To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Surface Magazine teamed up with 2x4 and architect David Rockwell to create The Diner, a pop-up experience based on the American diner, designed to showcase American design on the global stage during Milan Design Week 2018. Located in Ventura Centrale, underneath the Milan Central Station, a cavernous concrete vault was transformed into fully functional restaurant and nightclub with four distinct spaces that limned the evolution of the diner across time and geography.

Our brand identity and media campaign for The Diner was based in the idea of the diner as the first “open source” brand — a distinctly American blend of experience design, technology, and service — and sought to recast the resilient American icon as a compelling site of optimistic and transgressive potential. This was expressed typographically through our custom-designed font “American Optimism,” by the quippy hyperbole of Diner menus, neon signs, and countless quintessential Hollywood film scenes in booths and counters. Illustration, animation and signage integrated seamlessly into the space to narrate the role of the diner in American culture and hospitality.

The Diner served as an intimate stage for dialogue by day and a pulsing cocktail lounge by night, attracting ample attendance and attention as this year’s “most Instagrammable moment” and, ultimately, earning the Salone del Mobile’s Best Engagement award for 2018.


Rendering of the ring above the counter
Custom postcards featuring an array of famous diner movie scenes
Postcard display
Custom menu
“American Optimism” font designed for The Diner
Scene from the opening