Restaurant Business Wows with Gold-Winning Web Feature Design

Restaurant Business’s online feature, “Killer in the Kitchen: Restaurants face an evolving epidemic of addiction,” is quite a visual treat. The article won gold in the Azbee Awards’ Online Feature Article Design category, and the series of work won national awards in Azbee editorial categories as well.


Their entry essay states, “A tough topic such as drug addiction in the industry is equally tough to depict visually…none of the interviewees understandably wanted to be photographed for the feature…Furthermore, we explored with artificial intelligence and created visual vignettes to accommodate the storytelling…” Without having read this statement, I would never have guessed that AI created their illustrations. They are full of textured moodiness, putting the reader in the mindset of the people covered in the story. It creates a deeper sense of darkness about the addiction epidemic beyond what photographic portraits could portray. 

Killer in the Kitchen 2Stunned is an understatement as I contemplate AI as an option for use as a designer myself. I’m very aware of the debate going on from both sides of the fence about the use of AI in visual creation. Some examples I have seen have looked like drug-induced nightmares while others look like they were put out from a creative assembly line. But how it’s used in Restaurant Business is imaginative, creative and evokes strong visual storytelling. Along with the AI visuals, the creative team uses, with Killer in the Kitchen 3great effect, animated graphs, typographic quotes, parallax scrolling* and embedded audio to share the insider stories of the substance use epidemic in the restaurant business.

When asked about his creative choice to use AI generative art for “Killer in the Kitchen,” senior art director Nico Heins relayed, “Taking photographs of victims wasn’t an option. Equally challenging was trying to find the right illustrator to depict this topic in a manner that felt serious. Then we experimented with prompting AI with an impressionist painting style along with the colors black and red in order to convey the emotional toll of the opioid pandemic.”

With AI being used now in writing, video and visuals, it’s a tool that designers will have to consider —  more than likely, it will not disappear. On the positive, it can provide a more interesting alternative to traditional stock images with more variety of techniques and styles. If we designers do our diligence on the ethical sourcing of AI platforms when considering its use in our work, it could be beneficial to our creative communications.

*Parallax scrolling is a web trend where background content moves at a different speed than foreground content while scrolling.

Andrew Bass

Andrew Bass, Jr. is the Art & Production Manager for Risk Management, the member publication at RIMS. He leads the art direction/print production of both the print and digital editions of the magazine along with creation of a yearly special edition featuring RIMS’ Risk Manager of the Year awardees. Outside of his duties at RIMS, he has been an adjunct lecturer at CUNY New York College of Technology teaching students the fundamentals of graphic design and lessons on how to understand the business of design.

Bass, Jr. currently serves as a member of the ASBPE National Board of Directors.

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