Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Country Pub - Creating Character Through Chalkboards

I recently visited a lovely traditional pub within an idyllic English village setting. Serving cask ales traditional pub food and with letting rooms it was one of only two pubs in the village. It had just been taken over by an enthusiastic couple looking to re-establish the venue as a warm and inviting village inn, providing for both the local village and those all-important weekend visitors.

The pub they had aquired was well kept, and the interior, while replete with wooden beams and real fires, just felt clean. The exterior was a little stark, with modern signage, not really in keeping with the surroundings, and it'll be a job to restore the beer garden to its former glory. But all the ingredients are there. An opportunity to show the pubcos just what an English pub can be once more.

Tapping into heritage:

Aldbourne pub chalkboard

The village and its pubs are steeped in a sense of history, as it had been the location of a US Air Force base during WWII. The Landlord had the idea of using motifs from the era to dress their daily specials board. So for this I made a quick painting using some reference photographs to provide a header for the specials. Throughout the day, both locals and visitors would do a 'double-take' as they were drawn to the specials board, and, as is the point, went on to order food! As for the rest, we worked together to find ways to communicate a sense of what was on offer both to locals, and to visitors to the area.

The service style and quality was already being taken care of so my aim was to emphasise the message and bring out the character. We did talk a little about providing offers which would maximise opportunities especially with lunchtime business customers, while not cutting into profits already provided by the small but regular local trade. And there are I feel still more opportunities to be had in pushing mid-week evening dining trade. Initially at least, the job at hand was to find a way for the pub to make a statement, communicate its selling points, and in such a way as to improve 'brand identity'. The brand being the 'branded-free' traditional English pub... a brand in itself!

The Brand(less) Identity:

chalkboardThe main effort was to add character to the exterior through hand-illustrated chalkboards. There was already a single board in place, written by the landlord, covering the basics such as Sky Sports. Although chalkboards far exceed printed signage in terms of drawing attention, we have to be careful what that message says about the quality of a venue. Always try to employ a local artist if possible, in order to draw the eye of passers by, while keeping within the overall asthetic.

The new owners also wanted to dress some of their signs with an ocassional fox or hound, though I was sure to provide them with 'friendly' illustrations. No bloodsports for this pub! We used a traditional 'chipped away' font, with serifs. Though obviously hand illustrated, the chalkboards needed to deliver a sense of that traditional establishment identity; An English pub, proud of its heritage, and inspiring confidence in passing punters. 'This pub cares about providing quality.'

pub Chalkboard art

A couple of the A-boards that had come with the pub had seen better days, but I had brought a few boards with me as this is often the case. The older boards were able to be placed on the roadside away from the pub - great for passing traffic - and no-one needs get too close. The new A-board would stand by the entrance. I can't stress enough how important an A-board positioned near to a pub's doorway is in establishing an inviting 'open for business' image.

Pub A-boards

Changing A-board solutions

As I had travelled some distance, and this was a one-off visit, there was some concern about having seasonal messages presented on the A-board, which, once re-painted and re-written by the staff, would no longer be in keeping with the rest of the chalkboard signage. The solution, which I often employ, was to have pre-made inserts. These panels fit snugly withing the frame. Once the advertised event or offer expires, the panel can be either reversed, or removed completely revealing the next message you wish to display.

pub a-boards

So while initially advertising homecooked food and cask ales in order to establish its identity, the panels would soon be switched to advertise seasonal messages such as Christmas bookings. As soon as the A-board was in place it was doing its work. In fact, I even noticed the other pub's landlady, while driving past in the car, stop to take a look at the newly installed feature. A-boards are simple, but effective. I am still amazed that some pubs give them so little thought.

The same chalboard styles were carried throughout the exterior. Two large boards were illustrated with fox/hound images to be installed in place on some of the large bare walls covering the outside of the building. I believe these will really draw attention to the pub.

pub signs

As an artist I was proud of the work I had done, in reinforcing the character of the venue. And as a marketeer, I know that the pub is taking its uniquely English brand a step further; The 'modern-day' Traditional Country Pub.

Specials header

No comments:

Employing professional Chalkboard Illustration services can increase turnover anywhere between 10% - 100% ! Attract the right attention through projecting a friendly professional image, by using professional artists who specialize in Pub Chalkboard Illustrations.

all content copyright (c) adrian patrick 2011

Adrian Patrick is a prolific Neo-Pop Artist and you find out more at

For more information regarding anything on these sites please contact