David Huang brands a phantom bar with an ingenious nod to his favourite supermarkets

The New York-based illustrator reminds us that bars and restaurants are so much more than a place to consume food or drinks, but a place of belonging.

7 March 2024

For most illustrators, the crux of their work is interpreting the world around them through storytelling. But what happens when one finds it difficult to conjure up a sequence or narrative? David Huang much prefers when everything is happening “all at once” in his illustration work, “rather than going from a precise point A to point B. I prefer to tell a story through world building instead of showcasing a series of actions,” he shares. His latest feat of visual universe creation is the fictional supermarket/bar project The Aisle, developed with agency Grand Matter.

The concepts throughout The Aisle first appealed to David because of its combinations of his great loves: illustration, food and lettering. But, there were a few reasons why he particularly decided to go with a supermarket-themed bar. “Firstly, because I fell into a cocktail craze during the pandemic, and I’ve been fascinated by themed cocktails ever since, and secondly because whenever I have anxiety or I’m out of ideas, I take a stroll in a supermarket,” he tells us. He often finds himself immersed in the whole experience, including the elevator music and the way everything is laid out in a neat fashion. “I also find the mid-century American supermarket aesthetic especially on point, and I did a lot of visual research into it when starting out,” he adds.


David Huang: The Aisle (Copyright © David Huang, 2023)

After David decided on a fictional bar, he pencilled out a drawing of the imaginary space, with about eight to ten spot illustrations to use as a moodboard for the rest of the project. From there, he constructed the remaining elements by referring to the initial drawings. He then hand drew all of the lettering from references gathered from old photos and supermarket-inspired fonts. “I tried not to be too careful with the coherence of the lettering, as they are not actually assets that will be put into the real world,” he tells us, “I just wanted to try my hand at doing those letters and having some fun with it”.

In the spirit of fun, David also brought many of the assets and mockups to life before even deciding where they were going to live on a tote, match box, lighter and menu. “ There are really an infinite amount of merchandise ideas that exist out there, and at one point you will be overwhelmed by the urge to put them on every single existing thing and create 100 different assets. But, you have to restrain yourself, it’s quality over quantity.”

Before starting the project, David suffered with imposter syndrome, due to never having been formally trained in branding or graphic design. “I felt like I was intruding on territory that didn’t belong to me, even as I was trying to go into this project with the mindset of ‘just having fun’,” he shares. “But I feel that way so often, and I really do believe it comes with trying to break into another adjacent but different discipline.” He hopes that the project will open up doors for him to work on restaurant and bar concepts, but until that day comes, he hopes that all who see The Aisle think twice about what makes their favourite place so special.

GalleryDavid Huang: The Aisle (Copyright © David Huang, 2023)

Hero Header

David Huang: The Aisle (Copyright © David Huang, 2023)

Share Article

About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.