Playful Illustrations Help Pizzeria Escape Stereotypes

The Door has completed the branding of a new pizzeria developed by James Beard Award-Winning Chef Vivian Howard and husband/business partner Benjamin Knight, stars of the PBS documentary series A Chef’s Life. The documentary explores farm-fresh cooking, family and community in small-town Eastern North Carolina. Dubbed Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria, the new restaurant’s name combines the couple’s childhood nicknames: “Benny” for Knight and “Big Time” for Howard, who showcased an early talent for entertaining.



Creative Director Melinda Welch and Art Director Sara Berks of The Door worked with the restaurateurs to develop the visual identity, as well as to design and produce its collateral. Their decision was to focus on the key attributes of the Benny’s experience: quality housemade menu items, comfort and approachability, and a playful personality. It was also determined that the identity should cue the Italian focus of the cuisine but avoid the stereotypical signifiers of an Italian-American restaurant. To visualize the identity, the team started with a color palette rooted in rich red and deep blue hues, paired with bright and warm accent colors. They also commissioned a wide range of ingredient, pizza, and plated-dish illustrations from Nanna Prieler, which come together as collaged elements throughout the branding and collateral, and serve to cue the Italian nature of the menu while conveying a contemporary and playful spirit. One of Prieler’s pizza slice illustrations serves as the logomark, floating above the wordmark set in Windsor.




With the identity determined, The Door then applied the visual system to the collateral and food service packaging items. The placemat dinner menu incorporates Nanna’s illustrations as page headers and footers, while the bar menu features an illustration collage on its cover. Also of note: a four-color pizza box featuring 20 unique illustrations, which serve as the centerpiece of the  takeout program, accompanied by two customized paper shopping bags and branded tape to seal the takeout containers. The project also encompassed business cards and postcards, t-shirts, coasters, an enamel pin featuring their signature pizza pie, and large murals that adorn the historic building’s exterior.



Photography by Bax Miller