Franklyn takes Zagat 'back to its roots' with a cheeky identity that plays on customer reviews

Want to find somewhere decent to eat? Zagat has provided user-generated restaurant reviews since 1979 via an iconic maroon book. With the launch of a new website and app, it's just enjoyed a brand refresh thanks to Brooklyn-based studio, Franklyn – one that leans into some of the funniest feedback from genuine, real-life customers.

With the pandemic understandably kicking the restaurant industry hard, Zagat's importance was only heightened in 2020, as the platform has been supporting local restaurants for four decades. Now in its 40th year, it's soft-launched a new website and app for Miami's hospitality industry, with plans to expand to other cities in future.

As part of its new chapter, Zagat approached Brooklyn-based brand studio, Franklyn, earlier this year to reimagine its identity and help it go back to its roots while introducing a lot more personality. "It's quite a bit more than its modernist heritage and what the maroon iconic 'book' suggests," says Michael Freimuth, creative director and co-founder at Franklyn. "We wanted to highlight the community 'voice', which has been a blast and pretty hilarious at times."

As such, Franklyn picked out some of the most amusing reviews and introduced them into the visual language and tone of voice for Zagat's fresh look. "I reached carb nirvana," reads one. "Rob a bank before you go," says another. Or simply, "A damn fine steak". What's not to love?

Interestingly, there's also a content side to Zagat's new online platform – a whole editorial offering via Zagat Stories where you can find in-depth, intimate and personal interviews with chefs, restauranteurs, and others in the hospitality industry.

Looking at the finer detail, the core brand identity is centred around typography – with the dry charm of Neue Haas Grotesk capturing the voice of the master brand, and a diverse suite of complementary typefaces representing the voices of Zagat's user-generated community. For the website and app, meanwhile, Franklyn took cues from 1970's modernism and employed a strong but flexible rule-based grid system to anchor all of Zagat's media.

The work by Franklyn follows on from recent projects for Audible, Amazon's audiobooks platform, and Capsule, a prescription delivery service. Franklyn is headed up by Michael Freimuth and Patrick Richardson and is based in Brooklyn, New York. Check out their studio website and have a play with 'party mode'.


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