quote: I couldn't stand it when people called me 'el pintor' -the painter.
                    for that matter, I still can't stand getting paint on my hands. -John on being an artist




Restaurant and Sports Bar Design

John Rivera-Resto, Spring 2019.

I don't drink and I'm not a sports fan. But I seem to have a knack for Sports Bars and Restaurants. I do like food, good food, and in fact, I'm married to a chef. I even managed two Burger King restaurants in my younger days. So anyway, how do you jump from painting murals to designing bars and restaurants? Well, in a nutshell: in order to make my artwork look even better, I had to redesign the rest of the surroundings to catch up to the quality.


Still, this begs the question, what qualifies me as an interior and conceptual designer, and a particular "expert" in sports bars and restaurants with million-dollar budgets? Well, it's complicated. But the main reason I get these jobs is this one: I provide clients with the opportunity to see their dreams "before" they invest large amounts of money to make them a reality. And in the process, I come up with designs and ideas that will increase their chances of success, and, maximize their profits.



Along the way, I also become a trusted adviser and confidant, and an intermediary between the clients and all the contractors and most specialists needed to build the physical location of their business. Clients are very grateful for this "comforting" service. I'm "the kind of guy" you need in your corner to fill in the gaps you may have missed or never known they existed. I'm on your side, and I want you to succeed, because without you and the challenges of your dreams, life for me would be somewhat boring -and poorer.


By now you can see a common thread emerging: money. In this line of work, where small fortunes are gained or lost in a matter of months, you have to take your job seriously and be very, very good at what you do. Readers of Muralmaster already know that I'm here to tell you how I do things and the unvarnished truth of my line of work. I always try to be upbeat but at times I have to be brutally honest. This is one of those occasions.



Now that you get the picture, let's go back to the original question: "What qualifies me to do this kind of job?" No, I didn't go to school to learn it. As a matter of fact, several designers who spent years in college learning the craft and getting a diploma that states they are qualified (or should be qualified), have "casually" approached me to learn "my secret" for getting the type of commissions they would love to get. I'm always courteous and polite but do not give them much of an explanation other than -"I know the owner".


For the most part, they accept this explanation in stride assuming I got the job because of my "inside connection". "That explains it!" -they think. Sadly, they think badly. In this business an astute client would not hire their own son, or wife, or mother to do the job when money and success are the bottom line. Most of the businesses that I know failed miserably, happened because they depended on someone with "inside connections", such as "a friend of the family", or "a buddy from college", or "my nephew who just got a designer degree from college."



The reality is that my work speaks for itself and it attracts new clients. They call me wanting something "different" than the rest of the "cookie cutter" establishments. They know I will offer them something unique, perhaps even iconic, depending on how far their budgets can stretch and time will allow. To be fair, I have a collection of skills and knowledge accumulated over many decades going back to the nineteen-seventies that give me an edge over many other designers. In essence, hiring me is like hiring "a dozen experts in one", -that's a bargain!


So, what are these skills that make me so valuable? They are as follows: an architect, an architectural engineer, an interior designer, a builder, a theatrical set designer, a graphic designer, a lighting designer, a decorator, a muralist and faux painter, a sign painter, a modeller, a sculpture, an illustrator, a restaurant manager, a photographer and video/sound editor, a teacher and lecturer, with additional knowledge and experience in marketing and distribution, bookkeeping, politics, foreign travel and more than one language. What's more, I learned most of these skills before computers, when you actually had to use your brain to figure things out, use typewriters and draw everything by hand. I guess that's one of the benefits of being born in the fifties -though I have nicely adapted to new technologies.



Being born in Puerto Rico surrounded by family in the construction business was my first stroke of good fortune. I knew my way around construction sites, power tools and blueprints at an early age. I also took classes in architectural drafting and read the same texts that some of my friends used in architecture and architectural engineering. I even helped them with their homework and papers -though I never went for a diploma. I did study architectural history in college way back in 1977. I also study marketing and distribution and even got a diploma in bookkeeping (I think this was my first one, I was 18 at the time). Everything else I learned on my own while working in various jobs such as a restaurant manager or as a contractor renovating houses.


Add to this years of college art studies in various specialties, a solid background in the theater, and further work and experience while traveling, and you get the picture. Everywhere I happened to be, I would take time to study the latest architecture, or nightclub, or restaurant decor just to keep up with the latest. Learning about these things is a hobby of mine and I kept good records and visuals of my research. So when a client comes to me I usually have things worked out in my mind before we finish our first meeting. Not that I would volunteer this, after all, it is my thoughts and ideas they have to pay for.



Since I'm not a "professional" designer, I'm not compelled to conform to the established rules of the business. I think out of the box. Nor do I have to worry about getting the job; I can always do something else. But when I get the job I follow some basic rules: approach the job like a designer (one who creates from scratch) and not a decorator (one who uses what's already available); go for the ideal and then work it down to the available budget, always approach a design from the patrons point of view and make it as pleasant and memorable as can be.


The thumbnails included in this page will show you most of the jobs I have done in the last decade. Though presently I'm semi-retired from this kind of work (it's an age thing), it is possible that others may appear from time to time (it's a money thing). For those of you who would like to get into this kind of work, below is a list of some of "the basic" things I think you will find useful. You will see how I use these skills and tools in all the jobs listed. For other types of design work not related to this restaurants and bars, click the 'Interiors and other art' link on the Menu. Enjoy.



The 12 Basics:

Things to need to have, know, and do to have an edge in the design field.



1- You need a computer. When I started designing in the 1970s, all I had was a pencil and a stack of typing paper to make sketches. Simple, but I got the jobs. But that was then and this is now: 2019 as of this writing. Today, you need to own a good computer. I have a desktop computer (PC) with two monitors on my desk. All my designs are done in my home office on this computer. I also have a laptop computer for when I need to be on the move and basically show the work I produced on my home pc.

2- "Must have" computer programs: Photoshop (or an equivalent program for editing photos, photographic manipulation and digital painting), SketchUp (to build 3D models) or Blender (if you want to go all the way to "full-Pro" with 3D computer graphics); PowerPoint (to do the presentations that will get you jobs), a word processing program (record keeping and writing -duh), a sound editor (Audacity is excellent for this purpose) and a video & sound editor (I use DaVinci Resolve for providing video visuals or animated conceptual imaging on presentations). Except for Photoshop and PowerPoint, these programs are free online (as well as other free alternatives to Photoshop and Powerpoint). Watch YouTube tutorial videos and learn how to use the tools-of-your-trade! What if computers are not your thing? Then have a significant other to do it for you! A friend, you kid brother, your husband or wife, the teenage geek who lives next door... in short: someone reliable you can depend on.

3- You need a camera: Your phone camera comes in handy but you really need a good camera kit. You will be taking tons of reference photographs. And once you have a camera, learn how to use all its features. Practice taking photographs under different environments, such as interiors, exteriors, at nighttime and during daytime conditions. Once you are competent with photography, learn how to shoot videos with your camera or phone. You'll be glad you did. My first digital camera was a Canon PowerShot G1 which came out in 2000. This was my workhorse for 17 years and it still works! Presently, my latest camera is the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D). The fact that I'm presently concentrating more on shooting videos made this camera an ideal choice. Having the latest tech is preferable, but be smart about it. Get the best equipment you can comfortably afford. Then use this equipment well to get the jobs that will provide you with the resources to upgrade your gear. Remember, I got some incredibly lucrative commissions with just pencil and paper.

4- Signup for a 'DropBox' account or an equivalent file hosting service, such as Google Drive or Amazon Drive, to name a few. For some jobs you will need to send material to a printer, or large size videos to clients. Printing and videos require large size files, too big for email. So DropBox is extremely convenient and flexible for you, your printer, and your clients. Also, have large capacity USB flash drives for storing the files you want to share in person with others or move around other media devices.

5- Read books and watch videos on: geometry (for architecture), architectural history and styles, architectural terms and vocabulary, color and light theory. This is just for starters. Then you need to know a bit of everything. The 'CrashCourse' channel on YouTube is my number-one place to fill-in my knowledge gaps in a concise, fun, and visual way. I have watch every single video on their playlist! Knowledge is free and it pays great dividends! I will give you personal confidence which key to being cool! Take advantage of it. A knowledgeable artist is a self-assured artist and it shows in your interaction with potential clients. Most if not all client interactions begin with conversation that has nothing to do with the project at hand.

6- Read magazines and watch videos on: fashion, architecture, restaurants, nightclubs, and consumer shifts in taste. You need to keep up with the latest popular trends and fads; you need to know about the consumers that will be patronizing the establishments of current and future clients. This is your target audience you will be creating for. Almost everyone in my crew is in their teens. They keep me young by sharing the latest movements and I help them be more open-minded and cultured by introducing them to all the cool things from the past.

7- Study tutorial videos on: public speaking (you need to be a good presenter). Practice with a live audience (your family, friends, etc.) and listen to their feedback. If you are shy or need help, then take an acting course. I did. I can not stress enough how important presentations are. All things being equal, in a choice between three artists, the client will usually pick the one that left the best impression. A give killer presentations. This is one of the main reasons I get the jobs. You can do the same if you practice and prepare well in advance. Role-play by pretending one of your friends is a potential client and prepare a presentation for a dummy-project. It's fun and you will learn a lot. Better to be a fool in a role-playing exercise that in a live presentation.

8- Visit every restaurant, bar and club in your area: take notes and pictures whenever possible. Observe the good, the bad and the ugly. Travel outside your area and do the same. This is your creative battleground; know the lay of the land. When a potential client begins a conversation with: -"Have you ever been at such and such?", 90% of the time I know what's in their mind because I have already studied these locations and know how to steer the conversation.

9- Keep good visual records and research records. Google is a start. But don't just collect them. Study them and keep going back to them. Your mind will begin to connect the dots with repeated visits. Don't forget about books! Visit your library with an agenda of what you want research on every excursion. Then, use that nifty camera on your cell to photograph pages with relevant information and images for your collection. And don't forget to write short notes of what things are, place them next to an image, and photograph them in the same shot. Later on, when you need that specific resource, you will be so happy you did.

10- Talk to people and have prepared questions: such as -What they like or dislike about a place, what keeps them coming back, what they would like to add or take away, and so on. And don't forget to note their age, gender, profession, ethnic background, level of education, and so on. This is invaluable information for marketing (finding the needs of the public so you can design to satisfy that need or provide a product).

11- Visit home centers, trade shows, hardware stores, art fairs, flea markets, and so on: learn about supplies, tools and materials available on the market and construction methods. Note prices and the range in costs for similar products and services from one store to the next. Have fun during these "discovery" excursions. Bring a friend for commentary.

12- Lastly, have a webpage with your information, and a business card: If you want to be found, a webpage is a must (start with a one-page). It shows what you have done and can do, this is the first place people will look. The business card is for meetings, so everyone can see you name and remember who you are. Last tip: make sure you use a large size font. People who can hire you are likely to use reading glasses. Don't start things on the wrong foot annoying potential clients by giving them a business card they find hard to read. And when you get a business card in return, don't just stuff it in you pocket like a discarded candy wrapper. Take a second to study it, and then respectfully place in your wallet or card holder. Always, always, always show respect.






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