, techniques
Embarrassingly the project took over a year from start to finish as it was always a back burner in that firstly we had to wait for the new menu to be written and then to earmark the funds by management for what is a fairly expensive piece. The menu pages are printed in house using our PDF template onto a high quality Zanders stock although the hardback folder itself is hand made with Folders Galore using claret faux calfskin, gold hot foil stamping and blind embossing with the ivy pattern being bench printed via silkscreen onto the end paper.
Illustrations and quotations
We chose the illustration from a book called Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual from 1882 and the quotation from W. C. Fields due to him being a titanic lover of the booze! Both connote established style.
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