Three questions for: Eisuke Tachikawa, Nosigner
To Western observers, just as Japan’s culture in general consists of contrasts, so does Japanese packaging design: depending on the context, packaging can be minimalist and natural or colourful and ornate. Today’s packaging is far removed from traditional Japanese packaging techniques and yet its cultural roots continue to show through. The quantity of rubbish created by the many parts within the packaging often comes in for much criticism and yet there are some good reasons for the elaborate packaging.
Alongside the examples of packaging in form 258, we asked the founder of the Nosigner Studio, Eisuke Tachikawa, a few questions about his approach to Japanese packaging design. The studio spans various disciplines, working on projects in the fields of graphic, product and web design, and it aspires to “design for social innovation”. The firm became famous for the Olive project, which provided information on self-support for victims via a website just 40 hours after the 2011 tsunami, but among other things Nosigner also designs packaging, of which we have featured two examples: Warew and Asian Asi.
1. What do you consider to be the Japanese approach to packaging design? What is your approach?
I think Japanese packaging design has evolved as a technical solution for user experience. You would be surprised by all the transformations that take place when you open the paper box packaging you find at every convenience store in Japan. At the same time, Japanese packaging tends to be too much like commodities that have little definition of their target market from the perspective of branding and storytelling.
Before designing the packaging itself, we always design – or at least re-define – its brand strategy. We then design the packaging through a process of back-casting the brand philosophy. In terms of strategy, we aim to achieve a higher goal than simply sales on the market – we seek to shift the experience of users through packaging and branding design.
2. What qualities does “good” or “successful” packaging design have in your eyes?
I perceive design as a language. In order to engender instinctive understanding among users, design should be based on the concept of “less is more”. I believe that “good” packaging design means precisely that there should be fewer signs of the designer’s hand.
And if design is a language, it is more important to have a meaningful subject than to provide a beautiful rhetoric of form. Good design should be good for society, not only limited to a specific discipline.
Packaging design is also a language that expresses brand philosophy, which should convey its positive impact on society using only a few words.
3. Which roles do the brand, the client, the environment and the end user play in your packaging designs?
I listen to the views of many stakeholders, including the client and the market, in order to acquire a holistic view of the background to the packaging and brand. This kind of research always helps me to widen my imagination when it comes to the context, and I often uncover some great metaphors in relation to the design. The quality of design is always defined by its context.
Further information on the topic of Japanese packaging can be found on the following websites: