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Omakase Room by Tatsu by Savvy, United States

Opinion by Richard Baird

Visual identity and scented ceramic gift by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Omakase Room by Tatsu is a unique sushi dining experience located on New York’s Christopher Street. The concept is rooted in the centuries-old family traditions of Japanese Executive Chef and host Tatsu Sekiguchi and the celebration of the individual and personal. This can be experienced in the restaurant’s unique and intimate setting, one that seats only eight, and a menu carefully crafted by Tatsu for one evening and for that specific group of eight, based on their mood, curiosities and preferences.

The restaurant features a light interior design of soft bamboo and fabric centred around Japanese minimalist traditions. Materials a few but high quality, the ceiling is low, and the design of the table and layout of chairs lend the restaurant a quiet and earthy material quality with little distraction, and establish an intimacy with the chef, and focuses the mind on the food.

Building on this, design studio Savvy developed a multi-sensory brand identity, with a similar restraint, materiality and discretion. This offers something of its own subtle character but does not detract from the food, while also working in small thoughtful details such as scent and semi-transparent paper that links type with interior. The project included menus, stationery, business cards and a ceramic gift.

Logotype designed by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Savvy effectively channel the conceptual and material qualities of the restaurant. These are literal and observable, but also subtle and visceral. The former really comes through in the fabric of menu cover, similar to that of the seating, and in the semi-transparent qualities of rice paper, which draws in the material of its surroundings and the hands of those that are holding it.

The visceral comes through in the development of a scented ceramic disk, a collaboration between Savvy, ceramic artist Perla Valtierra and conceptual perfumer Barnabé Fillion. This is gifted to diners at the end of the evening with the intention of allowing the experience to linger after leaving the restaurant.

This disk changes colour and scent according to the season, and attunes diners to the five Japanese seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter and doyo, an 18-day period of transition that falls in between each of the other seasons. The first scent is pure hinoki, a cypress tree native to Japan, prized for its woodsy, citrusy scent that grounds the body but opens the mind spiritually.

Logo, menus, stationery and scented disk designed by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Visual identity and stationery design by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Much like the restaurant’s high quality materiality but stylistic restraint, Savvy’s choice of few fonts, pairing the free brush strokes of font Kouzan Gyousho with the generous spacing of Avenir Next Condensed, finds a balance between individual aesthetic character and conceptual subtlety, channeling something of New York’s architectural signage, and the personable calligraphic craft of the East. These are nuanced but discernible ideas and details that layer but remain in line with experience.

New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Generous kerning and arrangement, which plays with the linear and the justified, manages to draw on the geometric and linear build of the interior. The balance between open space and blocks of text, the space between lines and letters, offers pause, there is direction the way to read the words, and by extension, experience the food.

Visual identity and design for print by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Visual identity and scented ceramic gift by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Colour palette, like material choice, type and typesetting, draws on interior. It has a neutrality that avoids distraction. Colour and detail comes exclusively from the individual ingredients and complete dishes, and the bright singular colour of the scented disk that intends to leave a residual impression. More work by Savvy on BP&O.

Design: Savvy. Opinion: Richard Baird. Fonts: GaramondAvenir Next & Kouzan Gyousho.

Visual identity and design for print by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Visual identity and design for print by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Visual identity and stationery designed by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

Visual identity and business card designed by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

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Art direction by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

What do you think of Savvy’s brand identity work for Omakase Room by Tatsu? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or get the conversation started on Twitter.

Logo, menus, stationery and scented disk designed by Savvy for New York restaurant Omakase Room by Tatsu

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  • Mark Yehan De Winne

    tracked out lowercase? really? and condensed? The space, the vibe and the overall art direction and concept are beautiful..the typography is a bit of a downer

    • jonmoist

      I feel the same way about the typography. Everything else is decidedly Japanese.

    • My guess is that they were trying to emulate the feel of classic Japanese text blocks. Even though they are running up to down, right to left, this design would kinda emulate that, I guess. Still not worth it imo.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a8b6c5c7c9c00fc732f2e593a544371bf829af1ab2acfa7e6dc3929427a28cfa.gif

      • Thanks. My feeling is still with what was written in the article. Typesetting here, and in my opinion, is more about managing the pace of the reader. You may indeed find it subjectively and aesthetically displeasing but it serves an objective purpose that is very much in line with taking the time to enjoy a one-off experience.

        It’s perhaps also worth questioning where you acquired your typographical sensitivities. There is what might be described as a “universal ideal” when it comes to typesetting, something designers can recognise and apply criticism to, with language they are familiar with. Consistent spacing, appropriately kerned pairs and ligatures etc. This is often empowering but ultimately a limited viewpoint. When something challenges this, the response is to balk at it. I tend to view this kind of work, not only from the point of individual letters or words, but as texture, as blocks in relation to space. I look at whether the font is augmenting or intentionally contrasting with content, is it layering what is being expressed or experienced? Is the designer managing the pace of the reader, or is there an intentional budgetary economy going on. To bring this back to the work above. There is an expense to the restaurant, lots of words do not need to be crammed onto a single page. There’s no economy here, perhaps generous spacing is there to articulate this. Words, sentences and paragraphs should be savoured and ruminated on, particularly because it’s a one-off menu.

        I’ve been meaning to get involved in this thread, my apologies for the delay.

        • Claire Coullon

          It’s funny, when I first looked at the photographs, my initial reaction
          was that everything blends beautifully and the aesthetic feels very
          light and spacious. A few seconds later when looking more specifically
          at certain elements, the loosely tracked lowercase obviously stood out
          and I had a bit of a “huh” moment about it, but I think a lot of that is
          because we’re generally taught not to space out lowercase (“anyone who
          would letterspace lowercase would steal sheep” – even though that’s
          apparently a misquote, it sticks nonetheless). So I think Richard is
          really onto something with questioning where we get our “universal
          ideals” and being open to something that challenges them. I also like
          what Henric suggested about the Japanese text blocks, that would make a
          lot of sense and is a really interesting perspective too.

          • I really think it has a lot to do with education, exercising some degree of control (when it comes to criticism) and the extent to which we read and experience things outside of our usual cultural bubbles. I may have overlooked this a year ago, but have expended my reading and interests. I really want to improve the writing on BP&O. Without experiencing more, I’ll stagnate. When designers are busy, or struggling, it’s hard to make time for the input part. Plus, there are sites that play to certain aesthetic weaknesses, easily discernible conventions and fast and cheap rather than critical content.

            Thanks Claire, lovely to hear from you.

        • reeves12

          I really, really enjoyed this comment. I just wrapped up my MFA and the biggest struggles during my program always came back to type and typesetting (me being in my 20’s, looking to take a few measured risks vs. my professors in their 60’s, very concerned with finding the most legible and comfortable solution). I tend to land somewhere around the idea that taking risks, especially to create something that adds brand equity, is good and interesting, as long as its done sparingly. I think we would all agree that no one would want to read a novel in this style, but will anyone really be so inconvenienced by this type that they won’t make it through 7 lines of copy? Or come away with an overall negative brand experience? I highly doubt it.