Behind the Process: Branding Harp & Crown

Written by Antoinette Marie Johnson on April 10, 2018

Located on the bustling Sansom Street corridor in Center City Philadelphia, Harp & Crown is Schulson Collective’s debut of New American cuisine meets subterranean social club.

We were approached by Schulson Collective to be the creative team that would help their vision come to life. Honored by their confidence in our abilities, they had our full attention every step of the way. Since then, they have been gracious enough to hire us for other projects, signifying our successes in our first project together, creating the award-winning brand for Harp & Crown.

It starts with the history

Every story is informed by its past. The narrative of Harp & Crown was tricky at first because the parts were not yet formed as a whole. We had a New American menu ranging from pizza to crudo, an incredible beverage program, and a secret speakeasy-type menu downstairs. The name Harp & Crown was inspired by Philadelphia’s oldest pub, located in Old City during the late 1700s. No longer in existence, it was difficult to find any information on the historical landmark, so we decided to bring in early 18th-century social cues and turn-of-the-century details.

In the Details

The logo is hand-drawn, with the H & C inspired by typography from the early 1800s. The “H” is taken from a harp company logo, traced and formed into a custom type used to draw the rest of the logo. This became the feminine base for the rest of the brand, which is made up of mint and muted Baker-Miller pink hues.

Baker-Miller pink is the deeper, vintage version of the trendy millennial hue that came to be in late 1979 when a professor of psychiatry testing this shade’s ability to make people less aggressive. It could “sap the strength of even the toughest man” (The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair) and became a pop-culture phenomenon, appearing in small-town drunk tanks, visitor’s locker rooms in college football stadiums, and more.

These modern shades of vintage colors softened the rustic upstairs and brought a woman’s touch to the dark, sultry downstairs bar.

We imagined a woman today coming to Elbow Lane as a destination for many first dates. The woman doesn’t know the guy is taking her to bowl in a speakeasy, so she’s wearing heels. We offer up little pink nylon socks as a reminder that we know what it’s like to bowl without socks – no one wants that!

The original Harp & Crown was located on Elbow Lane, giving us the perfect name for the bowling alley. We hired Gibbs Connors, a well-known local sign painter who helped us design another custom font for the front entry and downstairs doors. Gold leafed painting accented by a mint teal helped put the finishing touches on the interior signage.

Language and tone

Branding a new place requires getting in the headspace of what the narrative should feel and sound like. We often give our brands personalities, and soundbites of what you might hear them talk about. The personality of the Harp & Crown brand was a stylish and wise late 30-something woman who brunches with dear friends, and throws on stilettos for a night out on the weekend. She knows the city’s top destinations, and is a regular at Harp & Crown’s downstairs bar where she meets the Mayor and other influencers for an after-dinner drink while some of her friends bowl a round or two.

The brand pillars, which we use to determine whether our work was “on brand” or off, were:

  • Feminine – Delicate, soft, beautiful, timeless, curves, script, gentle, graceful, eloquent, elegant
  • Mystique – Mystery, allure, romance, air of secrecy, aura, awe
  • Social – Public, reunion, talk, beer hall, exchange, interaction, share, status

Most importantly, we wanted the language of the brand to signify our inspiration and era. So we used terms like “imbibe” rather than cocktails, and little sayings to indicate the narrative such as, “finely crafted provisions,” “strikes and spirits,” and “the only unacceptable sin is a spilt drink.”

These language moments are brought to life through the Prohibition and vintage recreation design themes seen throughout Harp & Crown, particularly in Elbow Lane’s intimate bowling alley and society-esque cocktail bar.

“Harp & Crown is Center City’s pretty, young thing—a drop-dead gorgeous upstairs dining room with ample seating, vintage decor, a wraparound bar, and great eats.

Downstairs, though, is where the real magic happens. The basement, called Elbow Lane, is somewhat of a secret cocktail lounge, complete with its own bar and bowling alley.”

I guess Eater agrees with us about Harp & Crown being one of the best destinations in Philadelphia by putting it on its Most Beautiful Restaurants in America list.

Congratulations to Schulson Collective and the talented interior design team at Rohe Creative who helped bring the Schulson team vision to life and certainly put Sansom Street back on the map for food and drink destinations.