Universal Favourite’s identity for The Dinner Ladies takes from old school tattoos and an “anti-mumsy attitude”

The small Sydney-based studio cooks up a new look for the frozen meal delivery service, celebrating its backyard kitchen start-up and authentic home cooked roots.

2 July 2024

The Dinner Ladies has been in the game of pre-prepared meal delivery for nearly two decades, starting out in 2007 in a backyard shed in Sydney and now reaching the whole of Australia. For its branding, the company never really stuck to the script of ‘mumsy’ meal subscription marketing for the business, which allowed studio Universal Favourite to lean into its punk flair and refreshing attitude – or what the studio call a “no-BS confidence of a service that truly helps take the stress out of dinner time” for the rebrand. Clearly a great match for Universal Favourite, creative director Ali Ozden explains: “Our "sweet spot” is clients who are excited by the idea of breaking category conventions. This allows us to have fun, and create exciting work by pulling references from outside a category.”

Speaking of breaking out of category conventions, the star of the show from the frozen food brand’s new visual catalogue might have to be the Sailor Jerry-esque, “trad tattoo” illustrations that warmly reference some of The Dinner Ladies’ original design aesthetics. With roots in hand drawn logos on the back of envelopes, this bold line work has been a staple of the brand’s brand identity for years. In order to create a new look with the same heart, the studio drew on these strong visual elements from the archive, collaborating with illustrator Jake Forman in order to “create a contemporary version of this aesthetic that was influenced by, and not a repeat of, old styles”, says Ali. The illustrator’s “iconic texture and gritty stipple” was then applied to the new logo, word mark and typography, to finalise all corners of the identity the studio had crafted with “the same brush aesthetic”.


Universal Favourite: The Dinner Ladies (Copyright © Universal Favourite, 2024)

When talking about the studio’s art direction for The Dinner Ladies rebrand, Ali shares: “Too often brands hide from the messiness of real-life situations, and as a dad (recently of two) I wanted to make sure the scenarios that we shot felt believable.” With toys scattered across tables and sauce splattered on walls, the studio’s photoshoot in collaboration with photographer Alana Dimou, stuck closely to the raw chaos of family life, pushing the brand’s streamlined cooking solutions with their “anti-mumsy” attitude.

Even in the light of the company’s huge success, The Dinner Ladies’ purpose is still very much based on the founders’ real experience of parenthood – with seven kids between them, the reality of dinner time rush has never been a light joke. Universal Favourite wanted to get across this message in the brand’s verbal identity and tone of voice, for example in inspiring large poster slogans that read: “Feeling cooked? We’ll do dinner” and “Thank god we had that in the freezer”, bringing a comedic and honest voice to the brand. “There was a sense of maturity to the brand that we wanted to reflect, which meant that the voice exudes a confidence that can only come from decades of experience,” ends Ali, “We just hope that we did The Dinner Ladies fanbase justice by taking the part of the brand they already love and amplifying them to a little more raw and distinctive.”

GalleryUniversal Favourite: The Dinner Ladies (Copyright © Universal Favourite, 2024)

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Universal Favourite: The Dinner Ladies (Copyright © Universal Favourite, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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