Japanese ad agency I&SBBDO was approached by a client who wanted to boost their flagging business after the 2011 tsunami in Japan– the product, however, was nori (sheets of Japanese seaweed used in sushi). In an effort to reinvent this simple square of seaweed without losing sight of the age-old traditions embedded in their culture, I&SBBDO decided to laser cut classic Japanese patterns into the paper-thin nori sheets.

Each pattern is meant to symbolize good fortune, happiness, and longevity, etc. and the result is a delicate, unexpected reinvention of the classic Japanese food with a modern twist. The patterns are crisp, and when incorporated into the rolls, they create a sharp contrast between the dark seaweed and the white grains of rice within. They’ve entered (and won) a number of ad/design contests for this phenomenal work:

The tragic tsunami of March 2011 dramatically affected all industries in Northern Japan. Our client was one of them. They came to us, their channels of distribution damaged, their business hurting, and asked us to create an online campaign for them that would help to rebuild their business. But it¹s hard to think of a product that could spur less interest online than a black square of seaweed. The design of a square of nori has not changed since its creation in the 15th century.

Choosing the right designs was also important, as we wanted to convey the classic brand heritage and our positive hope for the future, so that our customers could sense our values and feel more optimistic when seeing our designs. We carved into Nori various Japanese classic patterns that signify happiness, long-life, etc, creating an unprecedented type of Nori as a result of the combination of a traditional product with a modern laser cutter, thereby conveying both our wish for the future, as well as our respect for the past.


I am so glad that I&SBBDO didn’t try to pump up the brand with garish ads– this simple, understated interpretation of nori is beautifully executed, making food into art. [Via Creative Roots.]

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