Yes, chef: Studio Freight’s ‘more is more’ approach to Lunchbox’s brand embraces the eclectic
“The identity has a ‘more is more’ ethos,” Aaron Marks, Design Director at Studio Freight, tells us, detailing the design thinking behind the Columbus and NYC-based independent creative practice’s brand for Lunchbox, an empowering restaurant-first platform helping eateries elevate their business. “It’s a maximalist brand with the swagger, irreverence, and obsessiveness of an innovative chef,” Marks explains, “and the system was designed to enable a near-infinite number of distinct applications,” leading the charge with an eclectic concoction of transfixing typography, namely TT Trailers by TypeType, KOMETA’s Attila Sans and Stabil Grotesk, as well as Fraktion Mono from Pangram Pangram. “This rebels against the modern designer’s tendency to limit the amount of type variety and intervals in favour of consistency and repeatability,” Marks continues, “for Lunchbox, however, we felt that that approach was too rigid,” instead providing the identity with “more ingredients to cook with” and, supportively, a versatile typographic system.
Whilst providing a spirited, chef-like tone, the type collection at the foundation of Lunchbox’s brand also offers an American wood type-inspired style and practically; capturing an unlikely vibe of characterful business acumen. “The suite of brand typefaces were chosen as ingredients to create powerful, unique compositions,” Marks explains, assigning specific roles to specific typefaces. “For example, we chose TT Trailers due to its off-kilter sensibility,” he suggests, utilising its striking kitsch for impactful, irreverent headline copy. In contrast, Stabil Grotesk and Fraktion Mono find their home in the practical, product applications suited best to body text. “Attila is used in short bursts for headers,” Marks details, “as the wide characters pair strongly with TT Trailer’s narrow forms, which gives us lots of flexible variety for type lockups,” hailing back to wanted-style, Americana posters. “The result is a system with just the right kind of variety that can do several different jobs at once,” he studio remarks, “the brand can be buttoned up or choose to not wear a suit at all,” allowing itself to be “appropriately angsty” – and correspondingly practical – at the right place and time. “That tension was our benchmark for success for the Lunchbox brand.”
Collaborating with creative Chris Koelsch to kinetically bring the brand to life through motion, alongside original music from Jeremy Claudio, Studio Freight’s approach to the surrounding visual identity beyond the typographic output is also extravagant, punctuated with colour and character (and more knives than you’d expect). “Early in the process, we knew illustration would play a significant role in the identity,” Marks details, about delaying the formalisation of colour choices until further research; the palette ultimately emerged when the team began digging into traditional tattoos. “We were thumbing through a few vintage Sailor Jerry flash sheets at a local tattoo shop,” he recalls, “and fell in love with the colour frequently used in his paintings, notably washed-out green, yellow and hues. These colours resting between bold black lines felt like the right amount of ‘crazy’,” he suggests, noting the disparity between these tones, and those typically of technology-based brands. “The palette is confident, daring, and extremely unusual,” Marks tells us, “drawing from the wide-ranging experimental food world Lunchbox is immersed in.”
The illustrations themselves find their inspiration in traditional American tattooing, utilising extreme black outlines alongside the brand hues of Lunchbox’s colour palette. “The illustrations represent the grit, culture, and rebellious spirit surrounding chefs and their kitchens,” Marks details, noting Anthony Bourdain as a key reference. “This fuels the heartbeat of Lunchbox and its fearless stance on the food industry,” he adds, interpreting their classic design through a contemporary, distinctly-Lunchbox lens. “The illustrations were intended to defy expectations and turn the familiar upside down,” he notes, “all while maintaining a clear connection to the brand’s culinary and technological roots,” concluding, “to our surprise, 200+ individuals have tattooed the Lunchbox illustrations on their body… full circle moment.”