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Inside the Dallas Morning News, literally.

Dallas Morning News staff writer, Maria Halkias gave me a personal tour of the DMN offices last week in Downtown Dallas. Maria wrote a front page story about my client, Wicked Bold Chocolate founder, Deric Cahill, last year and she offered to show me around the news room. Maria interviewed me about how my company transformed Deric’s brand and package from a farmers market start-up special to a professionally branded line of chocolates on the shelves of Whole Foods, Sprouts and thousands of Walmart stores.

The Dallas Morning News has won nine Pulitzer Prizes and is the oldest continuously operated business in Texas, dating back to 1842 where it began publication of The Daily News in Galveston.

Designed by Gensler, DMN occupies the historic Old Dallas Central Library next door to the Statler Hotel. My favorite feature is a running ticker that you can see from the street level windows. Check out the pics of the office here.  

Are you interested in how to build a restaurant brand?

With countless dining choices, how do you grab the attention of potential customers and turn them into loyal patrons of your establishment? Well, my friend, it all comes down to crafting a remarkable restaurant brand.

In the digital age of 2023, your restaurant’s online presence is crucial. Having a well-defined and easily accessible online brand can be the difference between a thriving night and a slow one. A memorable brand doesn’t just catch people’s eyes; it keeps them coming back for more, all thanks to your branding strategy.

Now, here’s a little nugget for you: 65% of a company’s business comes from its loyal regulars. But let me tell you, creating a beloved restaurant brand is no walk in the park. It’s more than just a fancy logo; it’s a labor of love that pays off handsomely.So, what exactly is a restaurant brand, you ask? Well, it’s not just about appearances and sounds; it’s the complete package. It’s the impression you want to leave, from the moment guests step through your door to when they’re Googling you late at night. It’s in the ambiance your diners soak up and the posts on your social media.

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of crafting your restaurant brand:

Step 1: Dream Big

Begin by painting a crystal-clear picture of what makes your place exceptional. What sets you apart? What’s the mission that drives your eatery?

Step 2: Know Your Playing Field

Figure out your place in the foodie landscape. Who’s your competition, and what’s your unique flavor? This isn’t a one-size-fits-all gig.

Step 3: Find Your Voice

Nail down a voice and tone that perfectly represents your brand’s personality. It’s like describing your brand as a person in three words – and then delving into each word’s vibe.

Step 4: Looking Good

Dress your brand to impress with exceptional design, logos, colors, and all the visual elements. Make sure your brand exudes personality, from your menu to your decor.

Step 5: Consistency is Key

Maintain your brand’s vibe across the board. Create a brand book to keep everyone on the same page.Why does this whole branding thing matter, you ask? Well, it’s all about building a loyal fan base. Brand loyalty is the name of the game, especially in the competitive restaurant world. When your regulars become your brand’s biggest advocates, word spreads like wildfire.Think about industry giants like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Despite the fierce competition, folks keep coming back for more. Why? Because these places have strong branding that tells a story, defines their mission, and solidifies their position.

So, how do you build a restaurant brand with that kind of strength? Let’s break it down into five straightforward steps:

Step 1: Craft an Exceptional Mission

Create a mission statement that serves up your eatery’s unique flavor, purpose, and why it’s a cut above the rest. Hire a professional branding studio to help.

Step 2: Find Your Sweet Spot

Determine where you fit in the foodie landscape. What’s your pricing, what’s your cuisine like, and how do you communicate your value effectively?

Step 3: Let Your Voice Shine

Describe your brand as if it were a person in three words, then dive deeper into each word to define your brand’s character.

Step 4: Hire professionals

If you want your brand to look professional, hire a professional! Done right, your brand can look like a multi-unit franchise with only one location. Strategic design includes the logo, the colors, words, and interior design package.

Step 5: Keep the Brand Book Handy

Keep everybody on the same path by following the brand book that outlines the brand’s voice, colors, style and vibe.Remember, your brand isn’t set in stone – it’s a dynamic entity that grows as your customer base does. So, let it evolve with your business. Building a restaurant brand isn’t just about appearances; it’s about crafting a memorable experience. So, start serving up a brand that stands out, and watch your restaurant flourish! 🍔🎨🔥

Restaurants of the future – let’s talk crazy!

Restaurants of the future

Two large restaurant brands asked us to design their restaurants of the future. No rules, no limits to creativity. Areas to address were restaurant design, technology and customer trends. The ideas might seem crazy – they might work, they might not but at least you’re looking forward. If you can get yourself acclimated to being uncomfortable with what you don’t know, you’re doing it right!

What’s Cash?

Obviously there won’t be cash in the future. Will there be human servers? Just imagine – order accuracy could be, well, accurate! Will the restaurant ever close? Will restaurants invest in a physical space or just exist in digital kitchens like oomi? That’s all happening already.

Unbranded food might as well be those jello bricks on the last train car in Snowpiercer.

Ultimately, food without unique, brand-based features or restaurant brands without experiential features will become commodities. A taco made by a robot, delivered by a drone and left on my porch is just a taco.  Now, if I ordered a #3 Spicy Chicken Tikka taco in the metaverse, paid for it with cryto currency and it’s delivered to my house in a heated drone every “Taco Tuesday” at 7pm… that’s a brand experience!

If you’re not planning your future now, you’re behind. Reach out, let’s talk about something crazy for your brand!

Why did you buy that product? Package design is critical to consumer purchase decisions.

Are you launching a new product?

As a package designer, I talk to lots of people who are launching new products. Just last week, Ingrid and I tried samples of a hangover remedy, a gluten free brownie and a bbq spice mix. Next week, we get to try a craft beer and two new flavors of gelato.

You are also a consumer!

When I’m talking to new package design clients, I always tell them to go home and look in their pantry. “Ask yourself, what made me buy that product?” Maybe it’s because you grew up with that brand or it promised to solve a specific need or maybe they just bought it because the package was cool. This happens to me all the time. I love food packaging of every kind. You’re a consumer! You are making decisions based on packaging at every single purchase, so – remember that your product package is subject to the same scrutiny.

Like packaging on the catwalk.

Package design is like the ultimate fashion statement for products. Think of it as the stylish outfit that your favorite brand wears to the party of store shelves. It’s the art of creating a visually captivating and functional exterior for a product’s packaging. As a brand designer with a love for clever and edgy packaging, I appreciate how critical packaging is to function, marketing and sensory appeal of a new consumer product.

Nobody will ever try your product if your package can’t compete. Make sure you budget appropriately for professional package design.

Smells like branding to me.

Yes, you can own a scent.

Anybody who’s ever walked into an Abercrombie and Fitch knows what I’m talking about. They have a proprietary scent that is probably as recognizable as their logo. Years ago, we were looking at a Darling Homes model home near Houston. That home smelled SO good and SO homey that when we contracted to build, I inquired about it. Turns out, that scent was developed specifically for them. They owned a scent.

I like restaurants that smell good.

Because I work primarily in the restaurant branding business and I’m also a consumer, I’m keenly aware of how important the smell of a restaurant is.  Scent is an important part of the customer experience and it works best when it is integrated with the overall branding. Tip for newbies – yes, your restaurant should be clean but it should not smell like cleaning supplies.

Last spring, we were awarded work for the international yogurt franchise, Yogurtland. During the project, we researched scent systems and discovered ScentAir who has been in the business for more than 20 years and has offices on three continents. They work with hotels & resorts, retailers, restaurants, offices, and casinos to name a few.

Our journey to find the perfect scent for the yogurt brand began with a discussion about what emotional connection we wanted to make with customers. The obvious answer is sugar – the ultimate dopamine-delivering scent of something sweet. Since froyo doesn’t really have a specific scent, we selected from samples of baked goods scents like those with vanilla and brown sugar. The scent is delivered via a small unit that plugs in and operates via an app where you can control the frequency and intensity.

I can think of so many brands that I could identify by scent alone – Auntie Anne’s, Starbucks, Subway, Nestle Toll House Cafe, Cinnabon, Burger King, Jimmy John’s (the “Free Smells” neon is genius).

What if packing peanuts smelled like peanuts?!*

If you think your ONLINE brand can’t take advantage – think again. Brands are using scents in their packing materials! Amazon – listen up – there’s opportunity here -ask me about scented ink!

*Would you have to include an allergen warning I wonder…

MJ Moreau – Package Design Nerd

You want me to talk about packaging?!

I’ve been a package design nerd for my entire career so when I was invited to speak about packaging at a GCIA (Global Culinary Innovators Association) event in San Diego, CA, I was in!

I was asked to participate on a panel as a packaging expert to talk to a group of international corporate chefs about sustainable restaurant packaging. Think paper cups, take out containers, pizza boxes, etc. At the time, Studio B was knee-deep into a 16-piece fast casual restaurant packaging project for plant-based fast food brand Earth Burger, so this was perfect timing. I shared the stage with Dan Nolan of Good Start (Sustainable) Packaging  and Rick Findlay – a grocery packaging pro with awesome Whole Foods stories.

Sustainable packaging

I wish I could say that sustainable packaging is an option for every brand. It’s just not, yet. The demand, however, is encouraging the industry to look for more earth friendly solutions – on the daily.

Expert status equals time in the game.

Working with restaurant and retail brands always involves some form of package design. Whether it’s a take out bag or a full-blown pallet display full of swim goggles for Costco, the package can be the primary brand vehicle. Studio B designs roughly 50 retail or restaurant package items a year. We have great vendors for short and long print runs and we manage the process from design and function to final printed product.

Is your package design shelf-ready?

If you need design for a new product or an update to your existing products, we’d love to take a look! If you’re on the fence, DM Deric Cahill of Wicked Bold Chocolate who calls me a packaging genius. He can attest to the value of a great package. We (and Perry Fink) helped him get from the farmers market to the end caps at Whole Foods with more deals in the works.

Shout out to Jeff Sinelli for recommending me and Kevin Ryan, ICCA/GCIA for letting me participate in this awesome event.

Hiring a professional package designer

Who designs packaging for products?

Effective packaging design requires collaboration between designers, marketers, and product developers to create packaging that not only meets these requirements but also enhances the product’s appeal and brand recognition.

Graphic designers are often the driving force behind packaging design. Their expertise in visual communication, typography, and color theory is essential for creating eye-catching designs. They bring a brand’s story and values to life through compelling visuals.

Industrial designers play a pivotal role too. They focus on the structural and functional aspects of packaging, ensuring it’s not just aesthetically pleasing but also practical for protecting and displaying the product.

Marketers and brand strategists provide valuable insights into the target audience and market trends, guiding design decisions to resonate with consumers.

In some cases, specialized package designers may work exclusively on creating packaging solutions. These experts combine graphic design skills with a deep understanding of materials, printing techniques, and regulations specific to the industry.

Ultimately, it’s a collaborative effort that brings packaging to life, and the key is finding that perfect balance between aesthetics, functionality, and brand representation. So, next time you pick up a beautifully designed product, know that a team of creative professionals has worked their magic to make it look so appealing.

Packaging design requirements encompass a comprehensive set of guidelines and specifications crucial for creating effective and appealing packaging. Whether you’re designing for a product, food item, or any other consumer goods, here are the key elements typically included in packaging design requirements:

1. Product Information: Clear and accurate details about the product, including its name, description, usage instructions, and any regulatory information, must be prominently displayed.

2. Brand Identity: Packaging should reflect the brand’s visual identity, including logos, color palettes, typography, and design elements, ensuring consistency across all products.

3. Size and Dimensions: Precise measurements and dimensions are essential to ensure that the packaging accommodates the product securely and fits within logistical constraints.

4. Materials: Specify the type of materials to be used, such as cardboard, plastic, glass, or eco-friendly options, taking into account sustainability, durability, and cost considerations.

5. Printing and Labeling: Detail printing methods, colors, and finishes. Specify label placement, barcodes, and any other essential information to be incorporated into the design.

6. Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the packaging adheres to relevant industry and legal regulations, especially in sectors like food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics, which have strict labeling requirements.

7. Visual Aesthetics: Describe the desired look and feel of the packaging, including design elements, imagery, and themes that align with the product and brand.

8. Functionality: Consider how the packaging will function in terms of ease of use, resealability, and any special features required for product handling and storage.

9. Cost Constraints: Set budget limitations to ensure that the design remains economically viable.

10. Target Audience: Define the target demographic and preferences to tailor the design to resonate with the intended consumers.

Package Design. Party in the front – business in the back

Wow. That’s a great looking package.

Packaging is like the unsung hero of the retail world. It plays a vital role in the industry. Packaging isn’t just about wrapping a product; it’s a powerful tool that can make or break a brand’s success. Example: POM pomegranate juice would have never been the success it is today if it hadn’t done two things: use a unique bottle shape AND identify itself as an “antioxidant superpower”. Read an interesting article about Pom’s strategy here.

A Hot Package Success Story

If that package success story is too vintage for you, maybe you’re familiar with TRUFF hot sauce? “Truff differentiates itself in several ways, beginning with its trademark truffle flavor, as the name suggests. “That not only helped elevate the brand and the flavor profile, but it allowed us to really separate ourselves from anything that had been done in the market before,” per co-founder Nick Guillen.” Ok, yes, the truffle oil is total luxury – never been done before in hot sauce that I know of.

But that bottle! The real difference for me is the bottle, the bottle cap and the label design. First comes the bottle, then comes Oprah. I didn’t realize until I read this article though, that their strategy was built on a social platform first. I’m going to talk about that in another post where we will look at brands started on social… I’m talking about you Black Rifle Coffee.

Packaging is for Protection.

You can see that from a practical standpoint, packaging is crucial for protection. It shields products from damage, contamination, and environmental factors, ensuring they reach customers in perfect condition. It’s the essence of packaging’s importance.

Packaging is for Branding.

Packaging is also the face of a product. It’s the first thing customers see on store shelves or online listings. A well-designed package can turn a mundane item into a must-have. It communicates a brand’s identity, values, and story, creating a connection with consumers. Think about how a unique and visually striking package can make a product stand out in a crowded market. Let’s party!

Packaging is for Information.

Business in the back. Packaging serves as a practical tool for information dissemination, with labels providing details like ingredients, usage instructions, and compliance information in various market spaces. It’s the unsung storyteller, protector, and communicator that plays a pivotal role in a product’s journey from production to the hands of delighted customers.

Package design is big business. If you have a product to take to market, make sure you hire a professional package designer!

Weed, Sandbox and Branding in the METAVERSE

Three white House of Grass weed hats sitting in a row on a blue abstract background.

Weed. The newest thing in lifestyle branding

Despite its reputation, marijuana is a legit segment loaded with brands selling the benefits and lifestyle. From cute, innocent little gummies that help you sleep, to uber cool street wear by Cookies, big brands are getting in on the growing consumer base which, by the way, includes senior citizens says the New York Times . Not only is it big business on this planet but the metaverse could be the new frontier. Read what FastCompany has to say about pioneers like Snoop, Vans, Gucci & Nike.

Studio B is in the business of branding. In this case, the brand is House of Grass– a dope hat company–that opened an online store during the week of 4/20. Aimed at weed enthusiasts, golfers, skaters, hat-wearing fashionistas, the “House” launched with 4 hat styles and 4 designs–all crisp, all white. It’s an apparel brand with distinctive decorations and a convenient little tag that can hold your golf tee or a blunt. The brand is at ground zero for marketing but they’re open to the future.

Branding in other worlds

Let me paint a picture for you. You build your website and activate your social and maybe you even have an actual brick and mortar store in THIS world. But what about brand building in the other worlds? What? Crazy? Stupid? Well, hellllloooo, the concept of the future is suppose to sound crazy – that’s how it works. According to the brand team at House of Grass, they’re working on a pop up shop inside Sandbox right now. “It’s more about learning how it works and getting comfortable there than actual sales. BUT, we have seen how an online experience results in a physical delivery of goods, so, we won’t rule out sales!”

Open a store in the metaverse!

Enter Tyler, Anel, and Jerry – real estate agents offering space for lease in Tron Tower – inside Sandbox. It’s a few blocks from Snoop Dogg’s district – just past the Chipotle – wait that’s Roblox – I’m getting my metaverses confused. Tron Tower offers space in their futuristic multi-story building where you can office, open a storefront, exhibit art, or just have a bachelor/ette pad when you need to get away from it all…Ahhh.

Curious? Chill out and click some links:

weed and golf

weed and fashion

chipotle inthemetaverse

Check out this HubSpot blog post that features terms you need to know and early metaverse opportunities for brands.

Snoop Dogg’s NFT collection

Fast Company’s take on the topic


Studio B develops brands anywhere people shop. Get a dope hat here .

Girl walking next to Black and White illusion wall in Deep Ellum in Dallas, TX. Wearing a blue shirt, jeans and house of Grass Fuzzy Buddy Hat.