Identity and cooking

—Juan Carlos Fernández

A lot of designers like to cook, and I don’t think it’s just a coincidence. There is a clear parallelism in the planning, preparation and enjoyment of both food and design. We could even build the case about how the experiences are similar, for example, when you go to a restaurant or when you come into contact with any brand.

It’s worth thinking about. We prepare food according to clear and specific rules. We make tea just the right way, or else it turns out bitter; we see how the fibre in meat breaks as it changes from a frozen to an unfrozen state. There are immutable laws that have to be learnt in order to create a perfect dish. Moreover, the tastes that are produced by mixing certain ingredients are governed by their particular qualities. That basil goes well with tomatoes is as understandable scientifically speaking as it is for the harmony that is immediately created between the colours red and green. 

Good design depends also on the correct use of relationships, and if haute cuisine takes advantage of the difference between temperatures, textures and flavours, then good design does it through sizes, colours and placement. 

We can definitely compare a dish with a specific piece of design, but we can take the analogy to a higher level, particularly relating to time. In the culinary world, we know what it’s like to experience a five course dinner, starting with an aperitif to get our appetite going, all the way through to the digestif, which serves as the grand finale to the orchestra of flavours experienced on the way. In the design world, visiting the offices of a bank, for instance, is a sequential process where pieces of the identity are revealed, forming part of a story, uncovering relevant information little by little. The objectives of a sign on the façade of a building and its power to create a welcome is quite different from the purpose of a leaflet that can be read at any time in completely different contexts, at home, the office or even on a plane. The correct use of time, during a dinner or on a visit, has to be planned so that we enjoy ourselves while at the table, and also come away pleased with what the bank has to offer.

A meal has to be viewed always from the nutritional perspective too. In other words, the food we consume on a daily basis has to be considered part of everything we eat in order to ensure a correct diet. It’s the same for corporate identities, since what we experience when we visit the bank fuels our overall impression which, when extended over time – visiting other branches of the same bank, using internet banking services, receiving material by post or seeing advertising – nurtures our perception. 

So, knowing the rules, on the lookout for a good experience, developing good taste and understanding what customers or audiences want and like are just some of the shared ideas that inspire we designers in the kitchen and in the office. 

Perhaps we should say bon appetit next time we hand over our business card to someone.


Juan Carlos Fernández

Founding partner and creative director

Accomplished conjuror of symbols and metaphors, tireless creator of ideas. He created Ideograma in 1999, today he is in Montreal inspiring, directing and motivating our creativity. Author of the book Crealogo (

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