Why a Tire Company Determines What We Eat

If you care about food – particularly gourmet food – it’s likely that you’ve at least heard of Michelin stars. If you haven’t, you are probably still familiar with Michelin as a company, which produces both a restaurant guide and tires.


If you didn’t know that the tire manufacturer Michelin reviewed food, then it probably comes as a pretty big surprise that they visit select restaurants and award them zero, one, two, or three “Michelin stars” based on the cuisine. But they do, and their opinion matters a lot. Like, a lot. To many chefs, their opinion matters the most.

When you learn the history, it does make some kind of sense. The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900 as a hospitality guide for French motorists. Michelin is a French company, and cars were still a relatively new invention at that time, so encouraging road trips within the country served as a way to boost business. Eventually, the guide evolved into what it is today, which is a booklet that focuses exclusively on fine dining.  Anonymous reviewers that work for Michelin covertly visit restaurants around the world and judge the food based on a series of specific criteria. There is a first round of criteria that the restaurant must meet before the food can even be reviewed, namely:

  • The restaurant must be located in an area that is covered by Michelin. In America, that means that it has to be in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., East Bay and Wine Country, or Silicon Valley. Former “Michelin Inspector” Pascal Remy once alleged that the entirety of the United States is covered by just seven reviewers, making it all the more difficult to receive a star.
  • The restaurant must have received a sufficient amount of buzz that Michelin deems it worthy of the company’s time.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding how exactly the Inspectors evaluate the food. There are, however, several key traits that we do know are valued, including:

  • The quality of the ingredients used
  • The chef’s flavor and cooking techniques, and his or her ability to infuse the meal with their own personality
  • Consistency between visits, which Remy stated occur every three to four years

That last point is the most controversial among chefs, as many feel that rewarding consistency inhibits creativity and experimentation. There is a general feeling that once a restaurant receives a star, they can never change the menu, for fear of losing their star, never gaining another, or disappointing the now-skyrocketed expectations of customers.  Because of this, some chefs do not want any stars, and a very small number of restaurants have even “returned” them to Michelin.


Even among chefs that do respect the star-rating system, the guide has been accused of fostering an unhealthy obsession. Gordon Ramsey reportedly cried when his New York City restaurant lost its two stars in 2013, comparing it to losing a girlfriend. When famed French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, many believed that he was overcome with anxiety regarding rumors that he was about to lose his three stars.

The 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicled Jiro Ono, considered to be the greatest sushi chef in the world, and his three-starred restaurant in Tokyo. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he noted that “you realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.” For chefs like Ono, perfection has become a measurable goal, and it can be difficult to find a path forward after it has been reached.


Still, for the most part, Michelin stars tend to do a lot of good for the restaurants that earn them. It has been described as a “life-changing experience” for chefs, especially if the restaurant is lucky enough to get all three stars. Plates at a Michelin-reviewed establishment can go for hundreds of dollars, and chefs at two-star restaurants often bring home six-figure incomes in exchange for their mastery. Fine dining is an especially cutthroat field, and Michelin’s opinion can make or break a chef’s entire career.

Unexpectedly Iconic Designs

Sometimes brands just don’t understand the power of their own designs. Bad design can result in catastrophic failure for even the most successful and well-established companies, as seen with Tropicana’s disastrous attempt at a redesign in 2009. The packaging was so reviled that it caused sales to plummet by 20% over a two-month period, costing the juice company $30 million in lost transactions and a huge undisclosed sum in costs associated with reverting back to the old design.tropicana

On the other hand, good design has the power to multiply profits several times over – as was the case with Botanical Bakery, whose 2010 redesign tripled sales in a single year. This is the dream of most brands, and, usually, companies will invest heavy amounts of time and money to make sure that such a project is strategically sound. In a few cases, however, brands have taken risks by choosing designs that they did not feel especially strongly about, only to see huge rewards for their gamble. Below are three examples of designs with low expectations that went on to become iconic, generating untold profits and consumer loyalty for the brands attached to them.


The “Jazz” Solo Cup

In 1991, the Sweetheart Cup Company selected a design by employee Gina Ekiss in an internal contest to be featured on cups and plates. Gina received no bonus, awards, or recognition for her contribution, which was called “jazz”. The design – featuring a teal blue zig-zag under a thin purple zig-zag – went on to become the company’s all-time bestseller, and is now a pattern considered to be emblematic of the nineties. Gina’s identity (and status as an unsung hero) was only discovered in 2015 after someone on Reddit with the username “mcglaven” started a thread dedicated to tracking down the designer. Today, the design has a cult following that has inspired everything from apparel lines to social media pages.


La Croix’s Groovy Look

When National Beverage sought to differentiate their seltzer drink La Croix from competitors, they hired Alchemy Brand Group to redesign the can. Of all of the options presented, National Beverage liked the current “Picasso-esque” design the least. However, it tested so incredibly well with consumers that they decided to take a chance with it, and the distinctive design is credited in part with La Croix’s massive success today.



The Anthora Cup

Leslie Buck – born Laszlo Bück  — immigrated to America after World War II, after having survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After starting a paper cup manufacturing company with his brother (who was also a Holocaust survivor), he moved to a startup called Sherri Cup in the 1960s. It was there that he designed a hot cup in the colors of the Greek flag, aimed at the predominantly Greek diner owners of New York City. Buck did not receive any royalties from his design, but the company sold hundreds of millions of what is now considered to be an extremely recognizable piece of New York iconography.


When one door closes…another opens

BerdjThe Works Design team is sad to report that our VP of Accounts, Berdj, will be leaving our team. His hard work, dedication, knowledge and leadership over the past year and a half has helped our team tremendously and he will be greatly missed. We of course wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors and thank him for his service here at WDG!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASadly as the door for Berdj closes, we are happy to announce the opening of another door… a welcome back to a former employee, Kristin Meile. Kristin was our Project Coordinator from 2008-2012 and then went on to be an Associate Design Manager at Campbell Soup Company from 2012-2015. We are happy to have her back now as our Director of Accounts to share her knowledge, insight, and energy with our team. She will be our main source of contact in managing both current and future relationships and continue to help us provide the highest quality service to our clients. (and don’t worry, her new photo is next!)

Drew: The Man, The Myth, The Master Key Art Designer

From the “golden age” of Hollywood, advertising (and most importantly the movie poster) has always been part of the movie-going experience.  Billboards, newspaper ads and brightly lit theater displays all featured ornate illustrations that provided a glimpse into the stories they represented and acted as a doorway into the filmmaker’s world.

There is something so much more grand about these images which seem to have the ability to carry you away to a specific time and place.  Whether its the passion of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind or the adventures taking place in a “galaxy far far away” in Star Wars, these bright color illustrations represented movies in a way that photographs never could.

Drew Struzan's Star Wars Poster - From the Master Key Art Designer

Then in the late 80’s something changed when Photoshop first hit the scene.  Although the effects were not felt immediately, Photoshop would go on to change the landscape of advertising, and would signal the death knell of this creative approach to motion picture advertising.  Before that happened however, one name emerged as the greatest of all movie poster artists: Drew Struzan. Not everyone knows him by name, but we guarantee that just about everyone has seen his work.

Drew Struzan's Temple of Doom Poster - From the Master Key Art Designer

The 70’s and 80’s produced some of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history, and many of these movies were represented by the beautifully designed illustrations of Drew Struzan.  As an inspiring artist who was consumed with movies and pop culture, I was heavily influenced by Drew’s work.  Throughout my four years of art school in the early 90’s and before Photoshop would have its lasting effect, my goal was to follow in Drew’s footsteps as a movie poster illustrator.

Back in 2005, I had the pleasure of meeting Drew.  What an inspiring dream come true it was for me to sit with him for a while discussing his work, the state of the industry, and art in general. After a near 40 year professional career which began painting album cover art, Drew announced his retirement on September 3, 2008.  Although I understand and respect his decision, it’s hard to ignore what a great loss it is for the movie industry and how it truly marks the end of an era.

Just recently we were asked to design the DVD packaging for his official documentary “Drew: The Man Behind The Poster”, from Kino Lober Inc.  It was a tremendous honor for me after all of these years of admiration to have been asked to create the imagery for his documentary.  The film features an endless parade of the biggest names in Hollywood (George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Harrison Ford, etc), and they are all there to honor the man and his work.

The concept behind our design was to pay homage to arguably one of his earliest but most famous Star Wars posters – his 1978 re-release style D “circus” poster (created in partnership with artist Charles White III).  We hope he approves.  Thanks for the memories Drew!

Drew: A Documentary About the Master Key Art Designer

To view some of Drew’s amazing work please visit his web site www.drewstruzan.com or visit his official Facebook page. “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster” is now available on DVD from Amazon.com as well as other retailers.

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The Man From Earth

Perhaps one of the most iconic and widely seen movie posters in Works Design Group’s portfolio is that of Jerome Bixby’s The Man From Earth. It remains one of the best examples of our philosophy that it is never too early to think about how you are going to package and market your film.

The Man From Earth Key Art Designer

Key art by Dave Wilkinson (our resident key art designer)

Work on the poster started before the film was fully cast or principal photography had even begun. Initially thought to be a teaser image or a stop gap until until a “final” image was produced, the poster not only remained to represent the film but was also eventually used on the home video packaging from Anchor Bay / Starz Entertainment.

In the years since it’s 2007 production, The Man From Earth has built a “cult” following that began before the film was even released to the public. As described in a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter, a copy of the film had gotten out and was being illegally downloaded through file sharing sites across the internet, while becoming perhaps the first “BitTorrent blockbuster”

What is normally considered a negative became a more valuable marketing tool than the producers could have ever afforded on their modest budget. “In one week, Man From Earth jumped 7,700 percent on IMDb’s MOVIEmeter, a statistic that tracks activity on a film’s page, becoming the most searched sci-fi movie on the site.”  It remains among the top rated Sci-Fi movies on IMDB.

With the internet being so instrumental in the success of the original, the filmmakers are relying on it once again as they have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a sequel… or prequel as it is titled “Man From Earth Millennium.”

Once again David Wilkinson and the creative team at Works Design have been called upon to create the key art and marketing campaign for the project. We are hopeful that the filmmakers are successful in raising their $175,000 budget goal. We are extremely excited to be part of the project and are looking forward to the challenge of creating an image that is as iconic and successful as the original.

Beer: The Facts You Should Kinda Know

We love taking learning to a whole new level, and especially when it comes to learning about beer.  To that end, we asked Matt McBratnie (one of our young and talented designers) to put on his teaching hat.  The result?  An educational infographic design that walks through all the beer facts you should kinda know.  Cheers!


Sneak Peek! We’re Moving

As we add more talented members to our team and build out our capabilities as a brand design agency, we’re running out of space to put them all! That’s why we’re upgrading to a larger space right around the corner. Yep, we’ll still be on Browning Road—in the same complex—only we’ll be able to spread our wings in a bigger, better studio.

We’ve been spending a lot of time grinding cement floors, painting walls, and upgrading fixtures. With so much more space, we’re able to build a quiet and creative atmosphere for our designers to work in that will help them continue to churn out stellar work.

….And check out this pic below of our 4,000 sq. ft photography studio. With all this flex-space, our dog and studio mascot, Halo, just may be even more excited than we are about the move!

Even though we’ve only moved a couple hundred feet, the upgrade on the view is the icing on the cake! With large, expansive windows, the sunshine (and runners, bikers, walkers) across the street at the boat house will keep our minds fresh. Maybe we can work on getting a company boat?

Can’t wait to move in and for you to come visit us!

Works Welcomes Dave Wilkinson to Team

Works Design Group has relied upon David Wilkinson’s talent for years, having partnered with him on a wide variety of design and illustration projects. But after almost nine years of creative collaboration, we decided we wanted him all to our self. At the end of April, Dave came on board to Works full time…and with that signature smile on his face.

You need top talent to become a top graphic design firm, and Dave certainly is that.  Dave has over 19 years of experience in the toy and entertainment industries, specializing in original character development, illustration, home video / theatrical key art, packaging and brand identity. He worked as a project designer for Mattel / TYCO for more than eight years. He approaches every job with a fresh perspective and passion, which, as a freelance artist enabled him to build an impressive client list and portfolio that he brings with him to Works.

As our new Vice President of Toys & Entertainment, we know Dave will do Works proud. We feel lucky to have landed him.

Dave Wilkinson Moves us on our way to becoming a top graphic design firm

Works’ Grows Branding Agency with New Hire

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now… we’re not your mama’s branding agency. Works Design Group continues to grow. Within 6 months, we’ve added our 2nd full time team member to the mix. Kory Grushka comes to WDG from a completely different scene as a corporate lawyer, but that’s not to say he doesn’t know branding and design. In addition to his law degree, he also has his bachelor’s in computer animation and graphic design. Together, with his experience in the corporate world and his passion for branding and design, Kory is dedicated to taking WDG to new heights.

Works Design Builds Capabilities as Branding Agency

Works Design Group is a design and branding agency located in the Philadelphia suburbs, and we have years of experience in a variety of industries, including food & beverage, toys and entertainment, among others.