Every now and then, we plan to give a behind-the-scenes look at our creative process by outlining our favorite projects in Case Studies articles. What more appropriate way to start this category off than to discuss our very first project at d+m, developing the visual identity of Detroit’s own Batata Shop.
Founded by Tawnya Clark, Batata Shop is a Detroit-based food start-up that dishes out made-from-scratch and completely indulgent sweet potato waffles. Taking advantage of the uniquely collaborative business community in Detroit, Tawnya has put brick-and-mortar thoughts to the side, and instead operates the Batata Shop as a transient pop-up, running several events each week where she takes over a section of a local cafe, restaurant (market, museum, music venue foyer, urban farm – the list goes on and on) with her two trusty waffle irons, like a DJ with her turntables.
And that reference isn’t just a casual filler for this article. Tawnya has a certain hip hop, Detroit house, musical groove to the way she operates; she’s always bouncing to some beat – and there’s a real, undeniable kinetic energy to her execution of the Batata Shop. And, as she’s the face, founder, and head waffle maker, it’s this characteristic that the Batata Shop’s followers relate to and identify with – and it was our primary motivation when conceptualizing the new visual identity. We really wanted our designs to fit comfortably between a turntable, a plate of waffles, and a stack of J Dilla albums.
For the mark – the distilled essence of the identity in one element – we wanted something solid, something warm, and icon-ically cool; something that had a fundamental and recognizable shape, that would reflect the thick-weighted type and simple graphic overlays of album covers. We wanted elegance and simplicity in design, with a simultaneously manufactured and handmade feel – a nod to the use of hand-mixed ingredients and mechanical irons to form the waffles, as well as the rich man-powered manufacturing history of the Detroit area in general.
We started with a square as the shape, and chose to round off two opposite corners to reflect the physical form of a sweet potato. Inside, we divided the square into four quadrants and then added four right-angled lines in each to give the appearance of a waffle. The result is one single, solid shape that is monochromatic and bulky enough to be used in all sorts of handmade and industrial applications, from simple rubber ink stamping and screen printing to CNC milling and laser cutting. To test – or reinforce – our goal of the mark as an icon, stickers of just the logo were handed out at the Batata Shop events; it’s still a cool feeling to see one of our designs on the bumper of a car or on the back of a laptop.
For the supplemental graphics (even though we were entirely happy with the strength of the mark by itself, our goal was to create a cohesive visual identity for banners, flyers, and other future print projects), we needed elements that reflected the same intersection-of-hip-hop-and-design aesthetic as the mark, but without being distracting from the mark as a focal point; they had to be not just additional graphics, but seamlessly complementary as well. For this task, we looked to vintage blank media cases – the packaging of cassette tapes, VHS, 8-track, etc. – as well as vintage audio equipment operation manuals. These all had in common a minimal approach to layout, as well as line-based visual elements, which we feel work very nicely with the mark we had crafted.
Identity development for the Batata Shop proved to be a great project to cut our teeth on as a newly formed creative company, and we are forever grateful to Tawnya for taking a chance on us. If you’re in Detroit, or are passing through the area, head over to BatataShop.com and check out the pop-up schedule to find out where Tawnya will be cooking up some – as she always says – sweet potato goodness.