Branding, Boars & Babies: The Big B with Pocket-Sized Digital Designer Ilysa Corns

TCR logoDesign mtg w schwartzBranding. One simple word, such infinite effects.

The Nike Swoosh come to mind?  How about Apple’s Apple, or the Crown of England?

Each of these images are internationally recognized, and have come to represent everything that the companies stand for.  As far as branding goes, that’s called nailing it.  


There are poor examples, of course, but you won’t remember those.  And if you’ve got a team filled with as much passion as they do drive, as I’ve been lucky enough to witness in action, then brilliant branding will follow.

So, as Michael drafts the next chapter of The Genuine Hospitality book for you, The Cypress Room, so do we embark on our next branding challenge.  Tomorrow a seeming small but potently mighty portion of that will become yours, as it has become ours over the past several months, when our website landing page goes live.  During the calm before the Design Miami/ storm, I sat down with an integral part of the team to chat about how our design magic happens, something usually left behind the scenes but at times like these pulsing at such a frequency that we have no choice and no greater pleasure than letting it bubble to the surface for all to enjoy and contemplate. Ladies and gentleman, Ms. Ilysa Corns… 

TGK: How did you come to do the digital design for The Genuine Hospitality Group?

Ilysa Corns:  I love food. Everyone who knows me knows I love food, and I love design. So, I was working at an ad agency down here and a colleague who had worked with Jackie at that same agency a couple of years prior put us in contact with each other. He knew we would be good for each other.

How instrumental were you in the inception of The Genuine Hospitality Group.

Well, the thing when I work with you guys is that everyone is great, and Michael has such a vision and Jackie has such a vision, that they make my job so easy for me. You guys already had the brand there, all the pieces, I just had to pull it together and bring it to life.

You have done several projects with us, could you tell us about them?

Complete redesign and overhaul of the Michael’s Genuine website, revamped the business cards, the Harry’s Pizzeria billboard, The Genuine Hospitality Group logo and identity, and now The Cypress Room, oh and I also revamped the blog, and created the new e-shop. The site was also built so Jackie can easily access the backend and make routine updates to content on her own, but for bigger little fixes – the Slow Food Day page for example – I’m the one she calls.   My team also handles hosting now.  

What has been your favorite project?

Oh, boy, that’s really hard. We’re just kicking it off, but I feel like it’s the Cypress Room. It’s nice to be involved in something right from the beginning, to be a part of that is really exciting for me. There is a clear voice and vision about the place. I can see it in my mind, I feel like I’ve been there and I already know what it’s like to sit there and eat. I feel like everyone involved really knows what they want to do. It’s great.

Least favorite?

I don’t have a least favorite.

What’s your background with coding?

What is my background with coding? You know that’s a good question. I’m a dabbler. I can code, but it’s dangerous, I know enough that I can speak the lingo and they can’t scare me with the acronyms (CSS, html). Originally when I went to school, many moons ago, I majored in computer art, with a minor in marketing, but by no means am I a coder or a developer. Those guys, what they do is amazing.

What school did you go to?

I went to the University of Buffalo and then I went to the School of Visual Arts for a little before I came down here.

Buffalo sounds cold.

Yea that’s why I moved here, I had enough snow for my lifetime. I remember walking in Buffalo and the art building was up a hill and it was before everything was digital so I was carrying this giant portfolio, basically a sail for the wind blowing off the lake. Then I went to the school of visual arts for an after graduate to study more advertising because I loved copywriting, I still love copy writing, I love words. Every time I saw an ad I loved I would look up who did it and it was always Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and that’s how I ended up down here. Life then took me to London for a few years and then Crispin and the desire for a bit of sunshine brought me back again.

And you certainly get to use your love for words at The Genuine Hospitality Group

Oh yea, there’s so much type. I think my time in London for a few years really changed my style, I think its more clean, simple…


Yes, fresh, simple and pure. Really clean and thoughtful.

What languages do you speak?

I only speak English…a little Yiddish. Well, I’m learning Spanish being down here with my son, but just enough to get me in trouble.

Wait, I meant what coding languages do you speak? Can I call it that?

Yea, they are like languages. I speak very basic, html and css. And I have people, I know who to call. I have to say, having the right partners (web developers) is integral when you’re doing this. The partnership is important because you all push each other forward, like you can have a developer who just does what you tell him to, or you can have developers who really work with you, which I feel like I’m finding now, it makes everything better. It’s like building a home, if you have a plumber who patches something with band-aids everywhere it’s not going to be as good as the plumber who goes in and fixes it for life. You have the right one and it becomes a partnership. Does that make sense?

Perfect sense, great metaphor.

Can I ask you a question?

Of course!

What’s interesting about what I do? I mean, the food thing is so fascinating…

What you do is fascinating, to me at least, you have such an eye.

I get crazy. I’m a little crazy. It’s funny cause what I love about it, is I love to take complicated problems or ideas and simplify them into a clean clear solution that someone will see and get the right take away. The goal is to make sure someone is going to get the right message as quickly as possible. I like that, I like that problem solving aspect. Sometimes people say make it look good, and to me there is so much more than looking good. Beauty is important, but it has to function as well…substance and style. But it’s like a disease cause you can be at the airport, or I was at the zoo and the signs were offensively bad, like the arrow was this terrible arrow that didn’t really tell people what direction to go. Design should make the world better…that’s so cheesy. It should communicate.

It’s true.

Honestly when I work with The Genuine Hospitality Group, it’s my favorite because I love food. It’s inspiring because it’s another one of my passions and it’s where I really would like to put most of my efforts.

We spoke about design communicating; do you think The Cypress Room logo accomplishes that?

You know, I’m going to be honest, I’m such a perfectionist…I think, I hope it does. What do you think, how does it read?

Nailed it. I think it’s perfect. It’s like The Palm, or some old traditional place, but with this modern, very design forward feel, the reflection in the water is my favorite. And the font.

I’m excited to design all the things that go with it as well.

Like what?

Well, the menus, the coasters, the napkins, the stationary, the business cards. Right now we’re not doing all of that, but when you design the logo you’re thinking about how you’re going to do all of those things to make the brand complete. You can’t just stick a logo on the door. I love menu design. People pick it up, and I don’t think they realize how important that is.

Well, you think about it when it’s a bad one!

Because you don’t want the menu design to outshine or speak over the food, but you want it to reinforce the feeling of the place. Like when you go to a party if the host has thought of all those details and touches it’s different than going to just have a drink. So that’s exciting, it can really elevate what you’re doing. Every little detail sends a message. All those little things make a difference. Especially when you want to do something simple, every little thing has to be just right. You want to have everything you need, nothing more and nothing less. That’s what I find fascinating.

Me too. So, you have a baby, how old is he now.

14 months.

That’s fun!

Yea he’s cute, it’s more fun every day, although he said “no” this morning, so I’m a little afraid of what is to come.

I bet! How do you manage it all? And always look perfect!

Do I?


Aw, thanks! It’s been a year of learning how to do that, I don’t think anyone can manage it all, but you do the best you can. There are days where you’re like ‘look at me go, I’m the best ever,’ and there are days where you feel you can’t do anything well. I have help – a great support system. I have a wonderful husband, and a babysitter, and I’m fortunate that I have a job and a business that I run from home. I’m lucky that I can sit in my home studio and see him running in the yard, those kinds of things make it easier to balance it all.

What’s your take on Schwartz?

He’s an elusive character. What is my take on him? He is a very talented man, with a clear vision. The boar’s head in his office terrifies me.

And for those who know Schwartz best, and those who don’t, let’s close with a couple of questions he’d ask.  Do you know what you’re doing?

Does anyone?

Are you gonna f*ck it up…?

I’ll do my best not to. 

2 thoughts on “Branding, Boars & Babies: The Big B with Pocket-Sized Digital Designer Ilysa Corns

  1. Pingback: The Cypress Room: Now Here, There & Everywhere! |

  2. Pingback: The Cypress Room, Our New Elegant American Dining Room, Opens Monday, March 25! |

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