Central Provisions Brand Design

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As one of Portland’s oldest buildings, 414 Fore Street has seen it all. During the early 19th century, back when Wharf Street bordered the Atlantic, The East India Trading Company unloaded silk, indigo, and salt at its doors directly. It was one of the few downtown buildings that escaped The Great Fire of 1866, which took nearly half of Portland with it. It has housed a burlap bag and barrel shop, and in 1894 was home to Rufus and Son’s, a well-regarded wine and bitters merchant. Most recently, in early 2013, Chris and Paige Gould purchased the building and began an extensive renovation, transforming the historic building into Central Provisions, an incredible new restaurant.

Over the better part of a year, we worked with Chris and Paige to design and develop the brand, including logos, identity, signage, menus and other printed materials that would define the visual experience at the restaurant.

Morgan DiPietro, Might & Main’s Print + Interactive Designer, on building the brand:

What was the vision and ethos that drove initial concepts and design?

From the very beginning of this project Chris and Paige had a strong vision of what the restaurant was physically going to look like—rugged decor, burlap accents, and heavy wrought iron. The aesthetic pays tribute to classic Portland in the heyday of the industrial 1800s, with a contemporary shine that ties everything together in the here and now. Our aim with initial concepts and design was to bridge the rustic, worn brick and deeply grooved wooden beams with bold, clean typography. We looked at a lot of apothecary labels and vintage railroad signs and tickets. We liked the personality of the apothecary labels and interesting layouts and type combinations of the railroad tickets. We wanted to choose "hard-working" typefaces evocative of the time period. In all, our designs lean towards the simple—not too fussy or ornate, presented in a modern, contemporary way that echoes the finely crafted food and drink being served.

 19th century apothecary labels, railroad tickets, and typography informed early concepts.

19th century apothecary labels, railroad tickets, and typography informed early concepts.

 Logo type is based on Columbia Titling and body copy is Franklin Gothic with typographic accents set in Poplar, which carries the slightly awkward proportions of handmade vintage wood type.

Logo type is based on Columbia Titling and body copy is Franklin Gothic with typographic accents set in Poplar, which carries the slightly awkward proportions of handmade vintage wood type.

What pieces did you enjoy designing most?

Hands down, the coasters. At Might & Main we try to make every piece of collateral a little special and unique (the opposite mentality being just to slap a logo on everything and call it a day). The coasters at Central Provisions provide a great pop of color in red among all the natural wood colorings throughout the restaurant. Arielle created the circular "CP" insignia during initial concepting, and we all knew it had to be included somewhere in our designs. Plus, who doesn't love the quote, "I think, therefore I drink" on a coaster?

 Looking at old labels inspired a tongue in cheek take on the serious tone with which old-time manufacturers used over-the-top superlatives to describe their wares. 

Looking at old labels inspired a tongue in cheek take on the serious tone with which old-time manufacturers used over-the-top superlatives to describe their wares. 

 Two restaurant entrances on opposing streets, and two spaces—upstairs dining room and downstairs bar—inspired us to use juxtapositions and pairings in our language and design: Fore & Wharf, Good Food & Strong Drink, etc.

Two restaurant entrances on opposing streets, and two spaces—upstairs dining room and downstairs bar—inspired us to use juxtapositions and pairings in our language and design: Fore & Wharf, Good Food & Strong Drink, etc.

Any special considerations in the design elements (scale of the sign, differentiating menu types, upstairs/downstairs experience, etc?)

We wanted the outdoor signage to look like it had been there forever. The designs are basic and straight-forward, yet have great personality due to their hand-craftedness. Classic white lettering, hand-painted on a black background, pay homage to the tradition of sign-painting and no-nonsense lettering.

Because menus change daily, they are printed in-house. Bar, food and drink menus are differentiated by paper color. The palette is made up of a natural tan, green and subtle gray, creating a casual tone for the restaurant that blends in with all the natural wood and worn brick.

 Metal stools and the iron sign bracket were made to Chris and Paige's design by a Maine blacksmith, while his brother, a woodworker, hand carved and painted the signs.

Metal stools and the iron sign bracket were made to Chris and Paige's design by a Maine blacksmith, while his brother, a woodworker, hand carved and painted the signs.

What aspects changed from initial concepts through final execution and production?

The food menu will always be evolving. We knew from the start that the menu design had to be clean, clear and most importantly, flexible. We worked very closely with Chris and Paige on the layout, focusing on Chris's opening menu, but also with an eye for the future when new sections are introduced. We wanted to make sure the menu not only looked great when there was a small amount of items being offered, but also when their full menu is presented. Creating a flexible design where Chris and Paige aren't so "locked in" was key.

 Interesting folds on standard sized paper create unusual form factors for menus.

Interesting folds on standard sized paper create unusual form factors for menus.

The design team is well known for its inner-office collaboration—what, if any, design elements from other member’s concepts made the final cut or snuck their way into the work?

The Central Provisions brand is actually a combination of all three of our initial concepts—I've already mentioned that Arielle's "CP" appears on the coasters and is also used as a stamp on menus and gift cards. Sean's color palette and font selections (Clarendon and Poplar) all play a key role in design. Central Provisions' tagline, "Good Food and Strong Drink" also came out of an initial concept brainstorm.

 Railroad tickets inspired the gift certificate size and design, as well as the idea to hole punch them to indicate the amount of the gift

Railroad tickets inspired the gift certificate size and design, as well as the idea to hole punch them to indicate the amount of the gift

 The responsive website was designed to match the visual language created for the printed collateral, while providing a framework for showcasing big, beautiful images of the food and space.

The responsive website was designed to match the visual language created for the printed collateral, while providing a framework for showcasing big, beautiful images of the food and space.

Central Provisions opened in early February to immediate acclaim; it promises to quickly become a Portland food scene fixture. And with the restaurant located mere feet from our office on Fore Street, we can't wait until they start opening for lunch!