Leo Burnett shows off its design skills

The agency helps launch Toronto-based Smith restaurant and creates its own office furniture.
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The folks at Leo Burnett have been designing more than ad campaigns lately, from restaurant menus to boardroom tables.

“It’s a new energy at Burnett,” says CD Lisa Greenberg. “It doesn’t matter where design lives – if there’s a reason for it, why not do it?”

Take Smith, a restaurant that opened in Toronto six months ago, for example. The agency worked closely with owner Renda Abdo on everything from the restaurant’s name to its visual brand identity, partnering with Toronto-based interior design firm Commute Home to turn the former nightclub into a stylish, eclectic dinner destination

Offering up comfort food in elegant surroundings, Smith appeals to the everyman. So when it came time to design the menus, Leo Burnett reached for a material with working class appeal: newspaper.

The agency had 2,000 oversized menus printed, featuring photography of key ingredients, and then had a newspaper box made so people walking by could pick up a copy.

“Every couple of months, we change the menu,” says Greenberg. “And it’s almost like a DM piece for them – we’ve dropped them in all the neighbourhoods.”

The agency also designed the restaurant’s stationery, matches, coasters and more, and plan to help with merchandise take-away items like custom oils and sauces in the future.

This experience will come in handy as Leo Burnett prepares to rebrand the 65-location Earl’s restaurant chain. Leo has also done some redecorating in its own office, with the recent unveiling of agency-designed workstations and boardroom tables.

“We designed boardroom tables when I got there because I can’t stand wires,” says Greenberg. The high-lacquer white tables have a tiny slot where computer wires are fed into a hidden panel.

Although it took a while to get parts and prototypes made, the new tables are now on display in the offices of CCO/CEO Judy John and president/COO Dom Caruso, as well as in the agency’s main boardroom.