Montana State University was in dire need for an update to their largest dining hall, affectionately named “The Shwag” by its students. With ever-growing enrollment numbers, it was time to beef up their dining game to better serve the student population. The original facility was a sterile, medical blue with a cafeteria vibe. Cozy, right? We didn’t think so either. Knowing students eat first with their eyes, and often use dining halls as a place of social gathering, MSU asked us to help them brand their new services.
Along with a spiffy new architectural design, MSU wanted to create individually branded serveries to elevate the dining experience. With 12 new stations each coming in with their own identity, it was our job to create 12 separate brands that worked cohesively within one space. We partnered with MSU to take the new names and develop distinct identities and design signage and environmental graphics that create a unique but collective experience at each station. We left no stone unturned and kicked off with research on existing restaurants with a similar culinary experience. We looked at the other university dining areas, started identity design, and dove into weeks of production. We hustled hard and got the job done, with final installation taking place right in the nick of time for Fall Semester 2015.
If you build they will come, right? Well we did, and they definitely did. The final look for the dining hall was more than what staff, students and locals had dreamed. Today’s cafeteria is more than an eatery between classes—it’s a great place to hang out and make new friends, study, enjoy a (likely much needed) cup of coffee, or even take your family before a Bobcat game. The new Miller Dining Commons now serves an upwards of 7,500 students a day versus the 5,000 a day prior to renovation. It’s also sold over 1,400 meal plans compared to the 864 previous to the remodel.
The Student Union Building (SUB) is one of MSU’s busiest buildings--home to the bookstore, coffee shops, conference rooms, offices and dining facilities. With MSU’s growing population, the a la cart serveries were due for a facelift, especially since they served the visitor and off campus student population. As the SUB wasn’t undergoing a massive renovation like the Miller Dining Commons, it was our job to make magic happen with the existing facade and budget.
For this project, we started with the brands for each of the nine stations. This time we would also be conjuring up the names of each servery area. We put hours of research, multiple name suggestion rounds, weeks of design and production, and a week of installation into the project and voila! Magic, made.
The results you ask? A facelift that would put Kris Jenner to shame. We had each brand represent the different culinary offerings of that servery with a look that reflected the higher level of a quality experience. Each of the nine brands created an independent space, while working together to create an elevated dining experience for the university’s visitors, staff, and student population of 16,000.
Montana State University has been experiencing enrollment growth for 10 straight years. With the recent completion of a new dorm facility, they’re now working hard to serve the student populations’ evolving dining needs.
We’ll be honest. The final product has those of us that graduated “back in the day” feeling a little more green than Blue and Gold. MSU’s new dining facility, with nine new culinary stations, is frankly on a whole separate level from their existing facilities. With high ceilings, open spaces, and expansive seating on the main level and mezzanine, students are in for a heck of a treat with this campus dining experience.
We’ve had our hands in the project since day one, helping name each station, doing tons of research on dining facilities and restaurants around the world, logo design, and finally sign development. Collaborating with the architect and our sign production vendors, we created the unique look and feel of each servery area. Picture the nicest food court you’ve been to in a mall or airport. This one’s better.