Creating an Identity for a Buffalo Brasserie

As business began to exceed its modest location on Elmwood Avenue, Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile owner Jill Gedra was looking for room to grow. When the beautiful and roomy former Martin Cooks restaurant space on Connecticut Street suddenly became available last summer, her expansion plans doubled. In addition to finding a new home for her cheese shop, she had also found a unique opportunity to expand her retail business with a full restaurant. Jill turned to Block Club to create a brand and visual identity for the new project.

A dual-format culinary business like this is unique to Western New York, so we leaned heavily on European influences to set it apart. We needed to inform customers of two spaces, and the relationship between them. After careful deliberation on how to brand such a concept, we arrived at the name Lait Cruwhich in French means “raw milk,” as in what cheese in made from—for the restaurant component. This concept married the cheese shop and restaurant under one roof and struck the right tone for the desired French-style brasserie format.

As with all branding projects, we began identity design with high-level art direction and research. We knew that we wanted something predominantly typographic with feminine elegance and European style. We spent a great deal of time researching Parisian cafes and restaurants and art nouveau architecture and design. A photography book of Parisian signage curated by the great designer Louise Fili served as a particularly valuable source of inspiration in this regard.

After exploring and refining several directional concepts, we ultimately arrived at this two-part identity system of decorative lockups. The art nouveau-inspired frame of the primary lockup, drawn entirely in slightly imperfect dots, gives a lacy and delicate feminine quality to the mark which nicely balances the more forceful angled lines and serifs in the logotype. A round lockup was created as a simpler counterpart for any applications in which the dotted frame might not translate well due to size or proportion.

Considering the warm brick interior space, we chose a palette of dark gray-blue and a metallic pewter, the later to be printed on collateral pieces with metallic ink to add a shimmery luster and unique luminous contrast. A single-color version of each logo lockup was also created, for flexibility; this stays true to the original design without losing anything in translation.

Lait Cru opened its doors last September and is currently serving breakfast lunch and dinner. They are located in the Horsefeathers Building at 346 Connecticut St. on Buffalo’s West Side.