Japan’s Charming Barcode Designs

Posted By Nathan Hoernig


Why does this matter to you?

Of all the different types of design (industrial, product, graphic, etc.), the Japanese truly excel in one specifically: packaging design. As if it weren’t enough that Japanese product developers cleverly create simple and user-friendly means of opening their packages, one company has focused their entire existence on the custom development of barcodes.

You may be thinking, what can be done with barcodes? It’s just a bunch of lines. Design Barcode has taken it to the next level.

Just a few days ago I found myself in a supermarket picking up a box of one of my favorite chocolate snacks (I love chocolate!). Many years ago, I worked in the retail business and in my attempt to get through checkout more smoothly, I passed the box to the cashier, barcode up (for easy scanning). In the half-second she was taking it from my hand, I noticed something extra on the box. After checking out, I pulled the box out of the bag only to notice this:




This company had implemented a design into their barcode. How clever!

The little sticks at the bottom are illustrations of the snack: crispy, buttery biscuit tubes filled with milk chocolate. Delicious.

After discovering this little nugget of design fun, I knew there must be more!
That night, I went online and found the company’s homepage as well as a whole barrage of different products utilizing the clever barcodes.

I made my way over to the supermarket again, list in hand, and although not all the items were available, I managed to find a few others.



Jaga-rico are a flavored potato snack designed to emulate french fries. This particular flavor was anchovy and garlic…

…welcome to Japan.

As to why potato snacks invoke the image of two curtain-framed giraffes enjoying wine remains a mystery. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

While we’re on the subject of complete irrelevance:

Cupi Mayonnaise

Cupi Mayonnaise

Behold, A boy and a girl, seated on a sofa (as viewed from behind).

Again, I’m not so sure as to how this is related to mayonnaise. Perhaps they’re enjoying some mayo-laden snack on the other side.

These last two companies have both utilized multiple characters in the designs. However, some companies go as far as including multiple designs!

Look Chocolates

Look Chocolates

I had to purchase two boxes of the chocolates for this one but it was worth it (for both the designs and the chocolates).

These designs are actually quite nice as they imply a bit more meaning and subtlety. The left box shows a cute young woman watering her plants while the right design shows the same woman looking through a telescope at the stars. Well, at least that was the designer’s intent, but when there are buildings in the distance as well, she’s got a telescope pointed in that direction and the phrase says “Look at …”, is it just me or does something seem amiss? Back to the drawing boards with this one?

Either way, both compositions are clever and creative. I especially like that the codes are “printed” on key-ringed flashcards. It lets me know that there must be more! Something to look forward to!


Koala-no-Maachi, if you didn’t realize from the packaging, is simply the Japanese name for what many know as Koala Yummies.

If you’ve had them before, there’s really no reason to go out and get some from Japan as they are exactly the same. Unless of course you’re interested in the barcodes!

Of these two, one is a d.j. while the other is…King Kong?
It’s hard to deny the resemblance there isn’t it?

Summing It All Up

This was definitely a fun (and unhealthy) blog to pull together. This shows us exactly why it’s important to consider all aspects of design when we’re working on a project. Just because it wouldn’t normally be “designed”, doesn’t always mean that it shouldn’t be. Therein, we have to use our professional and educated experience to make the decision.

To see more of these, as well as enjoying a very interactive and fun website, head over to Design Barcode’s website.

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