Japanese Package Design

A while ago I stumbled across the website of James Bowskill’s Japanese package design scrapbook. It amazed me how much more interesting it was than most of the packaging I see in the UK, where everyone tries to look like the market leader. Maybe that’s because I haven’t seen much Japanese packaging?

packaging 1

What I really like about a lot of this packaging it all looks “fun” and has a really retro feel to it (in European terms anyway). Take a look and see what you think yourself. You can see more images at http://www.jamesbowskill.com/offtheshelf/

package design

japanese packagingA few other websites featuring Japanese package design include:
http://www.pingmag.jp – article and images of Japanese snack packaging
http://www.jasonzada.com – turn your sound down on this one or it will drive you mad
http://www.swissmiss.typepad.com - innovative banana juice packaging

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  1. Posted July 10, 2007 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tara, thanks for referencing my site. In all fairness to Japanese package designers, they’re not all as retro as I’ve implied. I have a habit of picking out the more retro ones, so it’s a little skewed. But it’s rather refreshing to see a number of companies reluctant to renew their packaging – they seem content with their designs the way they are, and perhaps the customers are too.

  2. Posted July 10, 2007 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I love it! It’s daring and, in many cases, appeals to the child in all (most?) of us (the banana tetra packs are awesome). These designers look as though they have a lot of fun with colors and give free reign to their imaginations, epsecially with what appear to be snack foods — which are supposed to be fun, right? Thanks, Tara, for posting this great article! :)

  3. Posted July 10, 2007 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Japanese snacks are very popular here in Singapore. The 2nd row last one can be seen in any supermarket and convenient store. It’s not just that the design is fun and exciting, their packaging is superb. For example, I’ve seen a casing for the narrow instant noodle cup so one can hold it while it’s hot or balance it solidly on one’slap. Sometimes, a fork is included. I believe it’s in their culture that everything must be planned and well thought out. After all, Japanese efficiency is well known globally

  4. Posted July 10, 2007 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi James, thanks for letting me use your images much appreciated.

    Hi Michael, yes they really do have a child like quality (in a good way) I love the banana packaging too.

    Hi Vivienne,
    ” I’ve seen a casing for the narrow instant noodle cup so one can hold it while it’s hot or balance it solidly on one’slap”
    Fantastic idea, I love it when a designer really thinks something through and doesn’t “just” consider the surface decoration.

  5. Posted July 10, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    What? No Pocky? I looooove Japanese candy. Too bad the store I used to buy it at makes you pay for a membership now (they used to just charge non-members an extra 10%)

    Love the banana packaging! It looks so real!

    And that is a great point about the soup packaging. Sometimes us designers get too consumed with trying to make the package something that catches attention and will sell the product rather than making it practical.

  6. Posted July 10, 2007 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lauren, What’s Pocky?

  7. Posted July 10, 2007 at 5:34 pm | Permalink


    It’s little cookie sticks that you dip in chocolate, strawberry and other flavors of… sauce? Icing? Apparently it’s called Mikado in Europe.

  8. Posted July 11, 2007 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Sorry Lauren, didn’t mean to offend with my lack of Pocky knowledge ;)

  9. Posted July 11, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    LOL, not at all! I have done my duty to the Pocky fan base by bringing knowledge to a lost soul. Now you’ll have to go out and try some (if you can find it). Had you heard of the alternate name, Mikado?

  10. Posted July 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I have heard of Mikado, I think I’ve tried some chocolately things with cream in. I don’t remember them being very memorable so obviously not up to the quality of the Pocky Cookie sticks ;)

  11. Posted July 13, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to sound like Mrs Cranky Pants here but I actually hate this kind of packaging. Maybe something wierd happened to me as a child but I find all the smiley faces and happy characters on FOOD packaging slightly creepy.

    Having said that, the banana packaging is very cool!

  12. Posted July 13, 2007 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, forgot to say, Mikado biscuits are THE business too.

  13. Posted July 13, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jennifer (Mrs Cranky Pants) :)

    What package design do you like?

  14. Posted July 13, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tara

    Generally I like very simple designs. At the moment, I really like these: http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/our_drinks/

    and yes I know there are some cute little characters on them but they don’t seem so manic as on the Japanese packaging.

    I’m going to have to go the shops to have a good look around because I can’t think of any at the moment. This is a good exercise!

  15. Posted October 9, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I am a fresher in this, but i like those works…good. very nice typical works..i just done 1 package only in my blog… just watch out and sa the comments..


  16. Posted November 4, 2007 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I like banana juice packaging

  17. Posted November 16, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Tara, how you came across this packaging website. its really stumbling, especially the second row pink colour package attacted me in its colour and animal represented food particles are sounds great.

  18. Posted November 19, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I love those samples, I really like the Japanese flair for design/creativity, it’s evident in everything they do even fashion.

    To me they seem much more experimental – they aren’t afraid to be be a bit ‘out there’.


  19. Posted November 29, 2007 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    oops forgot to subscribe

  20. Posted December 16, 2007 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    i love about that banana packaging . where can i get the full picture :) thx

  21. Posted December 16, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Hi Ardyan, Sorry I only found a cropped image.

  22. Posted December 28, 2007 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I live in Osaka, and my daughter likes those biscuits.

    Japanese advertising is always interesting.
    The strangest things are usually the brand/product names.
    On tv I saw sunglasses from a company called parasite.

  23. Posted January 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I dare to recommend you “Japanese Graphics Now!”, the book published by Taschen. It is filled with Japanese craziness, and about 20% of pages are devoted to package design.

  24. Posted March 9, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I love it! It’s daring and, in many cases, appeals to the child in all (most?) of us (the banana tetra packs are awesome). These designers look as though they have a lot of fun with colors and give free reign to their imaginations, epsecially with what appear to be snack foods — which are supposed to be fun, right? Thanks, Tara, for posting this great article!

  25. Posted April 9, 2008 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Wow this is somthing different. We dont see this stuff in New Zealand. Cheers for the post.

  26. Posted May 30, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    The Japanese have a really good culture for designs like this to work, I think over here, everyone goes for the corporate look for a successful image, and it has been worn out. However, we are starting to see more fun and interesting designs over here, for example innocent smoothies. Personally, I have always thought that the Japanese have always been ahead of their time with everything including their design industry.

  27. Posted June 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Japanese people do everything better. :D
    I love the caramel corn -one. :D

  28. Posted June 18, 2008 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    WOW! Italian packaging is too boring.

  29. Posted June 23, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    In fairness, the packaging looks enticing.

  30. Posted July 1, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Hey really cool to see how different design varies between cultures. The Japanesse have always been ahead of their time and their design shows that. The Western culture depicts corporate design over fun design.

  31. Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    always been a fan of japanese style animation, this packaging uses the same principles.

  32. Posted October 15, 2008 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    yeah i agree they really have nice and colorful packaging but there are some incidents like the melamine issue. we have to be careful.

  33. Posted November 1, 2008 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Japan is a designers heaven so much inspiration for designers, who want to be modern.

  34. Posted November 2, 2008 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    hey this is cool. i think japanese is unique :P

  35. Posted December 31, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I have to love Japanese design because when someone see that the packaging contains japanese wording or looks like it is originate from Japan, the products seem to sell good. This especially happen in Malaysia. No idea at all, maybe because we all thinks that products that made in Japan has high quality.

  36. Justin
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Pingmag is pretty interesting, but to be honest, I’d personally find the garishness of the designs hard to attach a brand to – unless it is for a young demographic only. Even then, I have to say that the retro feel to some of the packaging is a bit “russian” (!) i.e. lacking in finesse! But perhaps I’m being too harsh, having not been exposed to much of it. (

  37. Posted December 21, 2009 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    The banana box packaging is simply superb. We have lots of Japanese products here in Malaysia but I have yet to see that particular product packaging around.

  38. Posted March 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    very nice packages. agree about the retro feeling.
    i like the caramel corn, looks great and fun as you put it.

  39. Posted April 23, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The package designs are quite vibrant and eye catching,The designs make you want to pick and use the products

  40. Posted October 1, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I believe each culture and geographic area has its own favour of attractions. These packages designs are indeed very eye catching (and look nice), but they can be annoying to some people.

  41. Posted July 1, 2012 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    So cute! I want to eat the packaging

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