Shin Matsunaga re-imagines ISSIMBOW Incense

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Shin Matsunaga says if he counted the words it would take to chronicle the ISSIMBOW branding process “it would probably run into the tens of thousands.” It’s not because Matsunaga is long winded. The famed Japanese designer is just enormously thoughtful when it comes to his work. In fact, when ISSIMBOW first approached him for the project he refused because he assumed he could not live up to the client’s directive to produce “overwhelming design.” But Matsunaga eventually did sign on, and then convinced the incense makers to let him transform the product past the bounds of their initial concept.

The result is an array of bold shapes and colors that has garnered equally high marks for its elegant packaging and visual aesthetics. Matsunaga surely surpassed his initial notions to make ISSIMBOW conjure up feelings of health, liveliness, and beautiful living.

But this is no surprise considering Shin Matsunaga’s illustrious design career. His work is so revered that it is displayed in permanent collections at 75 art museums around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the V&A in London, and the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo. In addition, he is a consistent Graphis Gold Award winner.

Fans of the ISSIMBOW project might want to check out Shin Matsunaga’s latest book, The Brand Created By Design — a comprehensive review of the project from conception to product launch. Here is an excerpt:

“What we wanted to do was to communicate both the philosophy and the concept instantly and beautifully, and in a way that would create an impact. To do this, we knew, a visual image would be far more powerful than words. Just as a traffic signal communicates a visual message more quickly than printed words, we wanted to be able to motivate consumers as quickly as possible. In addition, a beautiful design is the beginning of mental relaxation and wellness. What came out of that was a visual plan for a brand concept that put priority on sight.”

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