Opened in 2007, Ramses Life is a gastronomy and event venue in Madrid, Spain, located in the high-traffic roundabout at Puerta de Alcala. The space is a project designed by Philippe Starck and consists of five separate restaurants, among them the subject of this post, Natsuki (Seven Moons), featuring Japanese fusion cuisine. The identity has been designed by local firm Erretres.
Natsuki wants to be Japan of the 21st century. Geisha, Technology, Kawaii, Neon. After an initial trip to Tokyo to find the true essence and mystery of Japan, we analyzed the culture from 3 differing vectors: Value, Art and Experience. As a result, the sum of these conclusions gave us: NATSUKI; the perfect combination between Tradition and Rupture. Minimalism and Superflat, which derive from Medieval Japan, succeeded in its conversion into 21st century Japan.
This served as a brand inspired by the neon lights of Tokyo and the phases of the moon. The result is a proposition for symbolistic and contemporary graphics that successfully transports us from the center of Nippon metropolis without moving ourselves from the space designed in collaboration with Philippe Starck.
This is another of those cases where the scope of the resulting identity trumps the “smallness” of the client — a single restaurant — to qualify for a Review on Brand New and after you are done scrolling through all the work I think you’ll agree. This post shows about a third of the content posted on Erretres’ project page as they have a ton of research and background material, so if you want more, a lot more, check that out as well.
At the core of the identity are the “geisha” balls which are a fusion of the Kamoms (Japanese family emblems) infused with Kawaii expressions. I’m by no means a Kawaii connoisseur so I don’t know if any unspoken rules are being broken or the veracity of its application into this identity system but I do know, for a fact, that these geisha balls bring me joy. Lots of it. They are an effusive bunch with great personality and a solid backstory supported by a smart design process. They are also 100% unexpected in the realm of Japanese restaurant identities where most go for either a minimal aesthetic or illustrations of sushi.
The wordmark has maybe a little too much mumbo jumbo rationale behind it — you’ll have to check that at the project page — where the phases of the moon and the neon lights are supposed to be the reasoning. I would accept “It’s made of circles, like the geishas” as an appropriate answer. It’s a good complement to the colorful balls and, used mostly in gold, provides a hint of luxury.
One of my favorite elements are the interlocked kamoms before they become geishas, as seen most clearly on the business card image. That’s a great-looking graphic device. The applications straddle a complicated line of being minimalist and maximalist at the same time. It manages to capture the complexity of Japan in an exuberant system.
The restaurant itself doesn’t let up either, being an onslaught of colors and textures. It’s possible your heart rate goes up just from stepping into it while your retinas age about 10 years ahead of the rest of your body but it’s fun to see a project take it up to 11, from research to execution. The only reasonable next step in this project is to make plush toy versions of the geishas and I would totally buy one of each.