Shabina Aslam | The Kitchen


The Kitchen at Reynolds

Building a new brand identity for a culinary program within a community college. 


As the third largest community college in Virginia, J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College is Richmond’s community college. In Spring 2019, JSRCC will open the doors to its newest campus: The Reynolds Culinary Institute (RCI), a state of the art culinary complex in Richmond’s East End. 

The Ask(s)

We were asked to build a brand campaign for the RCI with the following objectives in mind:

Short term GOALS

Grow enrollment as quickly as possible

Showcase the project to finish the fundraising campaign

Long term GOALS

Position the RCI as a regional beacon for workforce, economic, and community development

Become a national model for other culinary programs

REFRAMING The Challenges

The development and launch of the RCI faces many challenges with this project:


There’s a stark difference between Richmond Proper and the East End where the median family income is close to $15,000. Several businesses and developers have acknowledged the opportunity for the East End to become a thriving community, but have faced resistance due to past instances that have historically displaced and disappointed Richmond’s low-income residents.


Not only does the RCI have millions of dollars left to fundraise, but the team’s fundraising efforts also target the key players of the community. These are the folks who are contacted day in and day out for donations with one end goal: to help build Richmond.


While accessibility and affordability are key differentiators, the RCI’s tie to J Sergeant Reynolds Community College risks watering down the program in the eyes of prospective students that are heavily interested in a career in the culinary arts.



This project had several key audiences including: 

  • Prospective students
  • Current students
  • Richmond restaurant owners
  • East End community members
  • Richmond donors 
  • Current Instructors

Along with a visit to the current downtown campus, the construction site, and local community hubs, we interviewed stakeholders to better understand the impact they envision and anticipate with the opening of the RCI. 

We interviewed the following stakeholders:


Several interviews, four key takeaways:

  1. The community’s optimism for a stronger future outweighs it’s wariness of gentrification. For community members, opportunities for East End’s people are more compelling than the opportunities for the East End itself.

  2. Richmond’s food scene is selective towards newcomers, largely due to the time commitment required to train kitchen newbies. For a new hire to be desirable, the classroom experience and on the job training go hand in hand.

  3. According to Reynold’s chefs and students, if there’s one thing prospective students need to know about the program, it’s the sheer amount of dedication required to make it through the two years.

  4. While it is still a good idea to talk to the key donors in the community, there is an opportunity to talk to young millennial families that not only want to see the Richmond food scene grow, but would also be interested in taking advantage of events sponsored by the RCI.

the vision

At its core, the RCI has two core visions:

  1. Expansion of culinarian skills and expertise among the community

  2. Workforce economic development of Greater Richmond, specifically the East End

the Brand Position


Food can fuel a city, and we positioned the RCI to emphasize this one, simple idea. Culinary development is a phrase we coined for this project to describe the economic and culinarian expansion that a culinary program like Reynolds can emanate within the East End, into greater Richmond.

THE communications Strategy

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In several aspects, the RCI is an underdog. These were the expectations we chose to rewrite:

That the East End can’t thrive as well as other Richmond neighborhoods do.

The revitalization of the East End isn’t predicted to churn out the city’s best talent. We have the opportunity to represent the drive of a community that is constantly underestimated, and show the rest of the city what the East End can bring to the table.

That a community college doesn’t hold the same weight as a four year university.

Reynolds has dedicated several resources to this state-of-the-art facility with the future of its students in mind. We have the opportunity to emphasize a well-rounded curriculum built on a trajectory for success. 

That a culinary program can’t have a point of view.

Culinary Institute of Virginia, Stratford University, Art Institute, ICE, CIA, all of these program make the same promises without indicating how hard those promises are to keep. We have the opportunity to go beyond the fundamentals and embrace the culture of the city and the community we’re located in, with a point of view that reflects real life.

the brand identity

Introducing The Kitchen, the brand identity created for the RCI. Drawing heavily from the new building’s architectural flair and the city of Richmond’s creative nature, The Kitchen is designed with the RCI's core vision in mind. 

A brand manifesto was created to help illustrate The Kitchen's point of view: 


internal branding

Chefs coats, cafe collateral, and stationary create a consistent brand experience throughout all interactions with the school. 



Out of home executions help get the word out around the Richmond area. 


for alumni

The Kitchen's alumni can rep the school at their local businesses with a branded sticker that shines the spotlight on both the staff and The Kitchen. 

The alumni map online shows where in the city The Kitchen has placed its alumni. 



Donors receive a branded "Thank You" box that includes a gift such as a branded utensil, or a Reynolds cookbook. 

Donors will also have a spoon dedicated to them on the donor wall within The Kitchen complex. 



Jacob Buller, Strategist
Eliza Hadjis, Strategist
Michael Rodriguez, Art Director
Allie Carr, Copywriter
Dominic Johns, Copywriter
Coryn Bajema, Experience Designer


Gold ADDY, AAF Hampton Roads
Best in Show, AAF Hampton Roads
Gold ADDY, AAF District 3

This work was chosen from a live-client pitch, and will inform the brand identity of "The Kitchens at Reynolds"