Restaurant branding for an Iranian-American cafe.

Art Director
Kelly Holohan
Branding, packaging, print menu
Zareen Johnson, Emily Funck, Samantha Ruiz, Spencer smith, and Rebecca Hawkins

Shirin brings the flavors of modern Tehran culture to Philadelphia. Pronounced shee-REEN, the name of the cafe means sweet in Farsi. Shirin is based off of the many popular tea houses where young people hang out in Iran today, and serves traditional sweets, street foods, and drinks with a modern twist. 

This project won Best of Category for Identity in the 2019 AIGA Blue Ridge Flux Annual Student Design Competition!

MENU & Packaging

The menu includes both Farsi and English names of each dish, as well as a description. Each page has unique, playful Qajari illustrations relating to the food, as well as hand drawn tessellation patterns.

This project also includes packaging for items you can purchase and take home. Shirin offers both branded bagged tea and loose tea. A color system identifies each tea blend. Takeaway drink cups feature the illustrations as well. 

The Concept

This cafe is inspired by the youth culture of Tehran, where young people are always finding ways to gather and have fun together. Cafes are part of that—since there are no bars, coffeehouses have become very popular among Iranian youth.

The Shirin brand aims to get away from stuffy depictions of the Middle East that rely on desert colors and calligraphy, and rejuvenate traditional Iranian motifs with bold colors and modern versions of Tehran’s street foods.

The inspiration

The imagery used in this brand was inspired by traditional Iranian imagery and modern reimagining. The patterns are inspired by Iranian tessellations  and tiles combined with traditional Iranian foods. The illustrations are inspired by Qajar women, a style of illustrating women that has remained popular since the 1800s. It has become trendy for young Iranians to edit these portraits to reflect modern culture. The page layout is inspired by Persian manuscripts with the bordered illustration set off center, with patterns in the background and boxed text inside the illustration frames.

The Logo

My logo was based on the historical Qajari woman, who has been a motif of Iranian art since the 1800s. I wanted to include her unibrow as a point of Iranian culture and pride, but keep her looking friendly and inviting. I also wanted her to mirror my target audience of young women. I also incorporated this fun and playful aspect into the type treatment by using the alternating case letters and using diamonds for the tittles on the i's, which was a reference to Farsi calligraphy. 

Social Media

The first component of the Instagram campaign was creating student highlights for each individual graduating from the BFA or MFA program this semester. We created a form to collect student work with specifications for formatting for both our Instagram feed and story. In the form, we asked students to submit examples of work, a short bio, and how they define themselves as designers. Several students were posted each day for a period of four weeks.

The second component of the social media campaign called for alumni interaction, so we reached out on Instagram and posted a call for volunteers.  We sought advice that the alumni could give to the Tyler GAID students as they navigated graduating from college and starting their careers. This was important to us for multiple reasons—we felt that it was a great way to let alumni know about the campaign and get them to interact with it, but we also felt that it could help students feel less anxious trying to enter the workforce at such an unprecedented time. We brainstormed a long list of questions, then organized them into topics.  We created a questionnaire form that we sent out to our alumni, and were met with a resounding desire to give back. We were able to post professional advice on our Instagram story three times a week for the last four weeks of classes. Sharing this alumni advice was both useful to students and showed off the great community Tyler GAID has.


Our team worked with a second professor, Scott Laserow, to create a website that would take on the event in digital form. For this, we wanted to create something that not only had strong branding and interaction, but that also created a user experience that guided people to viewing student work and portfolios. Since our physical invitation was no longer being sent out, we decided to replicate the work done there by creating a slider at the beginning of the site that goes over both the reason for the site and statistics about the class of 2020. Once through the slider, or skipped past it, we implemented a filter system for the students based on their area of design. Since this website was going to be sent out to employers, we wanted to create something where they could find the specific type of person they were looking for easily. Each student got their own page on the website with their portrait, bio, and work so that the website could essentially be a hub for everyone to exist on. We then link out to everyone’s Instagram, LinkedIn, and portfolio websites so that if someone wanted to contact a student they had paths to do so.


Bungalows comes in a box with a traditional telescope lid. Inside you'll find an instruction booklet, a variety of cards including "house cards," "value cards," and "flip cards," play money, an unfolding game board, character pieces, and bidding paddles.

The Characters

This game comes with six characters you can play as. Each has their own character piece and bidding paddle with information about them and a reference for how many houses of each value may be floating around.

The Process

I originally wanted to try to reference camp t-shirts since half the story takes place at a summer camp, but expanded to a full scene once I realized the image wasn’t doing enough to activate the whole image. This imagery speaks to the style of storytelling on Ancient Greek pottery. On each cover, we see the characters that are the main characters of the book, plus references to the places they visit on their quests.

the lightning thief

On this cover, we see our main three characters, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover as they travel the US. They fight monsters and along the way visit the St. Louis Arch, the Parthenon in Tennessee, and the Empire State Building, home of the gods. 

The Sea of Monsters

On this cover, we see Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson, a new character, as they traverse the Atlantic Ocean. Behind them is the C.S.S. Birmingham, another demigod boat that they later board, as well as the sea monsters Charybdis and Scylla.

The Titan's Curse

In this book, Percy, seen at the top of the cover riding a pegasus, joins the quest of Artemis's hunters and his friend Grover as they go to California to rescue their friend Annabeth. The Washington Monument and Golden Gate Bridge represent two of their main stops along their journey: D.C. and San Francisco.

The Inspiration

I gathered imagery from different transit systems, focusing mainly on the NYC MTA. Their branding is iconic for their use of Helvetica and putting their train lines in colored circles, but still leaves a lot of room to play. I chose to amp up the color scheme used by most transit systems to make the art more exciting and differentiate the imagery from real subway maps. I researched different data sets about transit, and ended up going with statistics from the American Public Transportation Association.

Character Design

My first step for getting the feel of the illustrations was to try out several looks for both the protagonist, Sasha, and the villain, Bony Legs (a Baba Yaga character). I wanted them to look like opposites, so I went with the versions of them that pitted them the most against each other. Sasha is all round and stout where Bony Legs is as pointy and skinny as possible.


Designing Bony Legs' house was almost like designing a third character. The house with the chicken feet is iconic, so I wanted to pay homage to a tradition of storytellers while still stylistically linking the house with Bony Legs. For this reason, the house is tall and full of wonky angles like her.

Laying out the book

I really enjoyed the parts of the process to create the final project, like laying out the spreads and getting the pacing right, and working out what the characters should look like. I worked with the limitations of only using 12 spreads and using the existing text, and planned thumbnails before I started illustrating. I focused on changing up the spreads by using landscape spreads and closeups, and making sure the text on each page lined up with the image.

The Cut paper process

I love cut-paper illustration, but doing everything by hand was going to take way too long and would limit my ability to easily make edits. In order to avoid that, I found a way to mimic natural layered cut paper digitally and add textures that looked natural, like colored pencil and charcoal. Everything still follows the same rules that would apply in the physical world. I used Illustrator and Photoshop in tandem to create these effects, then set all the type in InDesign. 

The Cut paper process

Step 1:

Do a tight pencil sketch of each page.

The paper cut process

Step 1:

Do a tight pencil sketch of each page.

Step 2:

Create a shape in Illustrator for each "piece of paper" that the illustration will be made of.

The paper cut process

Step 1:

Do a tight pencil sketch of each page.

Step 2:

Create a shape in Illustrator for each "piece of paper" that the illustration will be made of.

Step 3:

Add subtle drop shadows to all shapes in Photoshop. Then, add textures drawn on with a pencil type brush. Set type in InDesign.