We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Takahiro Sato ("TS").
After losing his first company because he collapsed from overwork, he lives separate from his son who has autism and intellectual disability. To create a place where he work with his son, he started KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO. He called himself rookie designer first time at 43 years old. As a designer, his first product is Samurai Mode Series and first fashion brand for him. His brand is also social design considered especially working environment. Because he doesn’t want his son to wear the fashion at the expense of others and also never wanted to archive the employment of people with disabilities by other’s expense. So he designs his brand to make all people who make, buy and design are happy. He challenges to realize the employment of people with disabilities, sustainable and ethical working environment by his social design.
Takahiro Sato Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Takahiro Sato.
Designer Interview of Takahiro Sato:
DI: 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?
TS : I like creating something since I was child. I wanted to go to college to study product design but I started working when I was 19 years old because of family reasons. So I gave up once. I studied the structure and maintenance of car own school of some Japanese automobile manufacturer. Learning structure of car affects on the philosophy of my design. But I drop out it too and when make my living with another dream, musician, I worked at some companies for game and toys. My job title was not designer but designed, did direction, made plans and project. I have been in those entertainment business world. After many experience, now I , 43 years old, overcome my complex , call myself “designer” first time and apply for this A’DESIGN AWARD by my first work as designer.
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
TS : Gerbera Design Inc. is the design studio that I, who have experience that shut my business because collapsed from overworking, consult for starting new business project, how to be able to turn the PDCA on both management side and design side without failure. I can do it because I have those experience. As I write on KUDEN project detail, I have strong will to make the place to work with my disabled son so I call myself designer and start KUDEN as a new project by own company. This 2 is characteristic of my company.
DI: What is "design" for you?
TS : I believe it’s one of means to make people happy.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
TS : Fashion. Also like to think of strategy as design. I may like the most the design that we can’t see, like strategy and gimmick to make people feeling happy. I’m sure I like what can see, e.g. structure.
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
TS : Maybe Samurai Mode Jacket, it’s my first work so have a special attachment. Even now, I wear it, feel good. I love it.
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
TS : The laptop board that I designed with artisan of KUMIKO, it’s a Japanese traditional wood technique that famous for used on Nikko Toshogu shine. Nikko is my born place. It’s still on my desk, my favorite one.
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
TS : I like what I can touch by my own hand more than digital things. Even I have designed games and apps , I'm sure I think I'm good to design it. Also like to design what people can touch and feel an analog-warmth by their hand.
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
TS : We are limited cost and resource, because it’s a start-up small company. So I make plans and strategy how to make client and customer happy within the limits. Those planning and designing products are very fun time for me.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
TS : I focus on only one thing strongly, that is “this design is as means for who and what.”
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
TS : First, feel an inferiority complex but keep thinking, and when customer’s smile comes into my head it turns to delight.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
TS : Honestly, feel nervous. I think my design becomes to be completed when customers receive by their hand and heart. Because I’m not an artist, I’m a commercial designer.
DI: What makes a design successful?
TS : "I think design is a mean so success or not is decided by heart and actions of people who use and see. "
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
TS : "As I mentioned earlier, I think good design tells us the aim that is for who and what. Just a good looking is not my point for “good design”. "
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
TS : Not only designer, also I’m a father. The responsibilities of a designer for society and environment is , after all , to be sustainable. I think design has a power to be able to suggest, communicate , call to action by feeling without words. We designer must use this power to make and keep the better society and environment for next generations, our children, not only for consumption and commerce.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
TS : The design by my definition covers a lot of stuff, I think. For this time, I’m so glad that KUDEN is evaluated as social design, not only clothes design but also branding. I think it’s because what we can’t see like strategy and design thinking will be evaluated more and more in the future. So from now on, not a what we can see, thinking that makes positive impact to better sustainable world is becoming “design field”, I think.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
TS : Ha ha ha, I made a debut as designer when I was 43 years old, A’DESIGN AWARD is my first time to apply as “my work” to completion and receive the award. The exhibition, um, I want to do anytime if you offer me.
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
TS : A half factor is from my inborn character and the other half is from my mother, raise me when I was child. She gave me a deeply positive impact , for Next kimono is also affected by her sense. And how I feed my creativity is that I learnt by myself with working in society because I couldn’t go to study in school. For example, I don’t graduate from design school but some game company in Tokyo recruited me, it was a walk-in visiting company. For that time, I didn’t have Educational background so I entered to lobby of some game company and got free-pamphlet about new game title, took it to game store and toy store, ask them and people about games, made report and turned in it to company. Like this, I , minority and not in privileged family, advanced my career with hungry spirit by design thinking that how to archive my aim and challenge. This may grow my creativity most.
DI: 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?
TS : On technical side, I often start my design from design thinking and strategy, it’s conceptual design, consider what and who it needs for and finally reach the visual. On mind side, my favorite Japanese word that express Japanese traditional sense of beauty “粋 (Iki)”. It means familiar, clear, thoughtful but also has appeal and nobility. In my sense, “ Is it a Iki or not?” is important. I want to be Iki-designer.
DI: 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?
TS : Of course I live in Japan, based in Tokyo and Nikko. Nikko is my born place and famous for world heritage. For pros, It gives me a positive impact the sense of beauty “Iki” and also Zen, Wabi-sabi. For cons, it’s a still weak for global thinking.
DI: How do you work with companies?
TS : Work with entertainment industry , company who has own brand and so on.
DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
TS : My company consult for new business project and design work. We can create unique world view for all design work, media, product, service, website and any other things according to the company want to do and to who they deliver because designer understand high-level concept that why to do this project, not only design visual. So how to select good designer is to make designer to participate from high-level concept of project, not order just a design after you decide project only in company. I think you’ll take advantage of designer more. If designer can describe their work and understand concept, they may be good designer for my opinion.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
TS : First, make the target and aim clear, consider the condition I should take into account like cost, age, environment and human resource. Within the limit, think what I can do for making the result and customer smile, gather information and make draw rough draft. Then narrow down the options, make sample and do test marketing , get the feed back by them and make design better or narrow down more. After repeat this some times and finish.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
TS : iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, fountain pan, notebook and coffee.
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
TS : For working day, I wake up at 5:00 in morning and take a shower, make coffee and do most important work of the day first, it’s a work as business manager and designer. After that, stretch and training for a hour. At 10:00, begin meeting with staff, it’s mainly for support to staff or work as a team. Cooking lunch by myself for staff and take it together. Take a nap and work afternoon, finish it by 17:00. Every other week, I handle the dinner for staff and enjoy talking and eating together. I sleep by 22:00. For weekend, one day is for rest and the other day is for the day I do what I like.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
TS : Don’t just stare your laptop, go out and touch, see, feel many things and have a lot of experience. Try first even if you like it or dislike. Don’t lose your curiosity. Don’t stop your growth by yourself with small success, in the field that only you can do. Become sensitized to feeling and niceties of the human spirit. Even though, have a dream you strongly want to actualize. And, keep balance of them.
DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
TS : Everything , experience in your life ,we do like traveling helps develop our designer skill and it's a great things for designer. But also I can say for cons everything we do even traveling connects with works.
DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?
TS : What decides whether design is good or bad is smile of clients and customers.
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
TS : Ability of thinking to lead feeling and action without words.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
TS : iPad and pencil, fountain pen and note. My inspiration comes when see artisans work and study them.
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
TS : Make a “Not-to-do list”, instead of to-do list and focus on what I should do.
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
TS : "Input in all time and all day, output is almost seconds and minutes because it’s a when comes up with idea. For me, often my first idea makes use until finish. As I said on above, I brush up again to make it better means for aim. "
DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
TS : When I was 43 years, last year, I called myself designer first time. I receive this award first time as designer so I’m surprised that this interview asks me a lot.
DI: What was your most important job experience?
TS : Because of hardworking, I had to closed my design company and tried my best not to make trouble to staff and clients as much as possible. After that, started my company again, raise myself. This is most impact work for me.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
TS : For new business project, it’s me as KUDEN. For my deeply view, every customer loves products and service by KUDEN is my client.
DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
TS : Product design like fashion. I can create what I want but customers gives feedback directly from customers who feel happy by it too, it’s really rewarding.
DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
TS : I plan to make Next Kimono up grade and expand many kinds of products and service according to KUDEN’s concept.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
TS : I develop my designs myself as lead designer in my company but also work as team with staff, designer and director. For KUDEN project, we do everything by ourselves.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
TS : The Samurai Mode Series that receive the award this time will be upgraded like the function that becomes modern kimono if wear all 3 pieces. Also take the function traditional kimono originally has , can adjust for many people all over the world even it's a one-design, makes more easy and comfortable to wear with remaining traditional kimono looks but also add a new function. Kimono has very wide rage as design.
DI: How can people contact you?
TS : I’m glad if make action by KUDEN web site.
DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
TS : I would like to work with who want to make your new business to global, have interests on Ethical and social issues and also collaborate with who have traditional technique of each country. It’s a happy if work with you as designer.