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Spinach director Adam Thomas on creating the ICHIBUNS brand

ICHIBUNS is a new and exciting Japanese-inspired dining concept, which successfully opened its first restaurant in Soho, London in October. The Spinach team were responsible for creating this unique brand for restaurateur Robin Leigh, bringing to life his vision of an ‘amazing, out of this world’ experience. We asked Spinach partner and creative director Adam Thomas to guide us through the creative thinking and design process.

ICHIBUNS brand and design © Spinach

The concept behind ICHIBUNS is to celebrate Japan’s Shōwa era, a fascinating time credited for the birth of post-war creativity and the welcoming of American music and culture. How did you set out to reflect such an important period yet maintain the fun personality of the brand?

Adam Thomas: The first thing we did was immerse ourselves in the art, iconography and pop culture that emerged during this vibrant period to get some sense of what the client wanted to express. And let’s just say there were so many things to digest. So, one of the first challenges was deciding what to use and how to create a new identity around it. By focussing in on the vibrant film, advertising and tourism posters of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the pioneering pop art of Tadanori Yokoo, we were then able to create a foundation for the look and feel of the brand. Once we started having fun, the brand took on a life of its own.

ICHIBUNS brand logomark by © Spinach

This part of Soho on Wardour Street, at the entrance to Chinatown, is very colourful and busy. The ICHIBUNS restaurant signage is subtle yet stands out amongst the visual noise. How did you achieve this?

AT: Working alongside the Tokyo interior designers Studio Glitt, we curated an archive of vintage paraphernalia and memorabilia to inspire our thinking. Old tin signs, dog-eared movie posters, plastic robots… it was all pretty battered so we wanted to bring a bit of that into the mix. The large rusted logo is the perfect contrast to the plastic, coloured signage found on the facades of most of its neighbours as well, and it gives the sense of something old flickering back into life – much like Japan did during the late Shōwa era.

ICHIBUNS restaurant in Soho, London

Spinach designed much of the interior elements, the packaging, food and drinks menus as well as the website and vehicle livery. How did you ensure they all visually work together?

AT: The ICHIBUNS logomark is in every sense a brand – and by that I mean it can literally be branded onto anything. With such eclectic and diverse imagery telling the story, we had to keep the brand simple, bold and versatile, otherwise it would have simply got lost in the mix. It is such a crazy name as well, which helps it to stand out and stick in the mind. We didn’t come up with the name, but the emblem is our interpretation of it, and it works well to bring all the different influences of the brand together with one unifying symbol.

ICHIBUNS packaging © Spinach

How important is this for an authentic customer experience?

AT: Very. We didn’t want the customer to feel like there was mass brand repetition throughout the restaurant, nor did we want much of the packaging to feel ‘over-branded’. The images and illustrations carry the brand as much as the brand mark itself.

ICHIBUNS packaging by Spinachdesign.comHaving dined at ICHIBUNS since it opened, and experienced the space in action, what would you say is your favourite part of the completed project?

As designers, to be given the opportunity to create a brand from scratch for such an exciting restaurant concept is hard to equal. There are of course individual elements created by our team that I am particularly proud of, but the most satisfying thing is seeing the brand take on a life of its own. It has become part of the ICHIBUNS experience at every touchpoint, and hopefully an unforgettable visual marker of quality food and entertainment.

ICHIBUNS restaurant concept © Spinach
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