The Noodling Backstory of Fat Mao’s Grinning Fat Cat Logo in Chinatown

Branding Vancouver looks at some of the more interesting logos and icons that appear in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene. Some of the explanations will be long and others short, but the goal of deeper understanding will be constant. If you want the backstory of a particularly compelling local brand revealed, let us know via @scoutmagazine and we’ll try to figure it out.

The Brand: For this edition, prolific chef and restaurateur Angus An fills us in on his vision for Chinatown’s Fat Mao restaurant and the noodling backstory of its grinning cat mascot:

“We wanted to open a noodle bar with Japanese manga as its theme. In Chinese “Fat Mao” means ‘Prosperous Cat’ and we liked the play on the lucky cat meaning. We came up with a narrative where the fat cat is the main character of our comic. He was a stray cat that lived in Chinatown and was passionate about noodles, so he travelled around the world in search of them. I wanted the menu to reflect that. Silky Chan helped us design the logo and typeface and together we translated our narrative into the menus you see at Fat Mao today.”

The Designer: Silky Chan was excited to collaborate with An on this project. His clear vision for the brand and the strong element of illustration integral to Fat Mao’s menu presented an irresistibly rare opportunity for the artist. Here, Chan explains her thought process in creating the final result:

“When we discussed Fat Mao’s brand identity, it was established that it would be a cozy 1980s-90s Manga inspired noodle shop. Luckily, I also grew up reading the same classics so I used many of my favourite Mangas as my inspiration to come up with Fat Mao’s character design. Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½ was one of my main influences. The softness and playfulness of her style translated to the warmth and energy I wanted to depict.

“As for the logo, I played around with many different ideas. In the end, I used the traditional Chinese seal as my main inspiration to create the “FAT MAO” Chinese letters. The logo can be easily applied to any elements and still stand out. My main objective was to create a logo that is versatile and bold, while also reflecting the aesthetic of the Fat Mao brand. The cat icon was also designed under the same rational.

“The biggest challenge for me was translating “FAT MAO” into the traditional Chinese seal lettering style. Luckily, there’s so much history in Chinese seal lettering, so there was lot out there I could reference. However, since it was the first time I’d worked in this style, I had to make sure I didn’t butcher the cultural reference while also keeping the logo modern.

“At first I was so set on incorporating the cat into the logo. I had so many different variations and then later realized the Chinese seal lettering is already strong enough as a graphic to stand as a logo itself. Hence, the cat just became a supporting graphic to the logo.

“During brainstorming, we talked about potentially creating a mural within the restaurant illustrating all the adventures of Fat Mao the cat. It was a really big project and a very cool idea, so I was pretty disappointed that the idea fell through. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was kind of relieved too considering the scope of it – especially since I am not too familiar with painting in large scale, hahaha!”

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