Meet the Designer behind Bulgaria’s Most Famous Peacock

Nikolay Tonkoff

By Nikolay Tonkoff

Nikolay Tonkoff is a graphic designer and founder of formschlag, a design company based in Berlin and Sofia with over 25 years of experience in crafting corporate visual identity. The formschlag team worked on some of the most recognizable Bulgarian brands such as Bulgarian National Television, BG Radio, Nova Television, and the Golden Rhyton Film Festival. International clients include Shell, BMW, Daimler, and L’Oréal. Nikolay is the author of the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis logo and other visual elements.

For a graphic designer, working on the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis was quite a challenge. The project was immense and extremely interesting, and over time my team and I worked with different professionals from many different fields.

Creating a visual identity for such a project is certainly not easy. I am grateful to the America for Bulgaria Foundation for selecting our team’s proposal.

Working with the whole Basilica team was easy and very pleasant for me. I started out by getting acquainted with the history of the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis. Over the centuries, the site has undergone many changes of a different nature. I studied all the mosaics conserved and restored in the process. What has been preserved to this day is the phenomenal mosaics with over 100 bird species.

The Basilica logo was inspired by the majestic peacock at the Basilica entrance

It was clear to me from the outset that the beautiful mosaic with the emblematic peacock at the entrance of the Basilica will be the leading element in the new logo. That’s where I started. The whole concept came together fairly quickly because I had a clear idea of ​​what everything would look like in the end. All elements in the logo draw inspiration from the mosaics, their shapes and colors. In the process of work, I gave them a stylized, contemporary look that resonates with people today. In the end, the logo was in full harmony with the concept for the project and its future realization. It was liked and approved by the entire ABF team, which motivated me greatly to undertake the next steps.

Thereafter, our team worked on the visual materials appearing in print and online media that would present the project to UNESCO.

Over time, the Basilica’s visual identity evolved to support a variety of social media campaigns. The already established look also became the foundation for communicating everything in the building’s interior. The final step was the integration of the logo in the outdoor environment.

Thus, tessera by tessera, the Bishop’s Basilica has evolved into a contemporary site preserving Bulgaria’s history and cultural heritage.

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