Working alongside Design People’s founder Dave Lawson, designer Kiki Thanou reached into her past and the aesthetic of Hanson Road to create the branding for the Currie Street ‘70s nostalgia trip Extra Chicken Salt.
Nostalgia by design
For a months-old chicken shop, Currie Street’s Extra Chicken Salt looks decidedly old-world.
This was a deliberate decision on the part of co-owners Peter De Marco and Phillip Tropeano, who pitched the idea to designers Kiki Thanou and Dave Lawson.
Extra Chicken Salt takes a nostalgic look back at 1970s food culture – forgiving of its unfortunate food trends and celebratory of the good bits.
The graphic elements of the brand needed to convey that nostalgia.
“We wanted to have a brand that looked timeless, that looked like it had been there for 20, 30 years,” Peter explains.
“Something that is going to look old and stay old, stay relevant for another 20 years, and so we didn’t want anything to be over-designed.”
Kiki remembers some different keywords throughout the early stages of the project.
“For Peter and Phil, for them saying, ‘Oh, that looks so crap. It’s great,’ was the comment,” she says.
“They wanted it to look bad. But then you were fighting with yourself, looking at it from a design perspective, knowing what’s right and wrong, but also wanting to challenge that.”
Just as there is ugly-delicious in food, there is ugly-beautiful in design. Creating such a duality is not an easy task.
Kiki dived into research, exploring food strips in Adelaide and around the world via Google, in search of the oddly satisfying and off-kilter hand-made signs of family-run small businesses.
“I was driving down Hanson Road, and I was looking at all the different signage down there… [picking] out the ones that look clearly really old, like they haven’t updated anything in 20 years,” she says.
She would look for strange colour combinations or strange stylistic pairings that shouldn’t work but do.
Dave sees this influence in the Extra Chicken Salt logo’s mismatched fonts.
“It comes down to the choice of Brush Script as one of the fonts, which is a generic font that everyone can access,” he says.
“If the average Joe designed their own brand, they’d go to the generic fonts on Word and Brush Script would come up, and they’d go, ‘That looks great.’
“We had to put ourselves in the everyday person’s shoes, and still hope it makes sense.”
The end result does bring about a pang of nostalgia. This can perhaps be explained in Kiki’s genuine love for the chicken shop aesthetic.
“My family actually owned an old deli and an old chicken shop on Torrens Road, so I started to think back to that and how crap it looked,” she laughs.
“What did the signage look like? What did they have on the front? And using that, and just remembering things about that was really helpful.”
Extra Chicken Salt was Kiki’s first major branding job for a hospitality business. She previously worked as wait staff at Chicco Palms, another of Peter and Phillip’s businesses, and had done some menu and brand tweaking there.
Kiki is now part of the team at design, marketing and PR firm Super Assembly, but when this project started, she was freelancing with Design People. She brought Dave into the project for his knowledge of the hospitality industry.
“In hindsight, she probably didn’t need me,” Dave says, smiling.
“Emotional support,” Kiki laughs.
“Emotional support, a bit of design lead, but also just [knowing] how things come together as well, just with suppliers and lead times,” Dave continues.
“It’s all about stuff that you don’t realise when you’re coming through the ranks.”
The final week leading up to open was chaotic, Kiki says, but she’s now able to sit in the restaurant and appreciate the work she’s done.
“Working with hospitality is good,” Kiki says. “Restaurant people seem to have a lot of big ideas.
“Seeing people come here and eat – and take photos, or get excited by some of the graphics – feels good.
“I still feel like I’m not quite there in terms of being able to walk in and having an in-body experience. I’m not quite there. But it feels good.”