Brand strategy & Website redesign

"Tacofino has paved its way into the Vancouver food scene as a prominent West coast figure."


Type:Web & Mobile Product

Tasks:Strategy, UX, Digital branding, UI, Illustration

Tacofino's origins began from a food truck, but it's popularity quickly spread to the main cities: Victoria and Vancouver. It wasn't long before it took notice by foodies and became a popular choice for West coast cuisine. Over the course of its growth, individual microsites had been created per location, each with a unique look & feel that reflected it's restaurant locaiton and neighbourhood.

Lacking a unified brand, Tacofino tasked us with redesigning all their sites under the umbrella name of Tacofino. The challenge was to define a strategy that would partnet Tacofino's ambitious plans for growth, and to create a brand that would place it amongst restaurant big names, such as Momofuku.

How do you design for a growing restaurant leader?

Designing for Tacofino's future

Discovery & Strategy

We began the project by sitting down with the Tacofino team to fully understand their future goals and plans. Even as we began the project, Tacofino was working on another new location and menu within Vancouver. We needed to understand how this would shape the website, and more importantly, how we could design for solutions that would acommodate Tacofino's future needs. In addition to learning of Tacofino's goals, we also gathered a number of insights into the brand, what was important to them as a company, and their target demographic.

This workshop produced light-weight personas and a user story.

Brand Architecture Recommendations

A deeply-rooted value of Tacofino is exploration. All the locations menus, as well as their interiors, are created to be unique to a concept and the neighbourhood in which it resides. We recognized this as a critical part of Tacofino's essence. Our website redesign would therefore showcase a strong Tacofino brand, while still celebrating the unique elements of all the locations. Because this was Tacofino's first attempt at revitalizing their digital presence, little had been done to define their umbrella brand.

Treat Tacofino brand as “Hero” encompassing all existing concepts

Because neighbourhood is so influential on space and menu, give it equal prominence to concept (ie Gastown Taco Bar)

Develop a set of criteria to determine whether new concepts are Tacofino branded, or an “other venture” (i.e. West Coast inspired; aligns with values; serves tacos; etc.)

How do you create a unified brand while celebrating the unique character of each neighbourhood and location?

Style Exploration

Branding & UI

Next came the hardest part: what did Tacofino's identity look like? Below the team captured inspiration that spoke to the Tacofino team, including graphic styles, competitor websites, and on-brand artwork.

The Journey to Uniqueness


Within weeks of working with the team, Tacofino's brand saw a rapid and tremendous amount of revision. With limited assets and references, the team infered the design direction from the workshop results and restaurant interiors.

Putting our design to the test

Criticisms & Validation

Though we were checking the boxes of elements we saw from our work with the Tacofino team, something still wasn't quite right. Rather than wasting our time guessing, we put out a survey to our audience. The survey was sent to foodies and people who fit the persona we created in our workshop.

User Survey

A brief and straight-forward survey was sent to people in our personal networks that have visited at least one Tacofino location and matched the demographic of our Iris persona. This survey asked three questions about our design concept.

There were 22 survey respondents with an average age of 26.3 and a median age of 25.

Does the design concept reflect the Tacofino brand?

Scale from 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Definitely)

What is your overall opinion on this concept?

Scale from 1 (Dislike it) to 5 (Love it)

What adjectives would you use to describe the website?

3.96 / 5

average rating for reflection of the Tacofino brand

3.96 / 5

average rating for the design concept as a whole


have visited the Tacofino websites of individual locations

Survey Results

When we asked respondents to describe the design concept with adjectives, we refrained from influencing them with any prompts or examples. They had entire vocabularies to choose from, and still largely ended up on the same page.

Beyond these cumulative results, there were a number of individual answers that nailed the essence of Tacofino when describing the feelings the design concept evoked.

“Fun, relaxed, colourful, non-pretentious good vibes”

“Artistic, stylish, bright, edgy”

“West Coast, eclectic, fresh”

41% said it was hip, cool, or stylish

36% commented on the colour or brightness

27% used terms like edgy, gritty, eclectic, and raw

27% thought it was fun or fresh

26% found it busy or cluttered

A Revised Approach

Though the client still expressed uncertainty, it was clear from the results that we were on the cusp of a solution. We prompted the Tacofino team to put us in touch with their muralist, who was working on the interior of Tacofino's newest location. Knowing they had confidence in her work meant we could trust that her vision aligned with Tacofino's brand. She provided us a palette, as well as portfolios she took inspiration from.

The captions are the key elements that were described as on-brand:

Background that changes colour

Gif background

Slime button

Lots of photos, gifs, illustrations

Collage elements

How do you marry professionalism and quirkiness? Can a website be 'funky and edgy' and still user-friendly?


Back to the drawing board

The new palette and assets inspirted a new take on the design. We would extract the parts that contributed to the quirky character that previous designs lacked, all the while making sure we would designed something that wouldn't frustrate an international audience.

A mix of photography and illustration

While it was clear we had to revise the visual style of the illustrations from previous versions, we continued to incorporate the character that belonged to Tacofino's restaurants. We still felt confident in this strategy, and thus remained the common thread. The new assets continued to reference their photography, albeit were now a hybrid of mediums.

We continued to incorporate the details of Tacofino's restaurants.

Organized Chaos

In order to simplify and reduce business, we needed to remove the photos and assets floating around the menu content. However, we could not completely remove them as Tacofino felt strongly about showcasing numerous photos per location. As we felt sliders were far from the ideal solution, we decided each location would benefit from grid collages. These would include a mix of Gifs and photos that were true to the chaotic nature of their inspiration sites.

Grid collages, at the bottom of each location page, capture their uniqueness.


Iterative Design

With much conversation and collaboration, we finally created a brand that the client felt confident in and still embodied the adjectives used by their demographic. We continued to revise on the details until they were deemed perfect.

"But we don't like the scribble. How about a dancing taco?"
We transformed the brand of Tacofino into a truly recognizable and unique identity that meets their target demographic.
Tacofino was nominated for a 2017 Webby Award in the Food & Drink category alongside big names The New York Times, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and Vice.