One Brand, Two Schools: L’Academie de Cuisine

L’Academie de Cuisine is a top ten culinary school with a 40 year legacy of instructing star chefs like Carla Hall, Aaron Silverman, Katsuya Fukushima, and Nick Stefanelli. It was founded in 1976 by Chef Francois Dionot, and it’s been crafting culinary and pastry brilliance ever since. L’Academie is a remarkable community: alumni stay in touch with classes new and old, graduates are eager to bring on program apprentices, and the overwhelming majority of faculty and staff are alumni. As L’Academie approached its 40 year anniversary, their team asked us to update their brand.

What’s In A Name?

In addition to its professional culinary and pastry arts school, L’Academie also offers recreational cooking classes in Bethesda, MD. They referred to this as the “LADC Recreational School,” as opposed to the “LADC Professional School,” which caused confusion both among aspiring chefs and people looking for a casual cooking class.

Hi Again, L’Academie de Cuisine; Welcome Home, L’Academie Kitchen

L’Academie de Cuisine is ranked 8th in the country, so name recognition is key. “LADC” oversimplifies and needlessly obscures the elegant “L’Academie de Cuisine,” so our first decision was to re-emphasize the culinary school’s full name. We devised “L’Academie Kitchen” as the new name for the recreational school. Shorter, catchier, and easily differentiated, it’s a concept that reinforces L’Academie’s brand proposition: world-class instruction is for everybody, recreational cooks and professional students alike.


L’Academie Branding: Communicating A Legacy

Existing branding distracted from the world-class experiences L’Academie provides. Gradients dated and over-industrialized the design, losing the school’s basis in refinement and precision.

The choice of abbreviation over iconography impacted brand recognition, as “LA” and “DC” are well-trodden abbreviations already. Finally, confusion between the culinary and recreational schools was compounded by a lack of visual brand distinction.

The L’Academie de Cusine Brand

The new L’Academie mark is a modern interpretation of a duck press, an element in one of the school’s early logos. The press itself is a highly specialized culinary tool used to create canard à la presse, or pressed duck, a French delicacy dating back to the 19th century (Google how to make it at your own risk).

Several of these beautiful contraptions are on display at the school, and the community has a connection with this singular piece of equipment and its traditional French history. Abstracting a culinary tool into its most essential elements results in a brand that builds on history while welcoming advancement. Since L’Academie is celebrating 40 years educating students, the date of establishment provides a simple reminder of its legacy. The new color palette comes from the existing aesthetic of the physical space: chef’s whites, stainless steel tools, and vibrant, saucy reds.

The L’Academie Kitchen Brand

The Kitchen branding is simple and clear, using the super-readable type to differentiate the name while retaining the duck press mark and typography to remain solidly under the L’Academie umbrella. In web application, we assigned each brand a consistent color application within the chosen palette: Red on a white field for L’Academie de Cuisine, and white on a red field for L’Academie Kitchen.


Building The L’Academie User Experience

L’Academie de Cuisine and L’Academie Kitchen provide very different information and have very different audiences, but they fall under the same brand and directly complement each other. The existing site required users to make a choice immediately upon arrival, severely impacting bounce rate. How do we connect these two web experiences without confusing the user?

Existing homepage portal

SOLUTION: ONE SITE, TWO EXPERIENCES

Our goal was to create a site that seamlessly links from the professional school in a traditional academic layout to the recreational school with an e-commerce flow. After exploring many options, we decided to connect the sites through a branded portal featuring the opposite brand on the main navigation. On hover, a flyout card appears, detailing where this navigational item points. As a user would expect, the logo in the top left marks their current environment, a message echoed by the homepage imagery, headline, navigation, and calls to action. On the right, a contrasting logo calls attention to the alternate L’Academie brand.

L’Academie de Cuisine view, showing flyout hover state of navigational portal

We used specific language to set the academically-oriented professional school apart from the recreational Kitchen, keeping the audiences in mind. This solution, combined with the new unique branding for each school, creates a simple, intuitive way for users to navigate from L’Academie de Cuisine to L’Academie Kitchen, and vice versa.

L’Academie Kitchen view

BRLLNT BOTTOM LINE

Creating an effective brand and intuitive user experience for a legacy brand with two linked, but disparate arms requires subtlety and clarity. A straightforward new naming convention, fresh and simple color application, approachable, easy-to-read typography, and a web experience that uses graphic emphasis to unite two sides of the same site group the two brands harmoniously, while keeping their missions separate and their audiences satisfied.

Visit the new lacademie.com to explore the professional school’s offerings, and stay tuned in September for the launch of the Kitchen site.

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