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Interview with Shoichiro Takei

Home > Designer Interviews > Shoichiro Takei

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Shoichiro Takei (ST) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Shoichiro Takei by clicking here.

Interview with Shoichiro Takei at Thursday 19th of April 2012
Shoichiro Takei
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
ST: Ever since I was a kid, I've loved drawing comics. I especially liked creating my own worlds and making stories in them. I didn't dream to become a designer, but I was hoping for a job where I could use these skills.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
ST: On the southern tip of the Japanese archipelago, in Kagoshima, with all of Kyushu as business territory, Our company manages five factories and with a firm foothold in the packaging industry. We mainly produce and sell cardboard and cardboard boxes, but we have also started to produce and sell cosmetic cases. We offer all kinds of packaging services using all kinds of different materials to create packaging that not only keeps the products intact, but also increase the sales. Our design division has six employees - three are pattern architechts, the other three are graphic designers.

FS: What is "design" for you?
ST: To see through the object and find its true nature, then put it through the filter of all of the designer's senses, and coming up with an original expression to create a physical embodiment of this.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
ST: The moment when you've drawn an illustration or some letters and scan it and use it for layout in a design. Or, the moment when you get a printout of the sample.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
ST: Fukuro's baked donut package. A design that takes the round shape of a donut and likens it to the eye of an owl. To make that circle come alive, I used a grid pattern for the background. Too bring out the soft texture of the baked donuts in the design, I used light coloration and created an overall soft feeling. I turned the 'O' in the title ("OWL RING") into a donut with a bite mark. It took me long time before I was satisfied with the look of the bite mark, so I bit the donut til the perfect bite, I almost got sick... now, that's a fond memory.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
ST: An election poster.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
ST: When I use a pencil to draw an illustration. I'm not a big fan of straight lines. I especially like analogue expressions.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
ST: When I see an excellent design or illustration. Regardless of when, where, or who made it. For example, there are times when a coffee cup stains look truly brilliant.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
ST: Whether the design is rich in imagination or not. Excellent design is the designer themselves. When the design is soaked in the designer's very way of life. To me, it's important whether I can sense the designer's body odor when I see a design.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
ST: Happiness, pain, ecstasy, depression, contradicting feelings intersect and intertwine. From that chaos, a light breaks forth. At first, suspicion gives rise to more suspicions, but as you gain experience, all of that turns into confidence.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
ST: Ecstatic! To feel like you were the ruler of heaven and earth, as if you had solved the mystery of life.

FS: What makes a design successful?
ST: Whether that product's meaning of existence matches my own world view. And then, when you have the preparation and determination to become a slave to the design and pour your everything into it, you succeed with that.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
ST: Whether it's innovative and original or not.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
ST: To make people rich in heart. Through the design, you can raise the level of that area's cultural level, and make the people who see it richer in heart. Design has the power to make people happy.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
ST: Design makes people rich in heart. On the material side, our desires have already been satisfied. In the next epoch, what will matter is emotional richness. The importance of design will become easier to explain.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
ST: April 2008, in Kagoshima, Japan. If it's possible, I'd like to do one abroad, this year.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
ST: My life until this point is the source, a life of insatiably absorbing every single field of arts, and always tackling new challenges.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
ST: My own design style is emotional and melancholic, and there's also a nostalgic feel to it. I think this style has the power to delve deep into the hearts and souls of people, and heal their souls, so to speak. The most distinctive characteristic of the design is how it can make people peaceful. I place special importance on an "analogue" mood. I particularly like hand-drawn pencil art. I place the greatest importance on imagination, though.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
ST: Living in Japan. I think I'm able to use the expressions of the untranslatable Japanese aesthetic sense known as "wabisabi," to accomplish depth by not showing everything, because I live and experience the Japanese culture. I think that the design on the Airaguma site's top page is rich in this aesthetic. In Japan (Kagoshima), the awareness of design is still pretty low. I hope that my winning this prize overseas will help raise the consciousness.

FS: How do you work with companies?
ST: I work as a full-time staff at the company.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
ST: I would hope the designer would learn and appreciate the importance, necessity and the effects of design in our lives. How design affects our society, and how design solves various problems we have in our world. In a way, a good designer is an outlaw, because he is never subservient to the societal norm but always questioning and unsatisfied with it. That unfulfilled energy is the button that pushes him out of the innovative boundaries to create something revolutionary. The next generational norm is foreign to us now. When we start to see the creation on its own merit not where the designer’s pedigree, we will be going in the right direction. (Being a good employee to a company is another matter however)

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
ST: First, I do an orientation to absorb and digest what our client wants and needs. Then I imagine the scene in which I accomplish the goal of the project. In my imagination, I verify freely if my plan will be effective. If yes, I start drawing up some mock-ups, while looking for the sweet spot of the design plan. Most of the time, I know already what is the best thing to do but also know that it would be a hard work, so I attempt to escape from it. Thus most of the mock-ups tend to be the easier and not the correct solutions. Once I am not satisfied with my own escapist easy solutions, I brace myself to commit to create the right and best solution. It takes tremendous energy to get to that point, and my whole existence is concentrated for that point.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
ST: A Mini Cooper / Apple Cinema Display / A business card case my grandmother was using during the Maiji period (1868-1912) / A LeKlint lamp / Nike Caddy-bag Athletic 14x14

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
ST: I awake at 6:30, leave home to work at 8. Work until about 18:30 then relax at home. I’m usually in bed by midnight.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
ST: Get to know yourself. What interests you, what do you like, what is important to you? What it means to live? What can you do to not regret anything when you die? What makes you the happiest? What is the priority in life? To know the answer to these will give you hints and shortcuts to creating something that only you can. The techniques and sensibilities can wait.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
ST: The positives could be that designers can put our all into the job that we are excited about. The reverse is true of the jobs that we are not into. Especially we tend to be influenced by how we like our clients.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
ST: The imagination is the key. Draw on your heart’s canvas over and over. And create a comfort zone in order to be in the mental state receptive to inspirations.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
ST: The ability to draw pictures. And the ability to come up with images.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
ST: Pencils, colored pencils, papers, the internet, MacPro by Apple, Adobe softwares(Illustrator, Photoshop), books that gather brilliant designers’ ideas from around the world.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
ST: I stop when I start to lose efficiency. Nothing good comes out of strain. I do most of my creative works in the morning when my head is clear. From the afternoon to the evening, I get operational works done.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
ST: About one week.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
ST: “How do you design?”

FS: What was your most important job experience?
ST: When one package design job turned into a whole branding project; from designing a retail space to web site to advertising campaign.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
ST: Our clients are from the so-called secondary sector such as processed foods, and the first sector such as fruits and vegetables.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
ST: Confectionery packaging. The design appropriate for them and my sensibility seem to be a good fit.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
ST: I would like to be connected with clients from all over the world even when I live in Japan. I am especially interested in package designs of sweets overseas. I also would like to continue writing and drawing children’s books.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
ST: Depends on the project, but most of the time I complete projects by myself.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
ST: We are working on designing cardboard box for shipping that also can be displayed in storefront. The idea is that the package is not just a box to put things in, but it contains the entire brand image, so that the box can have multiple functional possibilities.

FS: How can people contact you?
ST: I work for a company, you can contact me via email through work.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
ST: I have always wanted to be in a creative line of work, but never imagined to be recognized abroad. With the availability of the Internet, there are things that are possible now that we never could have imagined. Individuals with the will and the energy are able to and ought to get connected with the world and expand the platform in which to be appreciated. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the A Design Award for giving me such an opportunity. Thank you very much!


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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