Rebranding Death

Funeral homes employ a similar aesthetic in design and brand identity wherever you go. Their colors are muted, dark, and the walls are generally decorated, like those in hospitals, with opaque watercolors (or dorm-room Matisse reproductions). This culture of design is particularly pronounced in Japan, where funeral homes strictly follow the unwritten black-and-white design rule. A new advertisement for Nishinihon Tenrei funeral home, however, is breaking this rule in dramatic, colorful fashion.

Mari Nishimura, creative director at ad agency I&S BBDO, developed the idea for this life-size poster of a human skeleton made from a collage of colorful flowers and plant life. Recently, it won a One Show Design Merit Award.


While the work produced is certainly beautiful, and perhaps marketable, the logic behind its creation seems questionable.

“If the funeral is an occasion to show your gratitude to those you are leaving behind, you’d want it to be colorful and festive,” Nishimura explained in an interview.

The tempting response to this statement is: “It’s not. A funeral is an occasion for the family and friends of the dead to get together, say goodbye, and pay their respects.”

That said, Nishimura didn’t position her statement in this fashion by accident. What she probably suspected was that the living customers of funeral homes would probably enjoy a livelier setting, but might also feel guilty about having such an experience in a time of mourning. By saying a colorful celebration is what the dead want, she can give it to the living customers while protecting them from self-judgment.

Regardless of the thought process, this bold, beautifully-executed rebranding campaign could easily take off, and change the way funeral homes present themselves.

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