Publica News

Back to Blog

Tongue in Groove Branding

From The Studio



Our studio was invited to create a brand for a new wine producer but with the unusual premise that the people behind the company were to remain a secret. Founded by six good friends in the Waipara Valley, Tongue in Groove produce some of the finest Pinot Noir and Riesling in New Zealand. With a very quirky name and six bold personalities behind the brand we set about creating a visual presence for Tongue in Groove.

Our challenge was to create a brand through a series of unique characters based on the alter egos of the Directors so that they could remain anonymous.

The Directors had an interest in retro aesthetics and design (such as appreciation for pin-up girl posters and groovy hand drawn artwork from the seventies). With this in mind we developed a faux-victorian, 70’s inspired illustration style (influenced by the animation work of Terry Gilliam, best known for his work on Monty Python). We then mixed this illustration style with photography sourced from the 1800’s which we digitally painted over to achieve a hand-coloured appearance (emulating a technique to colour black & white photographs that was prevalent from the 1850’s, right through until the mid 20th century).

The characters were then enveloped on tongue-thrones resulting in striking final portraits. Hand-drawn type was then added to the base of the illustration on the “lips” from which the tongues spring, to denote the wine’s origin (the Waipara Valley).

Adding to the brand we created a typeface, “Pinot Noir”, to reflect the vintage aesthetic of the brand. Pinot Noir, a slender typeface with an organic feel, was deployed across the creative collateral.

Keep reading below to follow the development of the brand & it’s illustrations.



Initial design direction of what would become the final version of the first Tongue in Groove character.



Early conceptual ideas, revolving around various depictions of tongues, retro-inspired imagery, and more Tongues.



The path not taken – a different brand illustration direction that would have seen a tongue-inspired sea monster trying to get into a bottle.





During the early development, we created a custom typeface; a rounded hand-drawn san-serif, slender & organic, it was a perfect fit for the brand.



A welcome return to some of the early development -still not the final Tongue in Groove character design, but approaching final visuals; as you can see, space was planned in the illustration to accommodate the vintage, the brand name, and type of wine, tying the illustration together -early hand-type has been applied in the image to approximate the final look.



Final version of the first character -in full colour, painted back onto the black & white photo used in the illustration, along with various minor tweaks applied to get the character looking perfect (you can check out the other characters developed here).



And finally, a logo was developed from the brand, taking inspiration from the shape of the illustration, and the style of hand-drawn typography, wrapped up in the shape of the a pair of lips (with the “in” forming a tongue).

Latest Posts

A New Creative Director


From The Studio


Our Co-Founder Mark Spurgeon is one of the reasons we’re the kick-ass collection of Publica people that we are today. He’s been here from the start and has been at the helm of our Creative team for the past decade....

Client: Mike Pero


Case Studies

THE BRIEF The Mike Pero Real Estate (MPRE) team needed a comprehensive digital platform that would work for each and every user group. At MPRE, this not only means the end-user but also their extensive network of 180+ nationwide, franchisee...

Client: Flemington


Case Studies

Like any good relationship our partnership with Flemington has been built on trust and understanding from both sides....