Character Creative helps Ottawa Bagelshop launch a new look for a new generation

Case Study by Ryan Thompson RGD, Character Creative


The Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli is a local landmark with roots in the community that go back 30 years. Family-owned and operated, it’s a place to meet friends for coffee or eat meals as a family and it is chock full of delicious goodies for those who love great authentic food. Opened by Vince Piazza in the 1980s, the time had come to hand the reins to his daughter, Liliana, who had a new vision for the Bagelshop.



Through word of mouth, Liliana was referred to Character Creative and brought us on board for the project. We had a strong understanding of the Bagelshop neighbourhood and had been patrons of the shop ourselves. My business partner Jamie McLennan and I both have young families and represent the target audience Liliana was hoping to reach with the new brand.

The project lasted five months: two weeks of discovery and research, three weeks for concept development and finalizing the brand identity and three months to roll out a variety of deliverables including signage, labels, website updates and menus to complete the new image for The Bagelshop.


For the research phase of the project, we spoke to company stakeholders and the local BIA to identify the overall challenges within the neighbourhood from the perspective of providing food services. We also observed existing patrons and analyzed their interests and attributes to identify what the brand needed to convey in order to attract them. The majority of the patrons are from within the neighbourhood, so we looked to surrounding similar businesses to see how they presented themselves to their customers and identified the shop's competitors what distinguished them in the market. In speaking with our client, she noted that the main competitor has incorporated very similar elements to the brand the Bagelshop has been using for a number of years, most notably using the colour red as a recognizable visual cue. 


A creative brief was not provided by the client, so we created one for ourselves to help guide the approach. Other project requirements discussed with the client included incorporating an additional colour scheme that would complement the signature red colour. The key objectives were to help enhance the family friendly atmosphere, better distinguish their brand from the main competitor's and ensure that the new brand had some flexibility while still remaining consistent overall.


We developed an initial approach that positioned The Bagelshop as a soft, friendly, comfortable place for customers to get what they need to feed their families. Another important consideration was that Liliana wished to retain portions of the original brand to pay homage to her father’s legacy, including parts of the original logo.


Jamie and I presented three concepts that took these elements into consideration. We kept the main word mark and made minor improvements to the spacing. An accompanying icon would play an important role in reimagining the brand of the Bagelshop. Each concept was presented with context showing Liliana how the logo could be applied to various pieces such as aprons, signage and labels.



Liliana chose the heart shape concept because it effectively reflected the idea of family and integrated well with the tagline: “Montreal Style. Ottawa Heart.”


The tagline came from our initial discussion of the project. Liliana's goal was to convey a brand identity that is genuine and caring. We felt it was a great standard to move forward with and were happy that it came from her directly. It helped give her a sense of ownership and involvement in the creative process that we feel provided faster approvals and stakeholder buy in.


With the identity finalized, we started developing the other pieces for the rebrand including updated signage, banners, wall graphics, menus, stationery, product labels, bags and website updates. Using the new icon as the base, we built a system that features the various legacy elements in a modern and colourful way. Images of Mr. Piazza making bagels from 30 years ago were used as the backdrop for marketing pieces and installed as wall graphics in the restaurant. One wall features the full story of the Bagelshop on a striking, bright red background for those in the restaurant sitting area to read while they sip their morning coffee.


We also helped pick paint colours based on the suite of colours chosen for the new brand to bring a more dynamic and vibrant atmosphere to the shop.



Overall, Liliana and the Bagelshop staff were very open to what we proposed. Steps were taken throughout the process to ensure respect for Mr. Piazza's continued involvement through the transition. Although Mr. Piazza was still being consulted, he left the final decisions to Liliana, so while this created an extra step in the creative process, it was important to Liliana and ultimately essential for the project’s success. We didn't propose any idea that we felt would be unsuitable to the evolution of the brand.



Incorporating existing typography into a modern brand identity was something we had to accommodate with our vision for the rebrand. Our first choice would have been to create a whole new type treatment for the identity, but we were able to update the typography around the main word mark to accomplish a more modern and clarified solution.


With a production schedule that was dictated by budgetary considerations, it was difficult to coordinate a comprehensive launch for the project. Instead, we were able to prioritize the more exposed pieces so the official 'launch' was seen as complete, while other elements of the new branding were still in progress. 


To address budgetary constraints and sustainability concerns, we recommended that vinyl lettering be used for the menus to save the cost of reprinting full signs when pricing changes, which happens biannually. 

It’s too early in the life of the rebrand to measure the financial implications, but the client has reported receiving more positive feedback from both staff and clientele than the Bagelshop has ever seen in its 30 year history. There was a surge of spirit and enthusiasm in the shop as result of the new brand.

“We have had many compliments from our customers who love the new look and feel. The many changes made didn’t alienate or turn off a single customer, which is a huge win in my book! Also, the new design has improved the energy and feel of the store.” – Liliana Piazza, Bagel Queen


Designer Takeaways:

  1. Listen to your client and identify the things that are most important to them.
  2. Provide context for communicating your ideas – seeing is believing!
  3. Think it through. Envision your idea from every perspective.


Client Takeaways:

  1. Know what is important to you – set expectations.
  2. Understand the process - ask the right questions so you know what to expect.
  3. Consistency is everything.