Magpie turns to AI to generate 'irreverent' imagery for cocktail bar Lyaness' brand refresh

Magpie Studio has worked with renowned mixologist Ryan Chetiwaradana (aka Mr Lyan) a hell of a lot over the years, but in very 2023 fashion, its newest work for the cocktail wizard was created using AI.

AI hasn't been without its controversies, of course. With the recent (conveniently headline-worthy) Sony World Photography Awards 'creative open' category winner Boris Eldagsen admitting his winning "photograph" was in fact "co-created" with AI. And it's clear that at the moment, at least when it comes to creative pursuits, AI certainly has some huge limitations. But there's no doubt it's here to stay and that many are embracing AI as a tool like Photoshop to aid in the creative process rather than anything else.

Magpie worked on a brand refresh for Lyaness, a cocktail bar on London's Southbank, through experimenting with Discord-based visual AI, Midjourney. The new designs take the former brand identity, which had a slash icon at its heart, as their starting point, but build on them to better represent "the spirit of elevated irreverence that Mr Lyan is known for," as Magpie puts it.

Briefed to "refresh the identity and imbue the slash with irreverent new meaning," Magpie looked to embrace "the spirit of exploration and weird innovation" as much in the process as a result.

As is becoming increasingly evident, AI tools are only as good as their prompts. For this project, Magpie created a set of prompts inspired by the abstract drink names, ingredients and narratives in the Lyaness cocktail menu.

"The challenge was getting Midjourney to move past literal depictions of cocktails onto imagery that visualised the themes behind them," says Magpie designer Lily West. "We wanted the forward slashes to feel like windows to other worlds, so we started to feed random prompts into Midjourney; the wackier, the better. That's where it got really interesting. It was great collaborating as a team to generate weird results fast, an experimental approach made possible by using AI."

As a result, Midjourney returned a set of AI-generated illustrations, which were then whittled down to those that best "expressed the innovative, eclectic and downright strange approach Lyaness takes to making cocktails," says Magpie.

The images now appear within the forward slash on the cover of the menu. Inside the menu, the slash is cropped into, with AI-generated worlds starting to break out of the frame. 

"To us, utilising Midjourney (and Discord) was effectively mimicking the Lyan team's processes in terms of experimentation – combining inputs (ingredients), then adapting and iterating on the results," says Magpie creative director Ben Christie. "I found the versioning really interesting, iterating on what the AI had come up with and tweaking the prompts to refine the detail.

"It's admittedly exciting and unsettling in equal measure seeing how fast things are developing, but we've enjoyed embracing it as another tool in our box. The speed and output are obviously incredible, but – for now at least – as with any design process, it's still the creative direction that really makes it."

The refreshed identity designs launched with the new Lyanness menu dubbed the Ancestral Cookbook and will be seen on other bar collateral to be rolled out "soon", according to Magpie.


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