Case Study

Noah's Smokehouse

Southern Style Slow Cooked BBQ

Case Study


Noah's Smokehouse


Jan - June 2019

Our Services

  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Identity System
  • Customer Experience (CX)
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Print Collateral
  • Art Direction

A Different Way to Eat

Noah’s Smokehouse seeks to provide customers an authentic southern smoked barbecue experience in the heart of Dearborn, MI. Surrounded by trendy eateries and shopping experiences, the challenge was to create a southern charm that stands unique amongst the competition. We coined the slower the better to emphasize the slow, succulent cooking process. Noah’s location was built in 1833 and has a historic attachment to the Detroit Arsenal. Considering the natural rustic design of the building, we worked with the owners to create a charming interior and exterior design, along with print and marketing collateral. The retrofitted restaurant design yells small town America to the aroma of southern barbecue.

Project Goals

  • 1. Collaborative Strategy of Brand Identity

  • 2. Authenticate the Customer Experience (CX)

  • 3. Develop Marketing Differentiators

  • 4. Brand Positioning for Franchise Opportunities

Understanding the Noah's Smokehouse Customer

Noah’s Smoke House is located in the midst of the Ford Motor Company’s professional offices and facilities. Our research showed that the persona is a sophisticated customer who appreciates both quality and style. Additionally, Dearborn is home to the Henry Ford Museum and attracts tourists from around the world. The branding exudes elements of American nostalgia: farm culture, the great outdoors, small town America, and of course, good old barbecue.

Getting Hands-On at the Smokehouse

Before the branding journey began, Noah’s Smokehouse location was a specialty grocer and would need a complete environmental design to suit the branding strategy. First, the space was emptied, becoming a cavernous space and a blank canvas to work from. Next, Usul Design toured the site, surveying spatial dimensions, factoring natural lighting elements and beginning the design strategy that would transform the location into a rustic, authentic, southern dining experience.

The creative direction was to be influenced by contemporary America, a post-war era nostalgia that would exude the simplicity of yesteryear. The location was the perfect place to create a customer experience steeped in southern charm and mystique yet friendly and cheerful in a juxtaposition only the south can unite. The challenge was on.

"The foundation of branding is built upon core beliefs:
who you are and who you are not, without that there is no identity."

Don Walker, Chief Brand Strategist, Usul Design

The Design Approach

We began the process in the discovery phase, researching the market of smoked BBQ restaurants. Thereafter, we conducted multiple sessions with shareholders, mapping out a brand strategy that defined the values of Noah’s Smokehouse, collaborating on that which does and does not define the brand ideal. Once we were able to define the core beliefs, we entered the creative phase.


We worked with contractors to create rustic and distressed elements within the interior design of the restaurant. Then we applied branding and messaging upon those elements, harmonizing the physical environment with the Noah’s Smokehouse brand values.    

Accent Wall

The interior walls of the building are unfinished brick so we sought to utilize this as a blank raw textured canvas. We sourced a prime location to grace with a secondary logo we created for Noah's. We handcrafted a mural of the logo directly onto the unfinished surface and positioned a dedicated light to accent the logo, which is especially noticeable from outside, as customers approach the restaurant.    

Raw Resources

We constructed materials that would be applied to walls, counters and railings in order to provide the customer with a dining experience that communicated the nostalgic vibe we developed for the Noah’s brand. We hand constructed many materials and applied them as panels to the interior elements. Additionally we applied branding to exterior elements in the form of signage and logos etched tastefully on the windows of the restaurant.

Color Palette & Typography

Considering the potential franchise expansion of Noah’s, it was necessary to develop a brand identity system and guidelines. We developed an identity that was simple, rustic and contemporary. We selected a color palette that communicated well with food and the brand’s weathered aesthetics. Lastly, primary fonts were selected that are highly legible and matched the style of the restaurant. These fonts would serve as the base textual content for all printed and digital publications.

Branding Integration

After creating the brand identity system, we applied it to the print collateral of the restaurant. This included dine-in and take-out menus and business cards, some printed on brown kraft paper for a rustic effect, as well as labeling for house made sauces, and packaging for take out.

We also produced employee uniforms, this included t-shirts and head wear. In the future, we will be working with Noah’s to provide merchandising items for customers who want to take home the Noah’s experience.

The Results: A Rustic Renaissance

At the end of this exciting journey we were able to produce an environment and an experience that impressed the owners and customers alike. We helped launch the opening of Noah’s Smokehouse in the spring of 2019 and the feedback has been phenomenal. The main indictor of success has been the assumption of this founding location being a franchise of a larger chain. Furthermore, the client is delighted with the aesthetics and touch points we provided. Noah’s Smoke House is reaping the reward of its new brand identity.

Welcome to Noah's Smokehouse Y'all

Positioned for
the Future

From the onset, we envisioned a larger goal for Noah’s Smokehouse. The client envisioned multiple locations, and we sought to position the brand to accommodate this vision. The rustic yet modern brand works as suitably on a 19th century building as it would on a modern decor. A brand versatility and flexibility that is essential in expansion goals. We look forward to working to evolve Noah’s Smokehouse into a household name in America.