Nissin foods may not be well known outside its native Japan but if you’ve ever eaten instant noodles, you’ve benefitted from their work. In 1958, Nissin invented instant noodles, changing forever how busy humans eat.
Their 2018 report is an excellent case study in how to take a simple idea and execute it well. As the report helpfully tells the reader, Nissin wants ‘to have an impact’ on world food culture in a similar way to the impact Japanese ukiyo-e art has enjoyed since the 1800s. The horizontally oriented report uses the visual language of ukiyo-e encompassing portraiture, landscape and pattern and it is a marvel to behold.
Most notable are the portraits of senior staff. Drawing inspiration from the work of Hiroshige, Hokusai and especially Sharaku (in the portrayal of facial expressions) these corporate portraits are remarkable.
Thematic pages follow a similar strategy, taking inspiration from landscape paintings of the period as well as depictions of soldiers readying themselves for battle or scenes of city life. Each image seamlessly incorporates modern elements and the implements needed to make instant noodles. The cover of the report for instance is a reimagining of Hokusai’s painting ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa, complete with Tokyo Tower in the background and a hot kettle for making noodles.
What’s interesting from a design perspective is that not all of these elements are given even weight – you notice the corporate portraits immediately, but smaller details emerge on repeated viewing – a bold approach for an annual report design.
Colour reproduction stays as true as it can to ukiyo-e paintings, again with a subtle modern update in terms of saturation and colour choice. The rest of the report is simply designed and easy to read, leaving all the attention on the thematic pages which draw the reader in long after the report ends. Attention to detail and a clear vision of what the visuals should be make this a report worth studying.