Serviette magazine, Great Fountain feature, photo by Gabriel Li

Good Reads: New food mag Serviette errs just the right side of trendy design

The new Toronto-based publication shows once and for all that branded magazines can be done well – so well that you might not realise it’s brand-led at all

A new entry has arrived for the canon of ‘branded magazines which are actually good’, in the form of beautifully designed food title, Serviette.

Billed as ‘Monocle meets Pipette meets Lucky Peach’, Serviette Magazine is the brainchild of Max Meighen, a Toronto-based brewer, former chef and founder of Avling Kitchen and Brewery

Helming the design work is a team of Toronto-based creatives: Concrete, an agency working across strategy, design, digital, packaging, video and environmental design; creative director Chuck Ortiz, founder of food and hospitality focused creative studio Back of House (BOH); and art director Zach Monteiro. The cover design and photography is by Danielle Reynolds.

Serviette magazine cover, design and photography by Danielle Reynolds
Serviette magazine cover, design and photography by Danielle Reynolds

While Avling acts as the parent brand, and informs the content insofar as it shares a common interest in ‘circular’ hospitality, unless you were told that Serviette was a brand magazine of sorts, you’d be hard pressed to guess. The design work throughout is unmistakably hip, but sitting just the right side of overly trendy; delighting in playful typography, innovative layouts and bold full-colour page treatments.

Setting out its aim as exploring the “interconnected nature of food”, the idea of conversation is at the heart of the magazine’s editorial pieces and the design itself. The deliberately ‘loud and bold’ look serves to be eye catching on one level, and prompt people to look further on another: the rotund joviality of the masthead belies the seriousness of many of the issues explored within. That logomark uses Caslon Rounded, chosen by Concrete as a “design from the past remade for today”, say the designers. “The rounded forms give it a warm and inviting appearance, while its boldness signals credibility.”

Concrete adds that “Serviette is a typographic magazine”. What that means in practice is that it relies on a rich, varied palette of fonts to complement and augment the stories and images.

G2 Ciao by German/Swiss foundry Gruppo Due is used in both its ‘silent’ and ‘shrill’ (italicised) forms throughout, snaking across the pages horizontally and vertically to add a sense of pace and rhythm as headlines and other markers.

This is joined by a mixture of serifs such as Lineto’s Bradford font, sans serifs (Helvetica, mostly), and typewriter-like fonts, which are used interchangeably across headers, body copy and captions.

The photography style is described as “authentic and earnest … true to life and not overly stylised”, while the designers add that illustration is an “integral part of the visual language of Serviette”.

One of the standout illustrations is by Rotterdam-based Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva. It becomes more surreal the more you look at it: at first, it seems like a sharply lined decorative piece, but on closer inspection, people morph into bananas; a woman’s body takes the form of an ice-cream cone, which in turn resembles the Eiffel Tower; and a woman peers out the window of a milk carton house.

Krasnova-Shabaeva’s illustration also chimes with the primary brand colours used throughout the mag: a rich green, bright mustard yellow and tomato red, all said to be “influenced by colours found in nature”.

Serviette magazine Good Food feature illustration by Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva
lllustration by Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva

The first issue, themed Food is Everything, features interviews with comedian Eric Wareheim, former Noma chef Matt Orlando, and Siobhan Detkavich from TV show Top Chef Canada. Other articles focus on topics such as industrial and product design for in-home food production; Ikea’s move into urban gardening; and how good political policies around food can help build sustainable, resilient communities.

“Food is not a silo; it’s interconnected with the way we design and experience the world,” says Meighen. “I wanted to create something that brings people closer to the topic of food, connecting them through curiosity and passion. Serviette is all about conversations about food — how it fuels us, sustains us, inspires us, and challenges us in hidden ways.”

Serviette magazine Food is Culture feature feature illustration by
Illustration by Oriana Fenwick