During my recent trip to Tokyo, I had the pleasure to meet with Kumiko Noda san. We’ve stumbled across her work through instagram and have been following Kumiko’s work ever since. Her sensitivity to Japanese type treatment, clean design and beautiful print work easily got our attention.
1. Tokyo is a big city with so much to check out. If a designer or creative is only in Tokyo for one full day, how should he or she spend the day from morning to night?
If they are huge fans of contemporary art and design/art books, I would recommend spending time in the morning visiting exhibits at Mori Art Museum and 21_21 Design Sight. Both are located in Roppongi area. In the afternoon, he/she may want to check out some nice book stores in Nakameguro or Ebisu. Both areas are very accessible from Roppongi. I recommend Cow Books, NADiff A/P/A/R/T and POST. I also recommend a bakery shop called 365 Days. It will require you a 20 minutes train ride from Roppongi, but it’s worth visiting, as their pastries are very delicious.
2. What is a day at work like for you as a designer in Japan?
For me, a day that is not busy would go like this:
11:00 am — Leave home for work
Clean up the work area, check emails and respond to the client and the director, and work on designs and revisions.
1:00pm — Lunch time for an hour
Continue working on designs and revisions, meetings with the director and/or the client, and sometimes I use this time to work on my freelance projects.
7:00pm — Leave work
Depending on the workload, I’m able to leave at 5:30ish, but when it’s busy I might have to stay even until past midnight. I have to say that I am lucky to work for this company that treats us well, because many graphic designers in Japan generally work much longer, say until 11 pm or even later.
3. What is the most fulfilling or joyful part of your work?
I find the moment a piece of design that lives on the computer — a “digital information” — being transformed into something tangible after a printing process is the most fulfilling part of my work. Also it is always fun and stimulating meeting new people through work, such as directors, photographers, hair and makeup artists and skilled workers from the printers.
4. What is the design community like in Tokyo?
Tokyo has the largest design community in Japan, and therefore is the most important hub if you are working in the industry. You will find potential clients everywhere, information from abroad is constantly absorbed, and the infrastructure and opportunities nurture the new talents of the future. On the other hand, I see a number of designers come and work in Tokyo for a few years, then bring the experience back to their hometowns, each of which has its own unique sense of place that is different from Tokyo.
5. What are your favourite tools whether it’s a software or stationery or book?
I regularly use Illustrator and Photoshop, but I also do hand drawn sketches a lot as well when I am developing concepts. I use Moleskine notebooks and Muji pens. The book 欧文組版 has been a great reference when I work on a project that is typography based. The author of the book runs a metal print studio and I used to attend his typography lectures for a year.
6. What are you currently fascinated by and how is it influencing your work?
My mother and grandmother were both hairstylists. As a child, I grew up witnessing their clients becoming beautiful and leave the shop with a smile on their face, I naturally came to think that I wanted to create something beautiful when I grew up. Another experience is my encounter to Harada Munenori’s short story, which was included in a text book for Japanese class when I was a junior high school student. I liked his writing, and started reading more books by him, coming across a story about Muji (to my surprise, Harada was the best friend of the designer Kenya Hara who art directed Muji brand!). While I always liked Muji, the book taught me more about it: the brand’s concept; the profession of graphic design; and what graphic designers do. I realized at that moment that I wanted to study design and become a graphic designer.
7. Why do you want to do design?
Japan has its unique aesthetics and the perception of beauty that have been inherited by generations. Sadly, they seemed to be forgotten gradually nowadays. My grandmother and mother inherited and practiced these in the form of ‘hairstyling’. I want to do the same, but as a designer. Using the power of design, I want to inspire the next generation and the people around the world to conserve these precious legacies.
Photos: Kumiko Noda
Translation: Robin Masashi Oshiro