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chefg

Alinea Identity

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As I mentioned before the idea to name a restaurant Alinea was born nearly three years ago. During a post-service meeting the group was discussing symbolism, and how we could apply it to signify our cuisine. One of the chefs went home and did some thorough research on the subject, returning the next day with the symbol you see above. I liked it, and after he read me the definition I knew eventually I would use that symbol and name as the identity for my restaurant.

As the project came to fruition I discussed the facets with Martin and asked him what aspects he would be interested in working on. The identity of the restaurant was one of them. At this point we had been working together for one year and I felt very comfortable with Martin’s knowledge of my cuisine. He had eaten at Trio and was obviously very active in the development of dishes through the service pieces. It was my desire to produce an image that would translate the philosophy and very meaning of the restaurant we were creating. That being said I felt Martin's understanding of the goal would make him the perfect person to realize it graphically.

I have culled various conversations amongst myself, Martin and Nick during the process of developing the identity. They will appear in quotes as well as commentary from each of us now. I have also inserted images of concepts we have had along the way. These do not represent the final identity of Alinea, it in fact is still being worked on and we will add updates as the project matures. These images are however in chronological order to better show the evolution of the process.

I the initial stages I was naive about the complexity of creating an identity, especially this one. I thought it would be very easy, we already had a symbol…

but that in fact is where it got difficult. The existing symbol bore no relation to Alinea the restaurant. It had definitive meaning, which is why it was chosen to begin with, but the image did not convey the essence of the restaurant. In fact after looking at several restaurants logos I became even more at a loss as to what a logo is. Does the logo define the identity of the restaurant? Does the restaurant give meaning to the logo? Does it matter? The more I became aware of symbolism the more I realized most businesses take it for granted.

Martin: “Logo is not an identity and identity is not a logo, identity is a message, emotion, impression, reflecting the essence. It is not just a piece of information, it’s a living, breathing organism, a creature.”

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As you can see from the samples above I was very fixed on the literal shape of the original symbol. Martin improved its asethetic but we decided it still didn’t project Alinea, as we knew it.

Nick:

"Ok. So when is a logo a symbol... when does it become identity, and what are the limitations of that representation?

I contend two things... first, that there is a nearly infinite variety of shapes and forms that the Alinea can take and still be recognized by "family resemblance" --- for example, how does a toddler know that an 'a' is an 'a' is an 'A" is an italic a, an a of a different font etc. In fact, one could argue, no two a's are exactly alike and yet they convey the same meaning. So, I would say that we could stretch, manipulate, and otherwise change a traditional Alinea into something that would only be vaguely recognizable but still honor that and have enough family resemblance to be a brother or a distant cousin of that simple traditional Alinea."

It is sometimes difficult for chefs to analyze their work and even to understand it fully…it comes so naturally it’s hard to pinpoint…let alone describe in a philosophic visual language. However, it seemed like this is what we needed to move forward with this project.

The next round continued on a very literal representation of the message I was trying to convey to Martin. The symbol superimposed onto a plate. Although visually appealing we felt it carried unnecessary information (the plate) and lacked the complete understanding of Alinea.

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It became apparent that in order to create a logo that expressed the personality of the restaurant the way we wanted it to, much more thought was required.

Martin:

“I have eaten your food and that is perhaps the best way you can articulate your vision. But I would like you to try articulating your concept for Alinea verbally or graphically. Try to articulate attributes (there is room for some poetry and metaphor here). What is Alinea’s purpose, where does it stand in relationship to everything surrounding it? What sets it apart from other restaurants that will make people come and appreciate it?”

This proved to be very difficult for me personally. I felt at times the appropriate language did not exist to describe the definitions of what Alinea will meant to me… through the food, atmosphere, the overall experience that will be created. Describe the emotional state of excitement, intrigue, and happiness with out getting out the thesaurus and using more words…words are inefficient..they don’t work. The cuisine I can describe. Several adjectives were thrown around, from the literal “I think the logo should be crisp…our presentations are very crisp”…to the more philosophical…creative, contemporary, avant garde. All of this seemed to be helping. Not only was Martin gaining a better perspective on how I think but also I was learning a great deal by studying myself.

Martin:

"I know we did brush upon this but I don’t think we really got beyond vague, non-descriptive terms. Is the fact that the cuisine is cutting edge sufficient as a restaurant concept? What I see as my contribution, is aiding in finding the visual means (and executing them) for articulating that vision, but the vision has

to be communicated by non-visual means first."

Here are some samples of concepts from round three. As we moved forward the concepts became more complex. Not the symbols per se but their relation to the fonts, their positioning to express lightness, and some of the superimposing. It is clear that this round was the result of me repeating the need to project modernity. Although we all viewed this as a giant step forward the conclusion was drawn that the symbols captured forward thinking, but left the viewer feeling slightly cold. It was the essence of several of the objectives but was still missing something as a whole.

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In an email conversation I had with Nick he said the following that really made me understand what we were trying to accomplish..

Nick:

“To me, identity occurs when there exists a unique set of facts. Facts in the sense of points of note that are real, concrete, and unique. When a particular arrangement happens of these facts -- a unique pattern of them -- you have an identity. You don't create that at all... it happens all the time, every time. If it is recognizable, it is an identity. We will create an identity for Alinea by default and it will be far more than the logo, the menu, or anything else... it will be as Martin said the grouping of all of these things.”

We knew we wanted a manipulated version of the classic symbol that was our own.

So we started ripping the experience apart in order to apply the core meaning to the symbol visually. This would not only show a state of evolution but help personalize the symbol...aligning the experience of Alinea with that of the symbol's definition.

Martin’s comments below became particularly valuable…

"To me, the contrast between a tasting menu and entree is in that sense minimal, it is not a question of choices, the difference is in the wealth of the experience. Where the tasting menu is a journey and the entree is a place. You can experience the exact same place in different ways just by reorganizing the journey. That’s what I find interesting. The restaurant is somewhere where you go to experience the journey, this restaurant at least. That is a part of what the identity should convey. Motion I think is important to convey, define wealth without using a shortcut or an attribute of wealth (which will be misleading). A wealth of experience opposed to a wealth in material. And still make it understandable to the audience, at least to some degree. I think the ripple effect is symbolic of the experience the restaurant should offer - it is not a static idea, it is intended to

change and grow, the ripples are symbolic of an action exponentially

growing on its own. All the restaurants seem to try to simplify the

message. But what I think is attractive about the experience is the

change, the motion, action. How do you define something which in

essence is an evolution?"

In reaction to this dialog Martin submitted round four. Here is a sampling below:

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After seeing the concepts of motion I knew we were on the right track. It was exactly the visual cue I was looking for to explain the constant state of evolution the Alinea team pocesses. It adds great aesthetic appeal and gives the identity a high level of complexity. For the next round I wanted to incorporate the symbol in manipulated way. I liked this symbol from the previous round

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and Martin and I discussed applying movement to it. It was just as Nick had said weeks earier...It is a far cry from the original symbol but it still carries the meaning of it, and communicates Alinea very well through its form.

Then next round followed:

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After this round Nick and I agreed that we felt the symbol itself needed more depth....

Nick:

".....to use some difference in tones on some of the Alinea's to give them depth -- in the curvature -- etc. For example, if that new age logo that Martin presented had some gray tones in it so that the roundness had depth, that would be a good thing -- and make it more sophisticated I think.

I agreed and asked Martin specifically to comment on extruding..

“As I mentioned I would like to see some more depth or dimension applied to the symbol..... You mentioned not liking the weighted look and said that you didn’t feel it applied to our cuisine...could you explain that?”

Martin:

"What I see as symbolizing your work is motion, transformation, lightness, whimsy and intrigue. Not materiality. Anything extruded, suggesting volume, feels to me as heavy, immobile, lacking all of the above. It doesn't combine well for that reason. Depth and dimension don't necessarily have to translate into a volumetric illusion. A feather slowly swaying as it falls expresses lightness, grace, symbolizes the travels of the bird; but a feather on a hat is a decoration, a dead relic of a bird, a trophy. Definition and material presence defy intrigue there. And I feel in a similar way in regards to your identity. Volumetric illusion quantifies something that in my eyes is not quantifiable in your case. We are talking about a state of mind, not a material state. When I said I felt strongly about 6_2_3 and 6_2_5

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it was because, besides being visually interesting, what happens there conveys what I believe we're trying to say the best of all the work we have done to this point. While there is a symbol of a material object - a plate - it doesn't pretend to be a plate, it remains a symbol."

I preferred showing vertical motion as opposed to horizontal so Martin retooled the one of the concepts to show this. I really like the results. He also included a variation of 6_2_3 that I felt strongly about as well.

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At this point I felt like the process had come to point a strong confidence that we were getting close to the final concept. I asked Martin to comment on color. In a conversation with Nick he mentioned how difficult it is to view the images in black and white. I agreed and suggested it really isn’t a true representation of the existing personality that each concept is displaying.

On Aug 20, 2004, at 11:27 AM, grant achatz wrote:

What is your suggestion for colors? Do you feel the color of the cards etc..need to be the same as the colors in the restaurant? I like a cloudy clear vellum as the base with the symbol in black it’s blur various shades of gray and the font a stainless.

Thoughts?

Grant.

His reply:

"Color is a very important factor and we will deal with it more in depth once we have a more definite direction as far as the symbol goes. Perhaps you could think about and write your thoughts on the significance of colors and your personal preferences. I don't think the colors need to be really reflected in or a reflection of the restaurant's interior."

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this email followed shortly after..

"As a next step for the process of introducing color into the identity

process and understanding your color preference that goes beyond the

logo, I would like you to send me a selection of photos (regardless of

the subject) that you find attractive color-wise. I can analyze the

spectrum and send you back color schemes to look at. For example below

are 16 color combinations derived from the photos we took at Trio of

the tripod, squid and an antenna (obviously, they're rather monotone).

Generally, this is a good way to find a fairly harmonious color

combination. If you could find some images you like, it would help me

see your real color preferences, most people don't think about the

colors much, especially not about color juxtaposition. This is one of

the ways to expose it."

That just about catches us up to the present state of identity. The manipulations on the symbol reflected below are the latest attempt to manipulate the symbol to our satisfaction. I suspect another round from Martin very soon adressing some thoughts we had last week. The Alinea identity is not yet complete. We will add to this topic as we conceptulize more. I suspect there is enough material here to create a good conversation about identity in general and specifically Alinea's identity evolution.

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Edited by chefg (log)

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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Neat evolution.

As to color, a couple of questions.

1. Martin is trying to get a feel for the colors that appeal to you. I'm assuming he believes that your personal color aestetics carry over to your plate presentations. Logically this would be the case. But because much of your style is to push boundaries and to eschew the expected, do you more often go with your color instincts or intentionally break away from them.

2. Any consideration of keeping the logo in grayscale?


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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The motion idea is an excellent one, and translates well in the current drawings.

The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea

Katie, that was the first thing that I thought as well. I was having trouble making the transition from the plate symbol to that graphic.

I really like the motion.

And, the grayscale is growing on me.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea

That was the first thing I noticed as well. If the symbol were placed offset from the line of text, that might make it more clear that it wasn't part of the restaurant name.


Edited by tejon (log)

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea

The relationship between the symbol and the word alinea is very loose and I believe it will remain that way. While the symbol is shown here in front of the word, it is mainly for evaluation purposes and the juxtaposinion is not finalized. We are still working on the font itsef.

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The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea

The relationship between the symbol and the word alinea is very loose and I believe it will remain that way. While the symbol is shown here in front of the word, it is mainly for evaluation purposes and the juxtaposinion is not finalized. We are still working on the font itsef.

I recall a post awhile back from chefg that stated the definition of the symbol as being something along the lines of "(a) new thought begins here...."

That's got to be the coolest thing about using the symbol and it's definition to embody what will go on within the four walls that define Alinea the restaurant. Do you want that connection to be a "loose" one or is it one you 'd want to etch in stone and shout from the rooftops? I'd lean more toward the latter than the former, but that's just me.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The one drawback to the more cursive looking symbol is that it reads: Palinea

The relationship between the symbol and the word alinea is very loose and I believe it will remain that way. While the symbol is shown here in front of the word, it is mainly for evaluation purposes and the juxtaposinion is not finalized. We are still working on the font itsef.

I recall a post awhile back from chefg that stated the definition of the symbol as being something along the lines of "(a) new thought begins here...."

That's got to be the coolest thing about using the symbol and it's definition to embody what will go on within the four walls that define Alinea the restaurant. Do you want that connection to be a "loose" one or is it one you 'd want to etch in stone and shout from the rooftops? I'd lean more toward the latter than the former, but that's just me.

By a loose relationship, I mean the formal aspect, i.e. whether the symbol is above the word, in front of the word ...

Different applications demand different solutions and I suspect the symbol will not become static (bound to some coordinates) in relationship to the word itself.

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I recall a post awhile back from chefg that stated the definition of the symbol as being something along the lines of "(a) new thought begins here...."

Some of the concepts (especially the 'superimposed on a plate' round) of the icon look like the PARAGRAPH symbol, so I suppose that supports the "new thought begins here" idea.

Personally, I don't care for the motion in the icon. It makes it difficult to tell what the icon is... Is it the first (pre-motion) icon? Is it the motion itself? Is it the second (post-motion) icon? Doesn't the 'motion' sorta look like a smudge? And, showing the motion/transition from one unidentifiable icon to another unidentifiable icon doesn't do much for me.


Edited by vogelap (log)

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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An Alinea is a paragraph symbol, also called a pilcrow. It means, "the beginning of a new train of thought." It has an interesting history.

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I never knew it was called an Alinea! I've always heard pilcrow.


-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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Is it the first (pre-motion) icon? Is it the motion itself? Is it the second (post-motion) icon? Doesn't the 'motion' sorta look like a smudge?

Yes. It is all of those things....

I think those questions are exactly the type of response it was meant to provoke.


Edited by nick.kokonas (log)

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Why not have the symbol and colors be a continuously evolving entity that is directly indicative of the identity that your restaurant is attempting to convey? It seems to me that your cuisine and the dining experience itself at Alinea will be forever changing and evolving. I feel that by having your logo and the colors of that logo stay in a continuous flux will serve to truly convey to everyone the dynamic personality that your restaurant will have.

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Why not have the symbol and colors be a continuously evolving entity that is directly indicative of the identity that your restaurant is attempting to convey? It seems to me that your cuisine and the dining experience itself at Alinea will be forever changing and evolving. I feel that by having your logo and the colors of that logo stay in a continuous flux will serve to truly convey to everyone the dynamic personality that your restaurant will have.

LSD:

The extact thought we had, and we haven't ruled it out as of yet.


--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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I tend to agree that the 2D blurring to indicate motion is heavy-handed, but I'll be damned if I can come up with a creative response. Instead, I offer three related thoughts about this absolutely fascinating thread -- for which I am very grateful to the principles!

(1) It seems to me that the very concept of creative tension, here between logo/symbol (a static material object) and identity/concept (ever-changing renewal), is key to the wonderful design challenge here. How do you use an object to signify its own transformation -- which is what the restaurant itself will do, if I understand correctly -- and to represent the notion of renewal that is inherent in the conceptual design of Alinea? You've got a good start, because the alinea itself is a marker of that sort of tension between one thing and another; it indicates the start of something new, and in so doing is essentially something static (a single character) about something changing (the text around it).

(2) Most cultural theorists would explain identity as an ever-changing process more than than as a static object, something deeply historical and contextual -- that is to say, as rooted in the moment and the place (neither of which are static, though we pretend that both are). I thought of this when reading Martin's description of the difference between a tasting menu as a journey and an entree as a place. Our presumption that identity is stable introduces another creative tension. This definition would encourage a logo that articulates identity as a process, and one that could somehow mark the journeys and places that Alinea will offer to diners.

(3) Grant's resistance to "signature dishes" -- which he discusses in his Q&A from 2003 under the "Thomas Keller" topic heading -- seems also to reflect a creative tension, not only the anxiety of constant creativity (to quote Fat Guy) but also the anxiety of maintaining a restaurant's identity over the course of its existence without the use of the signature dish. While I appreciate the theoretical design issues with which you are struggling, I should say that, as a diner, the vast majority of my restaurant choices are grounded in the equivalence of a restaurant's identity with a set of dishes I expect to get there and enjoy. What kind of identity would the restaurant seek that explicitly rejects this entire way of thinking about dining -- and how would a logo signify that?

Again -- sorry! -- more questions than answers. But I hope my thoughts are useful.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I am intrigued by the questions chrisamirault has brought forth and it has produced these thoughts – forgive the length:

All things in motion still require an enduring source of support – the bird cannot fly without the continued presence of the air – the fish cannot swim without the continued presence of the water – man cannot move forward without the continued presence of the ground beneath him.

In each instance there are at least 2 elements, a constant element and a dynamic element,

sometimes there is more than one of each.

The constant element is what allows the dynamic element to change and move. Without the constant, the dynamic cannot exist – without the dynamic the constant becomes stagnant and uninteresting.

The air alone may move – but you cannot see it - it is more interesting when the bird flies or when the tree sways. The water may move but it is much more interesting with the occasional jump of the fish. The prairie maybe beautiful but it is much more interesting when adorned by traveling buffalo. The dynamic works with the constant to provide a canvas for change to occur.

This is difficult to accomplish with a static symbol that itself does not move or change – but what it can do is provide a canvas for change to occur in the form of perception and interpretation – the very essence of the abstract.

Perhaps it is not the image that should change but it should be the image that is never fixed.

Each individual would then obtain a sense of the overall concept - but individually see the image uniquely for themselves – this way you have an image that is forever in a state of flux.

It would contain all the physical elements required to relate to the concept – but each person that looks upon it will see something different – something unique to their personal way of thinking – it makes it so that it is personal to each and every viewer - yet it is unchanging in and of itself - so that it remains constant in way.

When each person returns – whatever it is that they saw is still there – but the potential for growth, for change, is never muted.

Perhaps they will see something different with time, and the same cycle would still apply to what they see at that time.

The image would have many possible interpretations.

Suggestive, but not literal.

The image itself is permanent but the product of the viewing is forever changing.

----

Grant’s cuisine seems to contain this same type of relationship between constant and dynamic.

Perhaps accurately described as consistent delivery of innovation.

Upon first hearing this it seems to contradict itself - as how can innovation and consistency relate? Is innovation not the diametrical opposite of consistency?

It is the dedication to maintaining the level of innovation that is the constant - your air, your water, your ground.

The product of the innovation will change but will always be supported by the constant and contain consistent elements such as quality of flavor – while the characteristics of the products remain dynamic and the results of the tasting remain dynamic.

If you ever lose the constant – the entire construct collapses.

If you ever lose the dynamic – the constant loses its purpose.

It is the relationship between the two that is important.

A quote comes to mind.

“What you are is what you have been, and what you will be is what you do now.”


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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I like this discussion and the evolution of your logo. Thank you for allowing us to watch the process.

I have just one thought - Your symbol appears to always be moving away. That may just what you want, but have you considered having the motion of the symbol go the other direction? This might make it more personal for the viewer. As though the changes were coming to them - for them. Just one thought...

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Further thoughts:

A pilcrow is a man made object, it is not natural – it was made up by someone

to serve a specific purpose – like a spoon or any other man made object.

Somewhat like your custom serving pieces.

The pilcrow has obtained it’s identity through the purpose given to it by it’s creators and thereby has obtained it’s identity from it’s definition and use in practice.

It has a pre-existing identity, but before this identity was given to it – it’s identity did not exist – therefore if you had seen it before it was defined you would not have any clue as to what it is and it’s very existence would be open to interpretation.

Maybe you would think it was a musical note or some gliph from an ancient language.

You have the opportunity here to do the same thing with the image that represents Alinea – to make something that as of yet does not exist and will

gain it’s identity through it’s purpose – to represent the concept of Alinea.

Having never existed before and therefore having no pre-existing application or definition it would come to be known only as the representation of Alinea.

That coupled with my previous comments on creating an abstract object with no specific absolute visual interpretation – only suggestions that lead perceptions

in a general direction with an open ended answer is a tremendous opportunity.

Again – just thoughts.


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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I like this discussion and the evolution of your logo.  Thank you for allowing us to watch the process.

I have just one thought - Your symbol appears to always be moving away.  That may just what you want, but have you considered having the motion of the symbol go the other direction?  This might make it more personal for the viewer.  As though the changes were coming to them - for them.  Just one thought...

Ellen:

Yes, in fact this is an example that Martin has produced as of a few weeks ago. Most of the time there is about a two to three week lag between the development of a concept and it’s posting here at eGullet. For the very reason you stated I enjoy this concept the best to date. As you can see it evolved from a two dimensional concept into a 3-D piece.

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I think it is important to note that we were playing with the concept of motion in the early stages. Some of the drawbacks that I felt at the time were applications that would not support the motion…IE chef coats, menus etc…..but time based media like websites could. At the time I felt like Alinea should have only one concept but now I feel we could alter the application based on the medium it was being presented in. This may also support the notion that the identity itself should change from time to time…it does not or should not remain static over long periods of time.

Here are some examples of the early motion concepts...

http://www.egullet.org/imgs/alinea/4_3_1.swf

http://www.egullet.org/imgs/alinea/4_4_1.swf

http://www.egullet.org/imgs/alinea/4_5_1.swf


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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chefg,

Thank you for your post. I love the directions you are going with this. These concepts are excellent. It is nice to see this true integration of all parts of your restaurant. This is revolutionary not only for the restaurant world but an example to all businesses.

Thank you again,

Ellen

edit: spelling


Edited by EllenC (log)

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Here are some examples of the early motion concepts...

http://www.egullet.org/imgs/alinea/4_3_1.swf

Chefg & eG thanks for sharing such a detailed project. It is all most interesting and promising.

I must add that my first impression of the above "early motion concept" was of a spaceship dropping an alien... Is it my farfetched imagination or the designer's intention?


"Eat every meal as if it's your first and last on earth" (Conrad Rosenblatt 1935)

http://foodha.blogli.co.il/

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I must add that my first impression of the above "early motion concept" was of a spaceship dropping an alien... Is it my farfetched imagination or the designer's intention?

Some of these concepts were based on the projection of the symbol onto a plate. That form will understandably bring up alien/flying saucer kind of associations when it departs from its realistic description. Grant prefers to steer away from this association.

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I felt strongly about 6_2_3 and 6_2_5

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That image of the alinea coming off a plate -- going beyond or transcending the plate, if you will -- is one that speaks to me considerably, looking in from the outside as a future customer of Alinea (and a former customer at Trio), and having read the entries (or most of them) here at these boards. I can see where chefg would be gunshy of the 'flying saucer' referent, certainly. That model, though, is the one which most speaks to me (so far) of art reaching via food into the customer's moment at the table, and I favor it most of all I've seen. Yet.


Edited by Lady T (log)

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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yes.... and a few different versions at that.

In Europe it seems as though quite a few things are named Alinea -- furniture design shop (which is very much in our sensibility), graphic design shop, a few consultancy type businesses -- since the word is in more common use there.

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      Peeled grapes on the stem
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      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
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      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
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      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
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      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
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      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
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      =R=
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      The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea."
      Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them.
       
      "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it."
      While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants.
       
      Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one.
       
      The Path From Here
      In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision.
      * * * * *
      In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here.
      Photos courtesy Alinea
       
      eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
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