Tonka —

A lesson in what not to do with a camera.

Elise, not
the happiest of

holi festival of colour


With its classic laneway location and thoroughly modern approach to one of the world’s oldest food cultures, Melbourne restaurant Tonka has transformed the way that Melbourne diners consider Indian cuisine.

The second offering from chef Adam D’Sylva and business partners, Kate and Mykal Bartholomew of Coda, Tonka has been credited with the “coming of age” of Indian cuisine in Melbourne – if not Australia – thanks to D’Sylva’s skilled and creative exploration of traditional techniques and flavours.

After our initial meeting with the Tonka team, it was clear that our brief was to craft an identity that would surprise and capture the vibrant, sensory and magical culture
of India. We started by referencing the imagery of Holi, the annual Indian festival of colour. This imagery alone however, was not enough. We needed to take the Holi reference on a journey; and by doing so, create an image-led identity for the restaurant that was as contemporary as the food offering, while capturing that sense of excitement and celebration that Holi evoked. This was about eliciting an emotional response from the moment you saw it.

The making
of a mess

To get there, we collaborated with friend and photographer, Scottie Cameron to create
a series of images that would be used across the brand. Scotty likes a challenge and from the get-go, things got pretty literal. Trips to Bunnings were interspersed with ‘powder tests’ in parks. To onlookers it was bold, it was bright, it was bemusing.

Art Direction

The result was the creation of a suite of evocative imagery that formed the backbone of Tonka’s identity. We then paired those images with a simple word mark, replicating the typeface of Coda’s branding, by way of creating a visual link between the sister restaurants.


Tonka OK signage

Awards and

Sure, it was an unorthodox approach, but Tonka was no orthodox restaurant and the results spoke for themselves. Our Tonka identity was the winner of Best Visual Identity at the 2013/14 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards; received a high commendation, Best Identity, 2013 Eat Drink Design Awards; and was shortlisted for Best Identity at the 2013 Create Awards.