Tag Archives: Japan
This is an article I wrote recently for the D&AD education resource. I hope you enjoy it.
Running your own graphic design company from a young age, in my case 23, you think all the work you do is “personal”. You aren’t working for anyone else, you target the clients you want to work with, you choose your staff, you decide what to pitch for, how much time to put in, what to turn down, which battles to fight and which to concede. You take it home with you at night and it’s right there with you the next morning – if indeed it hasn’t troubled your sleep as well. My name is on the door, my holiday photos are on the website – it’s pretty damn personal.
It wasn’t until I was 30 and on sabbatical in Japan that I realised the drawing and research I was doing there was the first I had done purely for myself for almost 10 years and it was quite a revelation. When I was a student I was a fervent drawer and obsessive maker of visual diaries but that all fell by the wayside as my professional life took over and consumed my creative world. I’m not complaining – we built an incredible team and I have a portfolio full of stories, adventures and memories that are all incredibly personal. But it there was always a client. And that’s the key difference.
I have gone on record many times to say how much I detest designers bitching about their clients – seriously, either get better ones or shut up and take the money. And this isn’t about client-bashing. Problem solving and working towards a common creative goal with motivated people who pay you for your services is an immensely satisfying way to earn a living. But I have realised I have to have my own work alongside. It keeps your eyes fresh and your soul intact – it also helps to really understand where they are coming from. (It’s only until it’s YOUR product on a website you understand why maybe, just maybe, the “Buy it Now” button should be a little bit bigger, and while you’re at it, maybe the logo too?)
I moved to Paris last year and a chance meeting with a very talented writer lead to a collaboration we call “Mademoiselle London”. Kat writes, I design and Illustrate as well as managing the brand and the online activity. We self published our first book to a great reception in France and are working on the second. It was born out of a mutual need to create a new voice in a place where our language is not the “maternelle” – to find a way to belong here. No client, the only deadlines self imposed and the only brief to make something we were proud of. It has brought back to my life what I left behind in my student days – an ownership of my visual language, my free time and my creative purpose. It puts you back in the centre of your work and, I think, makes you better at the paid stuff.
So I implore all students reading this; whatever it is you do for yourself alongside the structured workload of courses and student briefs; as the all consuming beginnings of your career threaten to take over – don’t stop doing it.
I was recently asked to contribute to an inspired project by Anomoly and Unit 9. 1000 Cranes for Japan is based on an ancient Japanese legend says anyone who folds 1000 cranes will be granted a wish. The project has brought together a collection of illustrations which you can download and fold into cranes and at the same time make a donation to the victims of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake.
I sent them this illustration that I did whilst in Japan in 2009. It’s a drawing very close to my heart as seeing this woman dancing Yoyogi-koenr was such a special moment on a trip that fuelled my creativity in so many ways and without which Mlle London would not exist.
I have downloaded, donated and made my crane. It was a very peaceful little act and would highly recommend it!
Liked this one as a sketch…
This was entirely accidental.. but I seem to have captured the whole gang in a series of (more) illegal gallery photography.
I love these all the more because I wasn’t allowed to take them and the ladies in the white coats didn’t catch me and lock me in the dungeons of Chichu.
P.S. Thought Monet’s Waterlilies were overrated when I was 15, and I still do. Tadao Ando on the other hand, is a genius.
Before I met GT Inc. on Friday I had a scout around their website in preparation. The ‘Love Needs Distance’ project that is featured on there was so powerful it actually made me cry – I knew this was going to be an interesting meeting!
I met with Naoki Ito, Creative Director, and his assistant Takayuki Rokutan. They describe GT Inc. as a 360° Agency – working across all types of Advertising media – interactive, video, ambient, outdoors and good old-fashioned print. The entirely independent company is 3 yrs old and made up of a core team of six.
They took me through some of their showcase projects. Firstly they had to explain the strange figures (above) that were in the meeting room with us – an Out of Home campaign for a Japanese mobile game called “Hange” which translates as “Half”. They created these enigmatic ‘half’ people and dotted them around key spots in Tokyo – using FeliCa software (previously referenced in an earlier post) a passerby could touch their phone to the quirky creatures to download the game for themselves.
They then took me on a fantastic journey from the sublime – a beautiful piece of print for the Japan Interactive Advertising Annual, based on the layout of a blog, in which they re-inforced the concept of 360° thinking by designing a 4-way mirrored typeface (this took a lot of explaining as my knowledge of Katakana isn’t exactly brilliant!) - to the ridiculous with the hilarious viral ad for Coffee Max (canned coffee that features heavily in my drinks machines study!). This features a ‘Human Car Race’ so inline with our western perception of crazy Japanese gameshows one might almost think it was a real event!
But of course I was most taken with the blind-branded entertainment project that they created for Sagami Original and the “World’s Thinnest Condom” (0.2 mm to be precise). GT were charged with creating a condom “power brand”, something that didn’t exist in Japan, and for this Naoki felt they had to move away from crude ideas around Sex to abstract, gentler universal themes of Love. Tying into concepts of distance (0.2 mm?), safety, restraint and passion he came up with the concept of “Love Needs Distance”.
Tapping into the Japanese passion for reality TV (although, I should add ‘Big Brother’ has not made it here!) they selected a real couple in a long-distance relationship willing to run for 24 days (1 Billion millimeters!) to meet each other in Tokyo, not only that but prepared to make all communication in that time – sms, video calls, faxes (yes, apparently the Japanese still have an attachment to the fax machine – a nostalgia for a simpler time, perhaps?) available to the world.
What I found most interesting about this advertising narrative was not only that they ran a ‘blind’ campaign for a month drawing people in to the human and romantic tale of two lovers running to see each other, but that once the reveal had been made the campaign had a second, perhaps even more powerful, life as a ‘making-of’ piece. Everything was up for grabs and interest was totally sustained, rather than the audience feeling in any way duped.
The project was PR’d with data research on long distance relationships – it emerged that 50% of Japanese people had experienced a long distance relationship in their lives and of them 50% of couples in this situation had cheated. This research was seeded and linked to the ‘event’ on Japan’s answer to Facebook, Mixi.
Naoki worked for ADK (the third largest Japanese Ad agency) before joining GT and covered in all areas of the business – Sales Promotion, Account Planning, Interactive Production and PR before crossing over into the creative realm. This experience feeds his holistic approach to campaigns and strategy – he strongly believes in creating a core concept and then working to cleverly integrate this idea into all areas of design, content and publicity – something he is exceptionally good at. He talked energetically about moving into Chinese markets where the work is less domestic, and of constantly breaking new ground in all media. Having seen the work, met the man and been totally inspired by his approach, I have no doubt.