The problems that Danielle Evans encounters while employing her craft fall under the unusual – yogurt separating, getting the right jiggle out of a jello letter, the odor certain foods develop under camera lights…but the end result yields a new genre of typography the Columbus-based artist is largely responsible for creating.
Evans’ creative studio Marmalade Bleue is in the business of food typography and counts names like Target, Bath & Body Works and SXSW under its client list.
An illustrator by schooling, Evans struggled to reconcile the two career paths that seemed to be available for her studies: character design or children’s books.
“About halfway through school I discovered typography,” she says.
She loved the order, the shapes, the cleanliness.
Her next discovery would be lettering.
“I find letting is a directional way to tell a story,” Evans says. “The word has inherent meaning so the viewer comprehends more quickly what you are trying to say.”
During school and for a few years after, Evans developed other interests like photography, cooking and even sculpture. There didn’t seem to be a clear path to meddle and mix her varied interests into something she truly enjoyed, or that could even be labeled.
Eventually Evans started dabbling in lettering again, creating a messy, heavy, contrast- dominant style. Then she took the lettering off the computer and started playing around with objects in real life.
“I discovered that food was actually one of the easier ways to do this,” she says.
First, food was cheaper than many art supplies. Second, don’t like it? Wipe it away and start again. Also, every food carries some inherent weight or understanding.
The first food typography piece Evans created was with coffee.
She was having a cup of java with a friend, explaining her lack of direction. Evans told her friend, “Good design is like a cup of coffee – you’re not simply consuming the coffee, you’re having an experience.”
There’s the smell, the heat of holding a cup, the texture of frothy milk – it’s a multi-sensory experience. Evans wanted people to be able to experience her work. Her friend asked why she didn’t try making something out of coffee – which she quite literally did.
The first food typography piece came easily. Evans snapped a photo and put it on the internet. The internet responded with appreciation and a career was born.
By following her intuition and pursuing the work she enjoyed, “My story is indicative of how anyone can do these sorts of things,” Evans says. “If it’s distinctive and interesting, people will take note of it. It’s will anyone do it versus can anyone do it.”
Since 2013, Evans has been lettering creations out of candy corn, spices, bacon, pie, pasta sauce, crab legs and all sorts of other edibles. Just how those substances will react when placed in letter form is a question Evans often answers through plenty of pre-production experimentation. Sometimes it tears, sometimes it melts, sometimes it smears and sometimes it just doesn’t turn out as expected and that means wiping the whole thing clean and starting over.
Her initial tabletop creations made sense in terms of scale, but Evans wanted to go bigger. She started playing around with everyday objects.
“I thought it was interesting to assign some sort of elegance or purpose to these commonplace items,” she says.
Kitty litter, to bed sheets, to curling ribbon, to shoelaces, to plants have been strategically morphed and placed into winding words and phrases.
“The balance for me is trying to figure out how I make legible lettering that looks purposeful while honoring the nature of the item that I’m using,” Evans says.
As a studio Marmalade Bleue is very fluid. Evans can work on a project start to finish, from copywriting to final photography, or bring in photographers or motion specialists. Her creations take shape everywhere from her dining room table, to sets with high-profile clients.
Evans says collaborating with the likes of Target or Bath & Body Works has been humbling.
“The fact that they find value in who you are and what you’re doing, it’s extremely moving,” she says.
Another collaboration with the SXSW festival for a food mural (the feature image and one of her favorite projects) gave her a new perspective on her work. Festival-goers could actually pull food from the wall and eat it.
“I don’t often have the opportunity to see people engaging with my work,” Evans says.
More murals are on deck for Marmalade Bleue as well as explorations in lettering in environments (think rocks on the beach, painting in the desert). Evans also has plans to poke a little fun at the design industry and tackle the 90s trend that just won’t seem to go away.
While her work has taken her from coast to coast and even across the ocean, Evans is quite proud her business is based in Columbus.
“It’s fun to be from the Midwest and being ok from being from here,” she says. “This city has so much to offer and it’s driven by smart, dedicated, hard-working people.”
She’s found partners in local creative firms and food purveyors in creating projects.
“It’s really exciting when I can elevate the community here,” Evans says.
She’s really responsible for elevating an industry. The first in food typography, others have, of course, followed her lead. Evans calls it a strange mix of confusion and humility. It’s exciting to see the industry expanding, but comes with lessons in respect for what others are doing and finding her own box and boundaries.
“It’s one thing to be the first, but it’s important to be the best,” she says.
Evans looks to push herself to keep Marmalade Bleue as the trailblazer in food typography.
For more information, visit marmaladebleue.com.
All photos via Marmalade Bleue website.