It’s hard to think of a family business that better deserves that cozy classification than Malaysia’s Zhing Kitchen. SCAD student Wan Zhing Aw (B.F.A., interior design) — that’s Cammy to you! — identifies love as the not-so secret ingredient for branding and designing a family restaurant.
Owned by Cammy’s sister, Stefanie Aw, Zhing Kitchen is a celebration of the entire clan. The menu proclaims the family’s culinary inheritance: Japanese and Taiwanese fusion. And the restaurant’s name, Zhing, meaning sunshine, is derived from Cammy’s own appellation.
With a name like that, some designers would have reached for an easy graphic pairing — the sun, for instance. Not Cammy. She chose a rabbit — a zodiacal nod to her sister’s birth year and modest spirit — for the logo. The sisters privately refer to the critter, often delicately etched, as the ‘ghost rabbit’ or ‘Jackson Bunny’ (after their brother’s sobriquet). By any name, the rabbits are everywhere once you learn to spot them, just like the influence of the owner.
Cammy wove the theme of family love throughout every nook and cranny of the restaurant and its collateral, including the menu, name cards, stickers and merchandise. She even designed and directed the interior renovation, which was carried out by her self-professed soulmate and handyman, Xiong. Love, everywhere!
But before love, money. It’s the ultimate design constraint, Cammy admits. And that’s not a bad thing. Armed with economy, imagination, and SCAD know-how, Cammy transformed Zhing Kitchen into a bona fide art destination. She stretched her budget by incorporating pre-existing resources, namely her completed foundation studies assignments. These beautiful works are all the more impressive considering that Cammy did not consider herself an illustrator prior to enrolling at SCAD. “I learned drawing and design from SCAD foundation studies. If there were no foundation courses, I wouldn’t know that I could create a small art gallery in the restaurant!” she said. Cammy also hit upon another key budget saver: paint. Nine shades of paint, to be exact.
Using paint, Cammy created visual cues for the flow of dining traffic. A major challenge was to give the illusion of divided space without walls, clearly demarcating the workspace from the dining area while encouraging patrons to interact with kitchen staff. Her solution was to splash a bold ribbon of red paint across the floor, up the walls, and over the ceiling to frame the threshold. The vibrant line has the added benefits of increasing optical interest and extending the line of sight.
The most striking application of Cammy’s newfound color theory is the restaurant’s focal point: a mural depicting her family beside a Parisian café. While geographically removed, the scene is emotionally congruent with the convivial spirit of the business. If the choice of subject matter was easy, the process was decidedly not. First, Cammy had to expand her available palette by manipulating hue, value, and saturation. “Sensitivity to color is the key factor in making a work succeed or fail,” she said. Using a projector, Cammy painstaking reproduced the image, stopping frequently to readjust the image and transport her paints — a necessity further complicated by the act of ascending and descending simple scaffolding. You might say the main ingredient in the mural was patience.
From a design and branding standpoint, Cammy’s work is a success. But she also evaluates her work according to the emotions it evokes in casual diners. And it is on this count that Cammy really shines: clients agree that Zhing Kitchen is the restaurant equivalent of your grandma’s hug!