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Lessons from Creative Director Kashiwa Sato

Today I attended a talk and interview with Creative and Art Director Kashiwa Sato. The event was hosted by the Japan Society.

Among his vast collection of work, Kashiwa is best known for his creation of the iconic UNIQLO logo, and branding work for Seven-Eleven.

In his talk he covered numerous projects and his approach and perspective on design. Here are some highlights.

His mission is to use the power of design to visualize new perspectives.

A brand should be: simple, clear and memorable.

Japanese culture drives his design, logo, and brand work. He uses Kanji (characters used in modern Japanese writing) as a basis for creating a logo that captures the essence of a brand.  An example of this was the logo he designed for Beauty Experience.

He uses traditional methods to innovate. Japanese culture and traditions are his primary sources of inspiration.

The icon. It can be driven by the logo, product, space, architecture, or city. And most recently, he discovered a 6th category, the method.  With his work on the Arita Project, his method of using a traditional Japanese brush in a new way (splash paint) became the basis for the icon.

Design by accident and logic.

When hired by a new client, Kashiwa will go on site to conduct research and ask questions. Before commencing work on Fuji Kindergarten, he spent 6 months visiting and learning about Kindergartens in Japan. His approach to Fuji was to capture the essence of Kindergarten. If you visit a traditional Kindergarten you'll recognize that it's a Kindergarten because of the objects inside. Take away those objects and you have a building. Kashiwa wanted to create an icon so that even if you took away the objects, you would still know it's a Kindergarten.

An attendee asked a great question: we are emotional creatures, as a designer how do you stay grounded? Kashiwa had a wonderful response:

I organize.

I organize everything. My home, my desk, the files on my computer, the mess my kids made. It makes me feel better. I even wrote a book about organizing ("Ultra-organized art").

And finally, when asked for parting advice:

As a creator, you're a communicator. Think about who you're communicating with. Don't obsess about what you want to do, but what you're communicating.