Established in 2009, Tarka Indian Kitchen is a fast-casual restaurant that started with one location in Austin, TX, by the same owners of The Clay Pit, the best Indian restaurant in town. As its name implies, it offers Indian food and has a relatively limited but perfectly balanced menu of curries, kabobs, and biryanis, all priced under $10, all served quickly. It may sound stupid or superficial but in my list of pros and cons for our recent move out of Austin was “Con: No more Tarka”. And it weighed heavily. The place is that good, that comfortable, and that accessible. Tarka now has four locations in Austin, one in San Antonio, and last month opened one in Houston. As part of their growth, Tarka has introduced a new identity designed by Pittsburgh, PA- and Honolulu, HI-based Wall-to-Wall Studios.
The name “Tarka” translates into the sizzle of freshly sauteed ingredients, a sound and aroma that welcomes diners. After opening the first location in 2009, numerous accolades and strong affinity relationships with customers helped fuel the restaurant’s growth. On the heels of its expansion, Tarka turned to W|W to help the business navigate a comprehensive rebranding initiative, such that all touch-points were aligned with the quality of food and experience delivered at the restaurant.
The Tarka logo is a bold, yet simple type-driven mark, partially inspired by Hindu Sanskrit alphabet. To take advantage of the branded touch points throughout the restaurant experience, W|W designed a set of graphic seals to augment the visual library, as well as a custom icon set and related pattern work. In addition to helping graphically extend the identity, the combination the seals and icons add clarity to the concept while supporting the menu navigation.
The old logo fell within the unfortunate genre of Shitty Logos for Amazing Restaurants - logos that, when you see them from the street while looking for a place to eat, do not beckon you to enter their premises, but after you leave you are left wondering how such a tasty place has a such a bad logo. The grungy, super letter-spaced serif was very awkward and unappealing while the garlic and chili pepper diacritics were almost comical. The new logo is much more interesting and more indicative that something peculiar is going on with this place. The thick line running across the wordmark is a reference to Sanskrit alphabet, that has that same strong horizontal line among all of its characters. While I don’t exactly love the Pirelli-esque “T”, the way the letters all lock into place is pretty satisfying and I really like how the angled strokes in the “R” and “k” are handled, giving it a slightly vernacular feel.
The logo is complemented by a small set of seals/badges — and perhaps more can be added down the road — that add some visual sizzle and more references to Indian motifs. The seals could be pushed a little more to make them more ornate and provide a better contrast with the logo. In other words: more spinning mandala, less Draplin-esque thick lines.
The identity starts to veer off in slightly awkward ways with the addition of half-a-dozen fonts which, in principle, there is nothing wrong with that, but those inline and stencil choices feel more like they should be in one of the recent sports identities. It also maybe starts to get too clever for its own good as their pun game is not as strong as their tikka masala.
Nonetheless, there is a great infusion of graphic flair that better conveys the nom-nom richness of this place and gives the growing chain a more identifiable identity.
Thanks to Crystal Glover for the tip.