In Philadelphia, Creating a Trademark

Sparks Marketing Group’s assignment for a celebrity chef’s modern Asian street food restaurant was to turn a single story building surrounded by high-rises into an accessible and approachable place to dine.

With Sampan, in Philadelphia’s Midtown Village, they’ve succeeded.

At the heart of the restaurant stands a central bar, with an open kitchen.  Radiating out from that are dining areas.  Surrounding it all are wall-mounted, LED-lit graphics that change colors and tones during the evening hours.  Controls are at the hostess stand.

“The palette is nine to 12 different colors, from the most primary to a nice mix of purples, oranges and greens,” said Mike Ellery, vice president of creative at Sparks.  “The challenge was to get the intensity and the ‘throw’ right.  We want to be able to see the color, but not ruin the dining experience.”

The group used sheets of P95 frosted Plexiglas, five feet tall and 50 feet long, directly printing onto them with a large format printer.  Recessed LED strips at the top and bottom of the installation shoot light toward each other for maximum effect.

“We wanted to lighten and brighten the space and add some color to it,” said Erik Weber, director of graphic design at Sparks.  “The walls are dark walnut, with a dark concrete floor, so we wanted a counterpoint to those dark, rich materials.  We wanted to add some softness, and create a trademark for the restaurant.”

Working with chef Michael Schulson, the group created the new restaurant in just ten weeks, with impressive results.

“The reaction’s been pretty incredible,” Weber said.  “We had a small window to gain momentum, but it got a lot of local and national buzz.  Now, dinner is gangbusters.”

Little wonder.

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