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GDUSA

Graphic Design USA Magazine

Project Runway and How I Made it Work

A few months ago, I was approached by Project Runway to participate in an episode that included the HP and Intel Pattern Challenge. I listened intently as the producers explained the challenge even though I knew exactly what they were going to say since I am a huge fan of the show. At this point in the competition there were only seven fashion designers left. Each remaining designer would be paired with a “Next Generation Achiever” to help inspire a pattern that was then made into a textile and incorporated into their runway look. And they wanted ME to be that inspirational person!!

After I finished doing the happy dance followed by consecutive shrieks of joy I regained consciousness and started to panic. How in the world was I going to be an inspiration?

I started to think about the role of a graphic designer and how powerful design can be when used effectively. As creative director at GDUSA magazine I am fully immersed in the world of design and I continually find that the best designed projects are those that come from a labor of love. For me, this labor of love is Barbalu.

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Each fashion designer had the chance to spend an hour with their innovator to draw inspiration for their pattern. I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandria von Bromssen at the future home of Barbalu. As I explained to Alexandria, Barbalu is a soon-to-open Italian restaurant near the South Street Seaport. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated my beloved hometown of New York City and the restaurant in which we stood was filled with more than 6 feet of storm water. Everything was gone. But now — nearly a year to date — the brave owners are rebuilding in the same location. The business needed to start from scratch and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help them redesign their entire identity.

Alexandria and I sat in Barbalu and looked through many issues of my magazine (GDUSA) for inspiration. We also looked at my designs for Barbalu. It was important to the owners of the restaurant to capture the historic nature of the neighborhood but still maintain a modern and fresh feel. As with a number of Seaport buildings, old hand-drawn signage can still be found on the brick facade of their building.

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The logo uses a broken type to hint at these typographical remnants of the past. The juxtaposition of old and new seemed quite fitting for this design.

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While we were together we sketched out a mural on Alexandria’s HP Split x2. The computer is so cool. It literally splits in 2 and makes a wonderful sketchpad.  It was great to be able to hold the computer next to the brick wall and match up colors and take photos right on the spot.

Another element that is consistent throughout the identity is a textured paper reminiscent of  “butcher paper” that is used in most restaurants. I designed the Barbalu website with the same “butcher paper” background. We discussed using the paper as well as a pattern of kitchen utensils that I created for the restaurant but ultimately the broken type on the brick walls was the touchpoint for her final pattern.

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The restaurant is opening very soon so check back often for more information. I thank Project Runway, HP and Intel for given exposure to these wonderful people and their commitment to strengthen my favorite city. It is the Fashion capital after all!

A fun addendum to this tale is my recent work with Girls Who Code. Launched in Spring 2012, Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. A recent graduate of their program — who created an app called “Say Something” to help the homeless population — was one of the other “achievers” on the Project Runway episode. Girls Who Code reached out to me after the taping and we have started working together. Here are a few elements from the redesign but we are just getting started. I am really looking forward to working on another project that is so inspirational!

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If you missed the episode you can watch it here.

3 comments

  1. Ace says: October 4, 201312:23 am

    Just watching this episode now as I’m sitting sketching at home!! Great job Ilana, you look fabulous!! And I’m so excited to see the renderings for Barbalu, it looks like it’s coming together beautifully. Que chevere Adriana!! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say we can’t wait for the opening!! Congrats!!! ;)

  2. Jeannie says: September 28, 201312:16 pm

    Congratulations Ilena!
    As a fan of the show, I just wish the fashion produced was on a higher level to its inspiration. I was a bit dismayed at the outcome. But you got some well-deserved attention. Salud!

  3. Adriana Luque says: September 27, 201312:09 pm

    Hi Ilana,
    Congratulations!! You did an amazing work and being able to see Project Runway last night and read all the process in your blog, makes me imagine that designer Alexandria must have been very thrilled to work with you, just like we were when we meet with you to see your ideas about Barbalu’s identity, which we love! Keep up the wonderful work and good luck with Girls Who Code!
    Best regards and Thank you,

    Adriana and Stefano
    Barbalu Restaurant

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