Website | Print | Illustration
I absolutely love Tsunami. Working there in art school was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I learned invaluable lessons from chef/owner Ben Smith – teamwork, commitment to your craft, and the importance of presentation, to name a few. Years after my final shift ended, I suggested we redesign and upgrade their website. They loved the idea. I jumped at the chance to team up with my old restaurant family and work together on another side of the business.
Tsunami doesn’t really have a set style or overpowering brand. Inside, it’s an odd assortment of themes – brick walls, concrete floors, old postcards and maps, handmade paper lamps, a cozy table nook, a chaotic kitchen, and a restaurant run like a pirate ship. So we decided to make the website a reflection of that unique aesthetic. With my intimate knowledge of the restaurant and its people, and their faith in the creative process, the resulting website, like the restaurant, was very outside the box – and hugely successful.
I knew early on in the process that photography needed to play a big role. The building itself is another character in the story and needed to be showcased. I also knew that Ben’s son, Brendan – also known as Max Malcolms – happened to be a rising star photographer, and would be a natural fit for the project. He grew up in Tsunami, and knew just where to point the camera to show off all its quirks.
After Ben completed culinary school he traveled all over the Pacific, island hopping from San Francisco to Australia, studying the food and getting inspiration along the way. This experience, the knowledge, and memories he brought back with him are what would be the inspiration for Tsunami. It was another integral part of the story that had to be told.
We came up with the idea of an interactive map for the website that would document his pilgrimage. Drawing inspiration from a classic movie montage (you know the one I mean – can you hear the John Williams score in your head?), we built an experience that allowed the user to control the narrative in a fun and engaging way, exploring just the way Ben did.
No one is quite sure where the tradition started, but patrons of Tsunami have been sending postcards back to the restaurant from their travels afar, inspired by Ben’s own journey. Tsunami proudly displays these cards the main dining room, behind the bar, and occasionally in random locations (look for the little window). They become part of the building and create a dialogue and a relationship between the restaurant and its patrons. So, Ben and I knew immediately that we had to have a postcard as a piece of print collateral, and didn’t take long before we knew exactly what to do with it.
Ben and his crew are always coming up with new dishes, special events, and cooking classes. They wanted to connect these ideas with their customers using something like a comment card – but one that looked and felt like one of the restaurant’s famous postcards. It became the perfect vehicle for conversation between the owner and his patrons.