Graphic design

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This work is in response to Question 1, Option C on the Production Paper:

Use EITHER black and white OR at least TWO colours OR any combination of black and white and colour.

1.  Design a menu-card cover for a Chinese restaurant called “The Pagoda.”

What are some of the things the candidate would have thought about and done prior to creating this work of art?


The question is asking me to create a design for a menu-card cover for a Chinese restaurant.  First, let me list some key words: menu-card cover, Chinese restaurant and of course, design.  Then, I will go into town to look at the menu covers of at least three Chinese restaurants to see the colours and the typeface they use and in general, how the design is arranged.  However, before I go into town I will just try to remember.  Just thinking off the top of my head, I remember that they tend to use symbols such as the dragon, bamboo shoots and chop sticks.  I know they use a lot of red and gold and I sometimes see them use green.  I cannot remember any more right now.  I love Chinese food but somehow I have not been committing to memory the menu card covers.  I really think I need to visit the restaurants to get ideas and to measure the size of their menu-card cover, so as to get an idea of the space within which I can work.


Wow! That was some trip.  After looking at three restaurant menu-card covers I got some ideas so I made some sketches.  Two had fairly large menu covers, while the other had about a letter size cover.  I will create a design that could fit on either.  Mr Chin was so pleasant to me in one particular restaurant and the food smelt so good in all of them that I wished that they had offered me some.  The way they arrange the food caught my eye too.  I also looked at the platters, bowls, soup spoons, the chop sticks, the folded napkins and even the steam rising in swirls from the hot white rice in order to get some ideas.  Then I remembered that there was a theme.  Oh yes, the question said The Pagoda.  I should have asked Mr Chin what a pagoda was, but he looked so busy I think I will go on the Internet or check my encyclopaedia.  Don’t laugh, but here I was thinking that this pagoda was a Chinese dish, but guess what, it is a building.  Ha, ha, ha I had to laugh at myself.  Actually, I checked the dictionary first and it said that a pagoda is a “temple or sacred building of the Far East; usually a tower having an upward-curving roof over each story.”  Next, I went off looking at books with pictures of pagodas.  Now I see why they send out the exam papers two weeks in advance so that we will have time to do our research.


Now that I have the size of the cover, sketches of pagodas, I will have to see how I can create a design.  I must remember that this should be easily transferred to the menu-card cover and maybe could even be used as a logo.  I noticed in the restaurant that the waiters do not allow the clients to take away the menu card.   There are only about a dozen or so in the restaurant, so the design has to be something quite eye catching and I can use a number of colours since they would not be needing large quantities. 


Let me refer to the exam question again.  It says that the work should be done in either black and white or at least two colours.  Also, these may be combined.  I think I will use black and white as well as colours that relate to the Chinese culture, so I will choose red and gold.


This is a restaurant in which people will go in and dine at either lunchtime or dinnertime.  Mr Chin said that most people come for dinner and the people who come at lunchtime are usually people having business meetings.  I will draw a pagoda then place it within an oval so that the focus will be on the building.  I will not complicate it by putting in other buildings.  Within the oval, I will put the building against a backdrop of colour, red and yellow-gold.  I will place the colours so that it will have a kind of intimate sunset feeling.  These colours are also warm colours, red will suggest heat, implying that the food is hot and also it could signify spicy.  The red blending into the yellow-gold gives a hot orange feeling that reminds me of meat in a sweet and sour sauce.  The pagodas I saw had a lot of architectural detail and I want to keep it simple so I will just use the shape and then write the words The Pagoda Menu across the front, in a lettering style that looks like Chinese characters.  These I think I will place in a word shadow, with lines suggesting flames for the word pagoda and in rectangles for the other two words in order to create stability. 


During the exam I thought that:

Based on the sketch I thought the design still looked a little plain so I thought I would put in some patterning.  I then put in a tiled area on either side of a walkway, which is created using one-point perspective.  Then I decided to put in a white picket fence, which I repeated on each side of the building to give it a homely Western touch.  When that was all finished it seemed as if the oval was floating in air, so in order to create stability it was enclosed into a rectangle.  The rectangular area was again too stark, so I broke up the space with angular lines crossing vertically and diagonally.  I think the colours, lines, balance and variety shown in the design will give the clients a feeling that the items on the menu are appetising and the restaurant itself is comfortable and inviting. (Click on thumbnail above for a larger graphic of the finished artwork)


What did the examiners think about in deciding on a grade for the work?

Let us look at Craftsmanship:

The candidate has chosen an appropriate medium in which to work. He/she has really good control of the materials used.  In most cases the lines were precise, however, the lines depicting the walls of the pagoda were not quite parallel.  The colours were applied effectively and well.  The letters were appropriate and well formed.  This design could be suitably reproduced on a number of menu covers.

We need to look at the quality of design and composition expressed in the work.

In general, the candidate used colours effectively.  The colours too are very appropriate for a Chinese restaurant.  There was a good variety of lines and shapes in the design.  Lines were used to create shapes and patternGeometric shapes were dominant, forming an oval, rectangles and a variety of angular shapes and spaces.  .  However, the lines used for the oval and the outer rectangle seems to be too heavy and overpowering. Lines, shapes and spaces were repeated in order create interest.  The focal point of the design is concentrated in the middle.  It also has interesting symmetrical balance.   The pagoda theme is evident in the design and the lettering well placed as an aspect of the dominant area or focal point.  The red letters are encased within a shape shadow, which is very effective and provides some emphasis for the word and theme.  There is also good balance between patterned areas and solid areas, which helps to create rest points for the eye.  The shape of the pagoda roofs provides contrast to the predominantly rectangular shapes and spaces.  The Chinese characters placed strategically above the words on the pagoda, give cultural authenticity to the design.  On the other hand, the white picket fence on either side of the pagoda helps to localize it and introduces a Western element into the design.

Let’s not forget Originality:

There seemed to be a great deal of research involved in creating the design.  Hence, the mixture of Chinese cultural elements juxtaposed with Western symbols suggested an attempt at originality.

Final assessment of work

After looking at the competence displayed in the use of the medium, the skills displayed in design, the comprehensive understanding of the use of elements and principles of design (underlined above), as well as the originality expressed in the conceptualising of the work, we think this candidate deserves a Grade A.


Now ask yourself these questions.

What are some of the things a graphic designer must consider when designing for a space such as a restaurant?

Why do you think bright colours are used in a fast food restaurant?

Why are the lights dim in restaurants that are designed for formal dining?

How does the cultural origin of a particular type of food influence the way in which the menu-card cover might be designed?

Try these activities:

Visit restaurants in your area and observe the difference in design between a fast food restaurant and one that caters for multi-course or formal dining.  Pay particular attention to the following: colours used, seating arrangement, lighting, menu, type of menu card, cooking procedures, presentation and service, clientele, costs.

 Choose a cultural group such as Mexican or Italian.  Then, design a menu-card for EITHER a fast-food restaurant OR a restaurant that caters for formal dining.

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