Local design studio Panamá is going against the grain with its latest project – a top-to-toe visual overhaul of sushi joint Koi & Roi in Monterrey, the capital city of Nuevo León, Mexico. Panamá Studio took the symbolic importance of a single grain of rice in Japanese cuisine, and formed the new identity around it.

‘Through a series of graphic exercises, we reviewed the typeface, and customised the font, presenting a timeless and modern interpretation of a rice grain, based on the concept of "duality",’ explains the firm. The concept presents in the form of an almost exclusively black and white colour palette, which continues through the graphic identity and into the space, warmed only by the rosy tones of maple plywood along the bar and shelving.

Koi & Roi visual identity, by Panama Studio

Detail view of the rice-inspired Koi & Roi branding

Tiny, black and white rice-white tiles oscilate across the countertop, mimicking the grain-shaped patterns covering the sushi paper, menus and sustainable take-out containers. A Bruce Nauman-esque neon sign sings on the wall, echoing the pill-shaped motif. Even the ‘O’ in Koi & Roi is shaped like a grain of rice.

The menu – an oriental-occidental fusion – comprises two signature dishes. The Roll, (commonly known as a ‘Sushi Burrito’), filled with the likes of salmon, spicy tuna, avocado, masago, cucumber, lettuce and cilantro. The Bowl, (commonly known as ‘Poke-Bowl’), piled high with well-balanced bites such as edamame, cream cheese, salmon, chives, togarashi and sesame. In both, the well-seasoned rice is the star – the base that holds the dish, and the concept, together. §