In this edition of our San Diego Logo Spotlight Series, we head to the trendy neighborhood of North Park to explore the story behind the Tacos Perla logo design. Chase Design is no stranger to fantastic logo design and we saw it as soon as we entered this fun little restaurant. Tacos Perla is a gourmet taco eatery with a modern take on iconic Mexican dishes. Edgy flavors like portobello marinated in paprika, chiles stuffed with octopus and smoked albacore find their ways into classics like tacos, burritos and ceviche. The effect is delicious!
Such a creative taco spot called for a creative logo. Erik Rindal and Jon Ritt from design company Rindal & Co. was recruited by Greg Strangman of Tacos Perla to create the brand identity that was in line with the location and offering, including a colorful logo featuring a “zebra-donkey” or “zonkey.”
We spoke with Erik Rindal to learn more about the creative process and how the concept came into creation.
Choosing the Agency:
The connection to Rindal & co. was an easy one for Strangman as he and Jon Ritt were high school friends with history to draw upon. They had also worked together in the past in 2006 when designing the brand identity for the throwback, vintage style, boutique hotel by Shelter Island, “The Pearl”. When the idea for a fast-casual dining establishment came about, they had the experience and trust already in place to move forward the conversation with Rindal & Co.
What Was The inspiration for the Brand Identity?
Eric was kind enough to share the concept statement from the original presentation for Tacos Perla. We couldn’t sum up the effect any better then they had when they describe that:
“Tacos Perla will take you on an authentic Mexican adventure, by serving up the real deal street taco in the comfort and sophisticationof a modernist concrete and glass structure. The brand identity will be evocative of great Mexican design mixed with contemporary styling. It will have both the character and linear qualities of the ‘68 olympics mixed with the handcrafted charm and imperfection of the artists’ alley’s in Tijuana. It will be simple yet fresh. The symbol of Tacos Perla will be ‘Gomez’ the Zonkey. he will be a graphic interpretation of the famous painted zebra-donkey that became the faded polaroid souvenir of a visit to Tijuana. The color palette will also be taken from the streets of Tijuana and then reinterpreted through high design. The end result will be an identity that feels real, fresh and has a ton of flavor.”
Who is Gomez and What is a Zonkey?
Strangman created Tacos Perla with the intention of dressing up the traditional Tijuana street tacos with fresh flavors and a modern design. Rindal sought to communicate Strangman’s vision in one image. Rindal’s research into Tijuana history unearthed the zebra-donkey image. The zonkey (also known as the “Tijuana Zebra”) is a popular tourist attraction: it’s a donkey painted with zebra like stripes. Tourists take photos with zonkeys often donning the famous sombrero. Surprisingly, it’s a tradition almost as old as the taco–the first known photograph of a zonkey was taken in 1914. From the mid-twentieth century onward, the zonkey became iconic in Tijuana tourism. By using the format of an illustrated logo design
Adding a modern twist to tradition
Rindal decided to use the traditional image of the zonkey for the Tacos Perla logo but threw in some modern features.
“We thought the ‘zonkey’ idea as an idea would make for a great symbol and brand identity for Tacos Perla,” says Rindal. “So we created and named ‘Gomez’ the zonkey as the logo for Tacos Perla. He’s a modernist graphic interpretation of the famous painted zebra-donkey.”
Gomez the zonkey is drawn in a cartoon style with long donkey ears, big eyes and a wide grin. He has a gray body with vivid zebra stripes in yellow, blue, red and teal. Gomez’s bright colors are a nod to the colorful streets of Tijuana.
Rindal’s team designed three distinct identities for Tacos Perla using the zonkey as inspiration. Each had a custom trademark and bespoke logotype. After presenting their designs to Strangman, the current Gomez zonkey was chosen.
Rindal describes working with Strangman as a very smooth. “Greg is a great client and inspires us to deliver our best work,” says Rindal. “Part of what makes Greg so great is that he trusts and values our opinion on design and works with our process.”
The result of their collaboration is a throwback to the traditions of the Mexican border town with a modern twist.
Choosing a Font Type
When researching the defining moments of Tijuana in the modern contemporary age there is one event that truly stands out and put the city in front of the entire world. That is the 68’ Olympic Summer Games. This inspired the use of a similar font type to capture the spirit of the city. Erik mentions that “Our logotype was inspired by the linear qualities of the ‘68 Mexican Olympics with a dose of modern funk.”