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Plain Stripes Become Inventive Ads (November 10, 2006)

The barcode for the Aminoshiki nutritional drink (Suntory Limited.)
Up to now, barcodes have been nothing more than a dull collection of black and white stripes of differing thickness, but that is all about to change. A Japanese company is making these codes that are printed on almost every product sold in stores nowadays into fun, innovative advertisements. Design Barcode, an advertising agency with just four employees, has transformed plain rows of lines into such things as a surfer riding a wave and strands of cheese hanging off a slice of pizza. This novel idea has been garnering international acclaim, winning the Titanium Lion at the prestigious Cannes Lions 2006, 53rd International Advertising Festival.

Over 200 Designs
By combining bars and spaces, barcodes convey numbers and letters. The barcode was developed in the 1970s in the United States after advances in computing opened the way for it to be used as an alternative to having a cashier ring up pricing information on a register by hand. At present, nearly every item in supermarkets and convenience stores has a barcode printed on its wrapper or price tag. When it is passed under a special reader, the price of the item, its stock in the store, and even its popularity are revealed instantly.

The barcode for the Catekinshiki drink (Suntory Limited.)

But even though the barcode is extremely useful in terms of inventory management, the collection of black lines on the package is a minus in terms of design. Design Barcode, led by President Yoshida Minoru, has enjoyed the challenge of turning these lines into advertisements, producing over 200 designs so far. Creating these designs, however, is not all fun and games. The company of course works with the makers of barcode readers, and it has to take into account the ratio between the part that is read and the part that is the attractive design, while also making sure not to confuse consumers. The design team must strictly adhere to the guidelines of the distribution centers to make sure that there are no errors.

The design on Jagariko snacks (Calbee Foods Co.)

Thoughtful Designs
Design Barcode has so far created artistic barcodes for 80 products sold by 20 companies, including the nutritional drinks Aminoshiki and Catekinshiki made by Suntory, the potato-based snack Jagariko made by foodmaker Calbee Foods Co., and products made by such major firms as Wacoal and Avex. The staff take a painstaking approach to creating their designs, listening carefully to the stories of each of the companies.

Design Barcode is looking to launch operations in the United States before the end of 2006, and it also has patents pending both in Japan and abroad. This small company may just be able to change the face of advertising around the world.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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