A large part of our work as a creative agency is done before a single design ever touches paper. Creating a sound strategy is one of the foundations of our creative process, and at the core of that is typically a name. Everything relies on a name.

When Davidson Hotel & Resorts approached us in partnership with National Real Estate Development, they were seeking a creative team to bring a new restaurant concept to life in the ground floor of the new Hilton Canopy Hotel.

Much had already been established, from architecture to interior design to menu concepts, but one item remained a bit out of reach: the name. Some folks liked one, others liked another. But nothing felt definitive.

The project is part of the massive East Market Development, containing over 2,000,000 sq of space in Philadelphia’s Center City. Along with a Hilton Canopy brand hotel above it, this restaurant occupies the ground floor of one of Philadelphia’s first “skyscrapers” and an architectural gem, the Stephen Girard Building.

Step One – Don’t reinvent the naming wheel. Wolff Olins says: “A name is rarely encountered in isolation, bound in a little product-experience-communication cosmos, and a good one won’t save a misconceived or badly executed idea.”

Names are only one part of the entire brand experience. While a name can be a defining element of the brand, it won’t affect other crucial aspects – such as the actual menu (does the food taste good?) or core offering of the brand.

So, What’s in the Name?

Housed in the historic Stephen Girard Building, a big NO on the list was to just name this restaurant “Girard” or something expected in relation to the building or his name. So, we dug deeper. Digging into the naming potential revealed other creative constraints to consider, balancing both an operational perspective and creative point of view: A name that sounded too French might steer people away, we didn’t want to intimidate. A name that was too generic would be lost in a sea of new restaurant openings.

French sailor turned American powerhouse, Stephen Girard was always known for his headstrong and rebellious attitude. It’s what pushed him to leave his home in Bordeaux and travel the world, conquering New York City’s shipping and trade industry before docking in Philadelphia to build a life. From there, Girard went on to build a number of successful businesses in banking, construction, politics, coal mining, and transportation.

We named this restaurant The Wayward as a tribute to Girard’s spirit, his life at sea, and his legacy as a successful entrepreneur. Beyond that, the word “wayward” felt off-the-beaten-path and a nod to the physical walkway in which this restaurant is located. Words like offbeat could also be pulled into storytelling, alluding to the restaurant’s art and music influence without forcing it.

A Name Needs a Narrative

Every good name has a rationale behind it. Why did we choose it? How does it stand up against criticism? What makes it strong? For The Wayward, the evidence was compelling:

  • The name provides a great storytelling moment, you can envision a customer asking about the name and having the server respond with a thoughtful backstory on Girard
  • The Wayward is easy to spell and remember, customers will have no trouble finding our pronouncing it
  • It immediately relates to Girard’s wayward spirit, travelers, oysters, the tucked-away location, and Philadelphia’s rebellious attitude
  • It feels like a whimsical, fun addition to the city’s dining scene and could be branded in playful ways – we saw “legs” with the brand narrative

From a Name, Comes a Voice

With a name firmly established, the brand needs a voice to express itself next. For The Wayward, that voice took the shape of snippets of off-beat text and phrases, rooted in these characteristics:

We are playful. There’s a fun juxtaposition between new and old, American and French, grit and elegance in this brand. We want that offbeat characteristic to come through in our voice, so we speak in a way that is fun, colorful, and humorous at times.

We are soulful. Philadelphia has a deep history of music and our voice should represent that. We speak as warmly and rhythmically as your favorite old-school soul song—always adding in a little bit of emotion or funk.

We are unpretentious: French-focused food can come across as unapproachable. Our voice should be down-to-earth and friendly so that guests feel welcomed into the space, rather than intimidated. We’re Philly Attitude with French style.

Brand Character

Mr. Wayward

Mr. Wayward is a dapper man with a penchant for hard work and craftsmanship. Inspired by Girard himself, he’s not afraid to follow his intuition, even if it means breaking a rule or two. He holds his cards close to his chest, though if you get a few drinks in him, he’s sure to tell you a story from his sailing days. At first, Mr. Wayward may come across as off-beat or unconventional. But when you get to know him, you’ll find that he’s the type of reliable, honest friend that we all search for. Always to lend a hand, or an ear, to those in need.

From a Voice, Comes a Vision

After defining The Wayward voice, we started to imagine how the brand should look. Enter Mr. Wayward, a dapper man with a penchant for hard work and craftsmanship. To bring this character to life, we enlisted illustrator Kelly Gillin-Schwartz, @myprofessionalartaccount. The finished product was so well-liked that it influenced the entire brand identity, from icons to additional illustrations to digital animations.

We’d like to be a place where weary travelers and curious locals alike can come together over good food and easy conversation. So wander over to Chestnut Way and stay for a bit. We’ll be waiting with a strong drink in hand.

Mr. Wayward