A Menu Card

(Part 4/Style/Areas of illustration/A menu card)

Exercise- A Menu Card


The tiny inset image by Emil Parrag next to the text for this exercise in the course manual has inspired me to use fish shapes for this menu card.
Many (54) years ago, I remember painting a picture which consisted entirely of interlocked fishes of all different shapes. They were all painted in the same shades of blue and white and covered the entire (quite large) canvas. This little image in the work book reminded me of that and inspired the idea for this menu card.

In this instance, however, I don’t think a full picture is required. If the image is to be used as a logo it needs to be very simple but appealing. When designing logos, clients often say that it has to look good in black and white as well as  colour (photocopied office papers are still common and office printers are often set to monochrome for thrift.) I think this needs to be born in mind.

I started with some free sketches of stylised fish which were interlocking. I used a pencil initially then changed to drawing pen for better clarity.
I tried writing the word fish in fishes but it was not what I was looking for. The sea shell didn’t have enough impact.

I then tried to arrange groups of fish lying altogether , totally adjacent but not interlocking.

I was looking for a sort of tessellated pattern but with irregular shapes.

I continued to experiment with this idea for some time using rough fish shapes in adjacent positions.

I kept trying different arrangements of fish, different sizes and shapes to get a good balance with pleasing contrasts and satisfying negative space around the mass of writhing fish.

I quite liked this one (left) with the large fish upper centre which seems to anchor the group together. I drew it out more carefully in pen then photocopied a few sheets to use for further experimentation.

I tried colouring it (top right) must using blue and green which is simple but not fantastic.

I wondered about sweeping a larger fish right over the group so tried that and also coloured it. However, I was still not happy although I find the addition a very satisfying shape and I felt the image was getting too complex and it must, of necessity be minimal or it will not shrink successfully.

Next time I came to it, I thought a different approach might help. So I limited the number of fish (below).

Rather than having the fish all separate, this time I went back to just using a couple of fish as I knew there had to be a tiny ‘readable’ version of this image. Sometimes I tried the interwoven ‘hollow’ fish design below and I did like the idea of having at least one fish which was curled in some way. I tried drawing with different coloured sharpie pens.
Having tried 2 fish I then thought the classic three objects should apply so I tried shapes with 3 fish. I still didn’t like it so left that exercise for a few days.

When I came back to complete the work I tried the practical approach. I drew three fish of different shapes and cut them out. I was then able to try a multitude of different arrangement to find something I liked. I decided that green blue and turquoise was a good colour scheme and stuck with it.

The fish shapes were totally stylised – a fat one, a thin one and a large one.

I did not try out any variations on background at this stage as it was difficult enough just to find an arrangement that seemed right.

In actual fact there were several arrangements which look ok like the one (right) below. The fish are going in the same general direction but at slightly different angles. All their head shapes are visible and the tails offer a certain amount of interest. They are in a balance group on the paper and hint at some  movement to the left. But I wanted something more striking.

I made another set of fish which I drew on the computer thinking they might  look different/better but they didn’t really.

I tried a shoal of fish using all the ones I had photocopied.

I went right back to the original premise and had a rethink. I was certain there was an idea in there which would work.

I did some research on the sort of fish served in restaurants searching for shapes I liked.

Sticking loosely with my previous random shapes I drew a hake, a plaice and a  trout. These would all be familiar to the client.

This time my fish had features but no texture as they are hollow.

Once I had put the drawing on the computer I could blow it up and look more carefully at the shapes. I decided to try taking out small sections to see how they might look. The three squares below are some of the results. Not one of them really inspired me.

I put the drawing on the computer to play with it.. I didn’t want anything complicated but I did like all the inside shapes created by the criss-crossing bodies. Having failed miserably with green and blue I went for red and black,  colours I thought might go down well with the client in an upmarket situation.

Idea 3 @ 4cms

At last, I was happy with my efforts. I realise the image is a little more complex than I was wanting but I think it works well even at 4cms.

I have used two shades of red with black and white and originally created it on a white background. It looks ok but with the design on the front of the menu I think the client would want a background colour other than white.

Remembering a previous piece of work where I used gold to suggest opulence and riches, then I think the menu image would stand very well on a silver background. I had gold card then but do not have any suitable silver card. Using baking foil is not what is required as it is too reflective – a more matt silver would be best.

Having decided I was satisfied with the image/logo, I tried a few experiments to see how it would look in other colours with other backgrounds. Below are  some examples showing variations on the theme.


This is my final image with the 4cm version below. I have put it on a silver coloured background as it might appear on the square menu card front. I think it has interest, shows movement, is balanced and well proportioned. I hope there would be positive audience interaction as the observer interprets the visual language and appreciates the humour of the reconstructed denotation of three fishes.

There are hints of leaded windows in the line and colours which hopefully ensures the connotation of riches and elegance. Alternatively there is a  resemblance to the jewel colours of a quality enamelled brooch.