Central Cinema is a dine-in theater in the heart of Seattle's Central District. The theater hosts fun interactive events and shows cult classics and a variety of second-run flicks. As a longtime regular, I was thrilled to tackle rebranding the theater to better suit both the customer base and programming. This is a student project done with fellow classmate Kelly Shea. During the course of 11 weeks, we created an updated identity focused around the campy, comfortable, and fun atmosphere at Central Cinema.
Central Cinema is popular, but its current branding feels disjointed. There’s an opportunity to develop a visual identity that marries the desired tone of both of the owners, while paying homage to the movie geeks that frequently go there.
This project began with extensive research of the theater itself, its competitors, and the core values of Central Cinema. When it came to creating a visual tone, we drew heavy inspiration from bowling alleys and roller rinks in the late 70s/early 80s, because these spaces invoke both nostalgia and a level of comfort. We used type and colors reminiscent of this era, and borrowed design elements from 80s toy packaging and VHS tapes as well. Overall, we went for a nostalgic and campy tone because we felt it would best appeal to the audience while still feeling appropriate for the space.
brand identity + guidelines, logo, food & drink menu, loyalty card, website homepage, monthly programming calendar, apparel, enamel pins, social media templates, environmental graphics
We began our process with a deep exploration into Central Cinema. During this research phase, we looked at what sets the theater apart from its competitors, and found that the unique programming and full food and beverage program are standout qualities. Additionally, the theater has a loyal following and is a proud home to movie nerds, trivia geeks, and local neighbors. To set themselves apart, they need branding that showcases their uniqueness.
During this stage, we established what the theater is, and what it is not. We also took inventory of their assets, what they offer, their approach to business, and overall mission. We also distilled three tonal territories that allowed us to come up with our brand concept and moodboard.
Central Cinema is a welcoming space for audiences to celebrate cult movies, and that’s why we were guided by the concept “Welcome to Camp.” This idea is visualized through retro typography, curved borders reminiscent of books and toys from the ‘80s, simple stripes found in vintage athletic styles, solid color blocks, flat illustration styles, and photographs treated with desaturation and grain to heighten the idea of movies being old and worn from frequent watching.
For the logo, we wanted to utilize the double C's in the theater's name, as well as play into the concept of film projection. Early logo iterations, as shown here, also played with geometric letters and retro-inspired type.
Our final logo still nods to projection with the C's drop shadow, but is simplified from earlier explorations.
I created a library of simple monoline illustrations of cult movie characters that help represent the Central Cinema brand. These characters are arranged in the shape of a "C" for merch, and are included on the menu, website, and other print materials. Characters can be swapped out monthly as programming changes.
One of the things I wanted to tackle the most was the extensive food and beverage menu the theater has. Central Cinema has beer, wine, and craft cocktails that they serve during movies, as well as all day in their cafe. The food menu has everything from popcorn and pretzels to steak and gourmet pizzas.
Currently, the menu layout is crowded and a bit overwhelming to get through. I redesigned the menu to be multiple pages, broken up by easy-to-read sections. Illustrations are used throughout, and there is a page devoted to current special cocktails that are named by the current movies being shown. Our menu is in the shape of a VHS case, and is designed to be durable and easy to read in a dark theater.
When it came time to think about environmental graphics, Kelly and I gave in to our inner movie geeks and decided to really have fun with it. We decided to create a mural that could be wheat-pasted inside the theater's cafe, that would help tie in the formal wallpaper already in there with the rest of the new branding.