New Work: Lucy’s Fried Chicken
Pentagram’s DJ Stout and his team in Austin do chicken right. They rebranded Popeye’s in 2008, changing the name from Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits to Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. The new identity they created for the national chain, known for its spicy New Orleans style chicken and red beans and rice, was included in the Graphic Design: Now in Production exhibition that opened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis last fall. Then in 2009 they created a new identity for Chicken Now, a fast food chain that sells chicken strips and chicken fingers primarily in malls.
Now Stout and designer Barrett Fry have created the logo, identity, menus, T-shirts, website and even a neon sign for a new self-proclaimed “Rock and Roll Fried Chicken joint” in Austin called Lucy’s Fried Chicken. The new restaurant/bar, located at the far end of ultra-hip South Congress Avenue, is owned by James and Cristina Holmes, who named the place after James’s grandmother who taught him how to cook fried chicken. They also have a daughter named Lucy and own another, more upscale restaurant in Austin, Olivia, named after their other young daughter. James started cooking fried chicken for his Sunday brunch at Olivia and it was a big hit with his customers. Then he started selling it from a food trailer during the Austin City Limits Festival, which generated long lines across Zilker Park, where the festival is held annually. He realized that he had something special and that fried chicken, which had fallen out of favor over the years, was making a big comeback.
Fry drew a retro script logo and created a down-home look for the menus and other collateral that uses patterns from old plywood and particle board—materials used to build backyard chicken coops—that echo the unique façade of the restaurant. The building, designed by Austin architect Michael Hsu, repurposes old wooden shipping palettes to give the restaurant a distinctive look from the street. Stout and Fry, working with Austin’s neon sign guru, Evan Voyles, also designed a large sign for the front of the building. The neon sign features a sassy 1940′s era bombshell dressed in a skimpy waitress outfit, with a fried chicken leg in one hand and kicking up one of her own shapely legs through the magic of old-school neon animation.
“We wanted the sign to look like one of those pin-up girls World War II airmen painted on the noses of bombers,” says Stout. “Sexy, but kind of innocent and naive at the same time. From another time and place. When it was completed I asked James if the sign, a tribute to his grandmother, might be a little too racy, and he said, ‘Hell no! You should have seen my grandmother.’” John Kelso, a longtime columnist for the local Austin American-Statesman, called the sign an instant Austin landmark.
Video of the Lucy’s sign in action.
Project Team: DJ Stout, partner-in-charge and designer; Barrett Fry, designer.