Hand-Lettered Menu Design

By Lindsey Lockwood

There are so many things that are possible under the realm of graphic design, it’s not always about working on a computer! Hand-lettering is becoming more and more popular online, and things like calligraphy and traditional sign lettering are making a definite comeback. A good designer applies the same aesthetic outlook and design to a digital format as they would a physical one; it is pretty important to be adept in a number of areas when unique projects come up.

Last semester I chose to take on a menu-board redesign in the Coffeehouse that I’ve worked at for 3 years. I was familiar with what we sell and wanted to revamp the main menu board for a while, so it was a great installation project for me.

Original Main Menu Board

Shown above is the original menu. It is big surface, four feet tall and eight feet wide. When hung behind the counters and work space, it is about 8 feet up and approximately 10 feet away from the closet the customer can get to reading it. The ‘curly’ typography is cute and fits into the vibe of the coffeehouse atmosphere, but it was very difficult to discern what some of the options and prices were. I always looked at the negative space at the very top and knew that it should be utilized better. Around the same time I proposed the project to my boss and coworkers, they wanted to change some pricing and add/take away some of the drinks, so it was perfect timing!

New Main Menu Board

Here is the renovated menu, hung on the wall. I formatted all of the information digitally first, and then meticulously laid out the dimensions onto the board in chalk. It definitely took much longer than I expected! Additionally, the chalk I was working with was the thick sidewalk kind. I had to take my time with every single letter and number to get it to be aligned correctly and legible; there were many erasures and re-dos that night.

What I Focused on Improving

I categorized all of the beverages into four categories to where each category would have the same amount. In this way I was able to make an even table and list everything very clearly. Besides the top title at each column, all of the text is the same size and readable from a sizable distance. Lime green is the signature color of the shop, so it made sense to list everything in that one color. The prices work well in a bright purple because they don’t compete against the vivid green around them, but are visible enough against the black chalkboard to where there isn’t a doubt to what is written. A large portion of the customers we see each day are senior citizens, so readability and legibility are of utmost importance.

As to any project, there are always going to be small things I wish I could go back and change. Although with only have a chubby stick of chalk to letter the board with, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading!

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