Category Archives: Exercise – A Menu Card

Exercise: A Menu Card

Examples from the world

Fish Restaurant and Wine Bar

Fish: Located in Marlborough, MA (US).


Use of a fish’s head after the word fish alludes to the classic image of the fishbone…Fish_Bone-512…and head that is left after the meat has been removed. The Trailing upright of the ‘H’ even completes the triangle of the fish head shape. The lettering is drawn as if written by hand quite casually. The overall effect is not as casual – it suggests some sophistication in its simplicity and style, especially in the way that the head shape appears to be made from a single stroke of the brush – a confident mark.

The logo has no mouth. The fishbone has a smile!

Silver Darling Seafood Restaurant

Located in Aberdeen, Scotland (UK), the Silver Darling has a circular motif which shows two local lighthouses (the old one in the photo here is right outside the restaurant), the bay in which is moored a fishing boat and the new lighthouse on the end of the bay wall:

silver-darling-restaurant-aberdeen.png Old Lighthouse, Aberdeen

This is all effectively the view from the restaurant perhaps. The appearance is like a seal or stamp – an official mark. It also resembles a life preserver (ring) or a porthole.

Ancient Greek

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Plates of ancient greek style – links to the Mediterranean fishing tradition and “High culture” of Greek mythology. The waves motif on the edge of the first plate is transferable as an iconic style in itself.

About Cats


This is gourmet fish… for sophisticated cats.

This is of course the opposite of what we’re looking for…

  • Raw fish… although popular as ‘sushi’ is not the required effect – this is a ‘Restaurant’ therefore not like a Sushi bar, so shouldn’t be one
  • Tinned… is not the effect. Freshly caught and probably whole-fish parts (not flakes) are the order of the day
  • This is probably some old cobblers ‘with Ocean Fish’ which sounds a bit like second-rate trawler droppings – not at all classy
  • If you watch cats eat they tend to purr loudly whilst eating with their mouths half open… which is terribly endearing to the owner who takes it all to be ‘gratitude’ and ‘love’ but translates badly to a linen-covered environment.


Located in Gothenburg and looks pretty sophisticated but it’s all in Swedish. Still, that’s what you get in a European city – different languages. A warning against using lettering with the image as in some countries four-letter f-words like ‘Fish’ might not even start with an ‘F’.


They use a lobster (which is not a fish its a crustacean I think but…) which is a well known high-class meal for those who like to choose their food while it’s alive and then like to meet it again after its been boiled to death for them… really, really fresh.

The lobster appears to be in gold on a white background which enhances the sophistication.

Georges Fish & Souvlaki Bar

More a fish and chip shop, in the English tradition, with a dine-in area… but also sporting a contemporary and stylish fish in its logo…



Which is also a ‘G’… with a tail.

This very interesting fact is also found on this website…

The chips eaten in Great Britain each year come from potatoes weighing the equivalent of nearly 2.9 million Formula 1 cars.

There’s a prize for this kind of thing in New Scientist I believe.


Other Menu Examples

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A mixture of more classical-looking and more contemporary-looking menus, although some of the more classical ones are labelled contemporary. The more colourful and illustrated ones seem not to fit with a bright-contemporary, as does not the black one.

I’m only concerned with a single 40mm square rather than the whole design but I’m guessing that ‘whitespace’ might be a feature of the overall menu.

Krishna Ashok

Krishna Ashok 1964 - Indian Figurative painter - Tutt'Art@ (8)Krishna Ashok 1964 - Indian Figurative painter - Tutt'Art@ (9)Krishna Ashok 1964 - Indian Figurative painter - Tutt'Art@ (14)Krishna Ashok 1964 - Indian Figurative painter - Tutt'Art@ (20)

I was searching for something with cubist influence that already included a fish to see how it was treated. Ashok has more in his style than cubism – the more vivid pallet is sharp and attractive for example. I like the way that the scales have been simplified to a criss-cross pattern in one of the images – it shows that the idea of scales could be rendered without slavish adherence to a perceived shape.

Having now dabbled in Picasso and Braque the original cubist movement is very drab offering little scope for the ‘bright’ from the brief. Ashok’s style (in the particular works above) is suitably more bright and modern to enable me to have my cake and eat it – a Cubist influence with a happier mood.

To succeed in this style the end artwork will need incorporate some of the following…

  • A sense of the overlapping elements… lines that continue to break up other areas into different colours
  • The shading technique for adjacent areas (“Passage”?) that heightens contrast and influences how we pick out shapes visually (as they don’t always follow the colour boundaries)
  • An overall effect that this is a cubist-influenced work in order to tie-in with the expected sophistication of the audience
  • A rendering of a fish (or more than one!) to give the big clue about the food style
  • a distancing from the reality of a fish being a dead thing when we eat it and a corresponding lean towards the ‘celebration’ of the fish as a happy food
  • Square
  • Works at 40mm



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From thinking around the requirements and subject I came up with the idea that the sophistication could be achieved by a visual form that connected to an established style of artwork… this is what lead me to the cubist influence above.

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I tried out a few other ancient Greek ideas to see if the classical angle would suggest anything.

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After establishing the basic form of fish I experimented with using fragments of simple line drawings to make a cubist-style collection of fragments that overlapped and were shaded. At some point I hit upon the shwash as being a way to draw scales.

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The swash also became a cast fishing line here… maybe useful for another project but it detracts from the sophistication for this one.


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Here I feel it’s coming together – the more colourful version of the fish and shading make it attractive… the question is how to use this within the 40mm square.

The question has also arisen about making this into a food rather than just a fish. The context in which it is used… on the menu of a fish restaurant… obviates the need to be too specific about it. But, if it’s to have the potential to be used on the vans and as a logo it needs to create the context of being food somehow.

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Discovered that the calligraphy of the swash can be used to create gills if the number of strokes is limited to 3 or so.

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Experiments with some compositional choices to see how all of the possible elements might work together.

Decided to address the primary brief of the menu card rather than trying to place too much emphasis on the suitability for a logo otherwise the suitability for a decorative menu card piece tends to dwindle. This is more because I have already chosen an approach which is not well-suited to becoming a modern commercial logo. If the brief were presented as “design a logo that will be used in many places including on the menu card” then things might be different.

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This is my chosen composition. The two fish overlap to help make the cubism-influenced style work better. A plate is implied by the curved part behind the fish (or in front!) and the horizontal and vertical lines, as well as making a nice textural contrast, may imply a tablecloth.

This is the pencil version before inking and colouring.

I will re-check that this composition is suitable for the scale before continuing.

I feel the hardest part is yet to come – placing the colours in each area. There is an Illustrator tool that I think allows one to experiment with this very thing which I might try in order to help decide the colour scheme.

Finally, creating the shading within each area will be a long task requiring focus and patience. Having tested it with black shading, dots and colour intensity the dots are perhaps the least successful. It’s vital for the style to succeed though.

There’s a part of me that wants to return to some of the very first brightly coloured designs that I did which seemed to succeed in terms of simple impact. They are also whole fish which was an advantage visually. My reason for moving away from whole fish was to ensure that I made good use of the square. It may be worth thinking about that again.

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On my screen this is the actual size of the finished artwork. Overall it still seems to be too complicated. I was keen to get the style where the colours change for the overlapping parts so I have made two fish overlap and now I’m thinking that maybe there are other ways to achieve that which might also help improve the clarity o the swash effect.


  • Have one fish and use other elements such as the plate or the grid line effect as the overlapping parts
  • Re-position the fish so that the less complicated parts of one fish only overlap with the more complicated parts of the other, and vice-versa.

I’m also wondering if the purple colour of the top fish is the best colour. I have a limited number of pencil colours but maybe I need a different, redder or more orange colour (warm). It’s only that I may have gone too far from the colour of food. The blue colour, even though food is not blue, works because of the association with water, but that could change too. The red diamonds have become lost because they are so small and overpowered by the surrounding colours.

I’ve just discovered something about my ‘gills’. I had stumbled across this while playing with the swash and making it a bit more calligraphic by emphasising the strokes in one direction… the thicker parts looked like gills and I’ve been emphasising that idea ever since. However, while investigating something else to do with the look of a cooked fish I’e seen some that have deep cuts in them – similar orientation for gills but bigger and wider spaced, sometimes the whole length of the body. These cuts are supposed to help the fish grill better. This is a fortunate stroke as my swash looks much more similar to these cuts that represent a fish for eating far more than gills, which are more to do with a fish swimming.

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I’ve re-designed the work as above to make it less cluttered but also to make the swash more prominent as an indicator of ‘sophistication’ knowing also that I can emphasise the marks in one direction to make them look like the cuts put in fish for cooking. The plate is going to show through the fish and affect the way it is coloured.

Perhaps in this form the image is more suitable for placing on vans etc.


This is what Adobe Illustrator could do for me… I scanned the line drawing and converted it using Trace & Expand, then used Live Paint to fill in the different areas to try out ways of colouring it. So far it doesn’t do shading, perhaps it could, but I’m just using this as a rough way to plan the colouring. It’s starting to look much better at this size.


Here the fish is blue again but the parts where the plate rim intersect are brightly coloured creating a stand-out feature.


I’m discovering with this design that I can make a wave shape with the colour emphasis through the fish along the line of the plate rim.

I find that I’m not particularly fond of it now… I think I enjoyed it more when it was too complicated, and now it becomes too bold. It will be better when it has the graduated colours though which I’m doing by hand.


This has orange and no other warm colours. I prefer it with a bit more warm in it… might have to work out the warmness using the pencils.

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This is the final piece which uses four colours of pencil and black ink. Possibly a little rushed in places which is down to me fitting in this work in odd locations (like when I’m waiting (parked) in the car!).


I’ve re-cropped it to reduce the tail slightly here, cleaned up a couple of distracting pen marks and added a tiny bit more contrast.


…and this is it at about 40mm square (on my screen anyway).