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Restaurants Use Graphic Design Too

The menu is the perhaps the most important graphically designed material restaurants employ to influence their consumers. Restaurants use principles of graphic design and human psychology to make their menus the most appealing and likely for us to buy from them. Design concepts such as hierarchy, proximity, white space, and contrast are crucial to effective menu design.

Hierarchy naturally comes from the types of items the restaurant is offering. Considering layout, the eye typically moves to the middle first, where you will find entrees and dishes with high profit margins, and then to the top right and left corners. Another psychology-backed graphic design feature is the use of colors based on their connotations. For example, places that want to emphasize fresh, healthy, or organic choices use the color green, and colors such as red and yellow are used to catch the attention of diners. Open spaces on a busy menu will draw attention and designers use white space to set apart specials or more costly options.

Some layout tricks make us feel in control of our money. Restaurants often place a slightly more expensive option first so that the following options appear more of a bargain. Some establishments opt to spell out the pricing to place less attention on cost of the items you are ordering.

Next time you head to your favorite restaurant, take a closer look at their menu and see when design tricks they are using to get you to spend more.

Here is an infographic from Huffington Post with more psychology behind menu design

Another article with hacks restaurants use to make us spend more


  1. sficarro wrote:

    I can honestly say I would not have noticed this if I had not read this post. I think this is really excellent information both as a designer and consumer. I always look at menus and the design of it definitely adds or detract from my restaurant experience by when considering the psychology of the document it adds a new element. This is such a well thought out way to view design in general.

    Friday, April 27, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  2. jabella wrote:

    Yes! I remember doing the infuriating doorhanger project in Professor Quigley’s typography class and a lot of thought goes into these. I especially know this because a lot of thought went into my doorhanger menu and I still couldn’t get it quite right. It has helped me notice, though, how bad some menus and even some other designs are in regards to hierarchy.

    Friday, April 27, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  3. amilstei wrote:

    It’s kind of strange how we never learn any of these tricks in class; they seem very relevent.

    Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm | Permalink