Get to know the studio that designed some of the coolest restaurants in Manila

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The design studio behind Churreria La Lola’s pyramid-shaped packaging and Le Petit Souffle’s Parisian wall art has helped turn the ice cream shop experience into something akin to stepping inside a giant retro refrigerator. Photo courtesy of FREEZER BURN

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Five years ago, design had been a minor detail that restaurant owners would consider when opening shop. Now, it’s become an integral part of brand identity: Aside from “Is the food good?”, another big question that — if answered positively — ups a restaurant’s cool factor is its aesthetic quality.

And A Half, a Manila-based brand consultancy and design studio, thinks that the internet is one of the reasons for this new way of thinking, as it’s become a huge avenue for people to share the experience of what they’re eating. “To be able to [eat in] or have been to this hip new restaurant has become aspirational to an extent,” Tim Lopez, the designer and project head for Freezer Burn, and Petra Gana, And A Half’s account manager, say. “And it helps to attract people who want to share the same experience.” This the studio asserts, as it is one of those at the forefront of this new social media-driven restaurant design scene.

and-a-half-lalola-05.jpg The studio is also behind Churreria La Lola's pyramid-shaped cone packaging for its churros. Photo courtesy of AND A HALF

Having designed some of the more notable and enviable campaigns and elements for food establishments — the iconic green and red cones for the churros shop Churreria La Lola, the minimalist menu of the Filipino restaurant Balay Dako, and the swirly Parisian wall art for the French-Japanese fusion restaurant Le Petit Souffle — And A Half has a signature that is hard to miss. 

Le Petit Souffle.jpg The French-Japanese fusion restaurant Le Petit Souffle has swirly Parisian wall art that was conceptualized by And A Half. Photo courtesy of AND A HALF

The design studio’s newest venture is Freezer Burn, a dessert shop that is set to introduce new and interesting ways of eating hot and cold desserts. True to its name, the store has interiors that are fashioned to look just like the inside of a retro refrigerator. According to the studio, it has been easy to get inspiration from refrigerators because of the name of the shop. 

Freezer Burn - Product Shot - 160701.jpg And A Half took inspiration from retrofuturistic refrigerators for Freezer Burn's overall aesthetic. Photos courtesy of AND A HALF

And A Half decided to use fridge magnets with illustrations of common fruits and tourist destinations to breed warmth and nostalgia. “We played on familiarity,” Lopez and Gana explain, “because the food and flavors [Freezer Burn was] going to offer were also in a way familiar, only more refined and magnified.”

For the menu, And A Half developed a custom typeface reminiscent of refrigerator magnets for more authenticity. In keeping with the 1950s theme, the studio decided to use secondary colors like mint and orange for the color palette and more metallic accents and curves for the logo.

Freezer Burn - Social Media PDF with Logo - 160223 3.jpg A unique typeface was created to mimic letter-shaped refrigerator magnets for Freezer Burn's campaigns. Photos courtesy of AND A HALF

Freezer Burn is just one example of how good design goes hand in hand with the quality of the food products in restaurants. To the folks at And A Half, design is important because it serves as a way to effectively express a brand’s values and message. For them, it’s what helps people remember the brand apart from the food that is served. 

But good design isn’t limited to making a brand look good. Factors like the functionality of packaging are always considered a main priority, especially when designing for food establishments. According Lopez and Gana, for designers, “it’s important to understand how people handle the food — how they eat it, how they take pictures of it, and how they interact with it overall.”   

Freezer Burn - Magnets Laid Out - 160701-02.jpg And A Half's illustrations for Freezer Burn's fridge magnet imagery take on a color palette and style similar to fruit popsicles and ice cream truck treats. Photo courtesy of AND A HALF

“People should interact with the packaging organically, it shouldn’t be forced,” Lopez and Gana add. “In the end, people want to eat the food and the design shouldn’t obstruct them from doing that. It should enhance the interaction, and make it easier and more delightful for people to consume the product.”