Australian graphic design studio The Colour Club has created a masterful brand identity for Sydney restaurant Dopa

The Colour Club is leading the way on crafting branding identities for the Sydney market.

18 November 2021


Nick Mitchell, creative director at Australian graphic design studio The Colour Club, says he and his team “tend to get buried in research,” on a branding project “which can lead us to some unexpected places”. Its recent work for Dopa, a Japanese-inspired donburi and milkbar in Sydney, is a perfect example. Overall, its approach is a heartwarming tribute to classic food culture from Japan, with beautiful illustrations and sleek graphics, staying “fresh and contemporary while also incorporating elements from traditional Japanese art and storytelling,” Nick explains. Meanwhile, taking the name ‘Dopa’ (short for dopamine) as a starting point, The Colour Club also wanted to play on the “chemically transformative experience of eating good food,” namely at this restaurant. “We took this sentiment and ran with it to create Dopa Boy, a regular Joe who – after getting his fix of dopamine — transforms into a superhero.” From thereon, the studio introduced a Japanese idiom they discovered during their research. “起死回生 (kishi kaisei), meaning ‘wake from death, return to life,’ which complemented the theme of transformation and helped inform a distinct typographic style.”

The design of Dopa Boy was created by a local artist, Andrew Yee, who then want on to create a series of scenes and patterns inspired by Japanese manga for the Colour Club’s project. Illustration is used thoughtfully throughout, elevating Dopa into an esteemed yet fun aesthetic. “What we think makes this project successful is the way different elements of the brand weave together to form a narrative,” Nick explains. “Our direction was informed by the popular Japanese motif of transformation which customers could experience through different interactions with the brand.” From the superhero illustration on the tote bag, to the wave pattern on the takeaway bowls, or a piece of minimal typography on some signage – The Colour Club have incorporated plenty rich design for customers to engage with. “It all adds up to the brand feeling fun and somewhat mysterious which would hopefully leave a lasting impression.”


The Colour Club: Dopa (Copyright © The Colour Club, 2021)

The identity for Dopa goes beyond graphics and illustration. With clean and fresh photography direction, The Colour Club has framed the restaurant as a desirable place to visit. “Our vision was inspired by Japanese minimalism and precision so we wanted the photography to feel very exact, and almost clinical,” says Nick. “We kept the lighting consistent with soft shadows to put the focus on the quality of the ingredients.” In doing so, they balanced out other areas of the brand, “which are more rich and textual.” The chosen ceramics and takeaway options were also part of the project for The Colour Club, who put careful consideration into all the choices. “We invested considerable effort into creating an engaging dine-in experience through the identity, and we wanted to extend this to the way food was presented and packaged,” Nick explains. “We brought in a local ceramicist to create branded don bowls which added an element of physicality and customisation to the identity.” The list goes on, including a custom brass door handle in the shape of the letter D for Dopa. “Experiencing different moments in design is what keeps an identity engaging and memorable.”

The entire project seems to be truly rewarding for both the studio and the restaurant, and has already led droves of customers to Dopa’s door. “The space is ultimately a tribute to modern Japanese aesthetics,” Nick says in conclusion. “We developed a suite of contemporary signage which immediately stands out amongst the organised chaos of Chinatown, which is just around the corner.” As Dopa is now a bonafide go-to local lunch spot in the Darling Square of Sydney, always brimming with action. “The kitchen staff all wear matching Dopa shirts and bandannas which have been a hit with the locals and now sold as merch,” Nick adds. “There are now two stores with more on the way. It's been a real pleasure to see the business do so well and we are super grateful to have played a part in that success.”

GalleryThe Colour Club: Dopa (Copyright © The Colour Club, 2021)

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The Colour Club: Dopa (Copyright © The Colour Club, 2021)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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