The role of Art and Design in Restaurants – Our interview with sign writers Frank and Mimi

It’s no secret that at Sunshine and Gin love we love exploring the Brisbane bar and restaurant scene and whilst we generally focus on the food, we felt it was high time to acknowledge that a truly amazing dining (or drinking) experience goes far beyond flavour.

Ambience has a huge impact on how you feel about a restaurant, cafe, or bar, and the use of art and design in creating atmosphere and visual identify is often underestimated.

In our culinary exploration of Brissie we had often stumbled across the amazing work of sign writers and visual artists Rick Hayward and Emily Devers – otherwise known as Frank and Mimi. As their work features in many of our favourite places and spaces, we contacted them to see what they had to say about the roles that sign-writing and art play in the modern restaurant interior and also to learn a little more about how they work with clients to create brand identity…oh and also their favourite Brisbane hangs (one of which was recently visited by Germ Chancellor Angela Merkel!).

How did Frank and Mimi come about?

In the flesh we are Rick and Emily, but when you work together creatively everyone knows an alter ego is more fun! We became Frank & Mimi back in late 2011 when we were staying in Brooklyn, New York. We strolled into a vegan doughnut store and declared that they needed signage and that we were the guys to do it, and a few days buzzing on coffee and doughnuts later we’d fitted out their shop! After that, we came home to Brisbane and knew that experience wasn’t going to be a one-off.

A great meal at a restaurant or bar is the result of many different elements – food and beverage, service, and importantly ambiance and atmosphere. How do you go about creating this ambiance with your work?

You’re absolutely right, any space where humans gather – whether an art gallery or a quaint corner store café – each have their own unique look and feel (whether knowingly or not). The kinds of folk who approach us for work sit in the “knowingly” basket as they’ve given much consideration to how they hope people will experience their space, and let’s face it…a business with no sign is a sign of no business! So we start with the fundamental basics and work up from there. We begin the process by meeting with the business owner, sitting and walking around the space, and talking through their visions. Once we start to get a clearer idea of these things we can begin to form a well-rounded visual language for them. A brand is never just a logo, it’s also everything that surrounds the logo, and it’s creating that culture – that’s what we thrive on.

When does your work with a space or restaurant begin? Are you involved from early on in the design work so that your pieces are integrated into the whole look and feel of the space?

It’s a bit of a mix actually! Sometimes (if we’re lucky) people have given the visuals of their space a bit of forethought and put it high on the priority list. These are the jobs we enjoy most as we can jump in right at the time when creativity and optimism is buzzing around their space as it comes together, and the visuals can be choreographed with all the other elements. More often than not we’ll do work at an established business, and have to problem-solve how to integrate our style with what they’ve created already, without challenging the integrity of the space and just adding clutter. We really pride ourselves on being able to create something that looks like it’s either meant to be there, or has been there for a long time.

Do you assist clients (restaurants/bars) to develop their brand identity? How does this process work and what elements come into play when developing the branding (e.g., cuisine, space, location, ‘theming’)?

Our role changes with each job, but more and more we’re being asked to create complete visual identities and in these cases there is so much that comes into play. In our minds, creating a business that has a distinct look and feel is a careful timeline of considered decision-making that leads you down a particular conceptual path, and at the end you should have a succinct family of visuals that talk to each other.

What do you think it is about your work that makes the spaces you create so special and unique?

We place high importance on the fact that at the end of day, we’re not working for businesses; we’re working for people. So getting to know these people is paramount, and contributes to our layouts and attention to detail.

You’ve done murals for Newstead Brewing Co., Dutch Courage Officers Mess, Alfred’s Diner and Atticus Finch amongst many others; do you have a favourite piece of work?

Each job is another opportunity to hone in on our expanding skillset so they all feel so different! We’ve definitely got a soft spot for the classic Sailor Jerry aloha monkey we just gilded at Seventh Circle Studio. Not many people can say they’ve immortalised a mooning monkey in 23k gold in a heritage-listed building!

If you could choose any space in Brisbane to ‘brighten up’ where would it be and what would you paint?

We love what’s been happening with the pillars project in South Brisbane, any opportunity to spread some positive vibes to the dead spaces of Brisbane city with a paintbrush is most welcome. We hope that this spark of enthusiasm from the city council isn’t a fleeting thing, and look forward to a time when street art will no longer be labelled vandalism by our government. We’d love to paint a huge scale artwork on the Paddington water tower – maybe one day!

Tell us your favourite restaurant, cafe and bar in Brisbane.

That’s like choosing between friends at a dodgeball game! We’re too spoilt for choice… Brewski is a no-fuss craft beer bar that makes some serious pizzas, and definitely a wholesome breakfast at Plum Tucker never goes astray. There are just too many places we call a local!

What is your best ‘Brisbane secret’ that only a local would know?

Felix is the sweetest lil’ surprise on Burnett Lane in the CBD – their strawberry smoothie is cosmic.


3 thoughts on “The role of Art and Design in Restaurants – Our interview with sign writers Frank and Mimi

  1. Pingback: Breakfast at Atticus Finch |
  2. Pingback: Brisbane’s Best Coffee |
  3. Pingback: Breakfast at Atticus Finch - Sunshine and Gin

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