Travis Howard and Tim Wiggins, owners of the cozy, rustic hotspot, Retreat Gastropub, had their sights set on the coast for their next project — a modern bar and restaurant with the feel of a relaxing, seaside getaway featuring a fearless menu of ocean-inspired fare, and a rum-fueled cocktail list.
Island vibes in the midwest
The pair came to Atomicdust seeking a name for the restaurant and a look and feel that would transport diners to the tropics — they wanted to forgo tiki clichés and create a destination worth writing home (or, at least instagram-ing) about. So we got to work. Drawing inspiration from French islands and Polynesia, we began to pair bold colours with black and white swimsuit-clad, surfer girls.
While we loved the chunky, imperfect feel of our early hand-painted logo concept (above), it didn’t fit the vision of a higher end restaurant in an affluent neighbourhood. The logo needed to have a more elegant and upscale presence, so our concepts evolved into a polished and streamlined hand-lettered script, complete with a fish hook.
Bird bellies and southern slang
Before we called it Yellowbelly, we explored lists of name possibilities ranging from World War II bombers and old slang terms for liquors to distress signals and ingredient combinations commonly found in island drinks. But Yellowbelly was always on the shortlist.
The name brought to mind tropical birds with bright-colored bellies — and its alternate meaning, “coward,” acted as an enticing dare for those timid about stepping inside and trying brave flavours that the restaurant would bring to the midwest.
Design is in the details
We wanted to create an identity that was modern, fun and a little edgy — a modern hideout. Online, we created a homepage featuring a hula-playing record player and botanical illustrations. In the space, natural plants, textures and materials were balanced with illustrations to bring the brand’s personality to life. We splashed brand expressions on everything from menus to coasters to glassware to swizzle sticks. (Mural by Noah MacMillan.)
Making a splash
With the details in place, a fun presence online, and a top chef partner onboard, Yellowbelly already had a following on opening day. And it only continues to grow as snapshots of the food, the drink, and the bright, breezy feeling make waves across newsfeeds near and far.
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