I love how the sky changes its color throughout the day. How blue it can get. How white it can get. How dark it can get. How red, yellow, orange it can get. I also like the fact that everyone in the world - literally every single one - can look at this one continuous thing but sees different colors.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Born and raised in Japan. Educated in Europe and US. Worked in Tokyo, New York and now in San Francisco.

Currently I am Global Creative Director at AKQA, an international agency with offices in SF, NY, DC, LDN, Shanghai and Amsterdam.

Prior to that, I was Executive Creative Director at R/GA on the Nike account.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have won a few Lions, Pencils, Cubes, and Guns over the years.

What do you do for inspiration?

Look at the sky. Seriously.

I love how the sky changes its color throughout the day. How blue it can get. How white it can get. How dark it can get. How red, yellow, orange it can get. I also like the fact that everyone in the world – literally every single one – can look at this one continuous thing but sees different colors.

I still remember when I was about 18, on a chilly day around 6pm, I looked up randomly and saw the most beautiful gradation of “blue” I had ever seen. Since then, the sky has been my inspiration as well as fascination.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Google - I like the fact that a) it works and b) they kept it simple. I’ve seen so many search engines just add, add, add more stuff. Google just kept it simple and is now the most used search engine (as well as arguably the most valued company on the web and beyond). I also how Google gets into different territories and quietly brings innovation.

http://www.ffffound.com - I recently discovered this. It’s visual bookmarking/blogging of sort. It’s very interesting to see how one image can evoke other similar images.

Halo 3 Believe - Ok, it’s kind of a crap-out to list something that my company did. But I’m very proud of what the team did. Not only the final result but things that you can’t see are quite remarkable.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Back in 2004, I did something called Nike Lab (no longer live). At the time, it had a lot of impact.

What software could you not live without?

As a designer, Photoshop. As a non-designer, probably a browser. Now that the Internet is so part of our lives, it’s hard to do things without the Internet.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

A myriad of projects for our clients including Nike, Xbox, McDonalds, method, etc.

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?


North Kingdom. Old news. They consistently do amazingly well crafted work.


GT Inc.. A small boutique agency in Japan. My friend Naoki who is one of the four members and every time he shows me something, it makes me jealous.

Non-web graphic design:

Stefan Sagmeister. An Austrian graphic designer in NYC. He used to do a lot of music packaging work in the 90’s and got out of it just when MP3 was taking off. He approaches work very conceptually and not stylistically. His work 10 years ago is as fresh as it is today.

What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Yes, definitely. For Halo 3, the traffic definitely went through the roof. In fact, an online creative magazine said that the Halo 3 Believe site was the most trafficked site through their site in all of 2007, despite the fact it was launched in September, which is quite late in the year.

Who is your target audience?

Varies depending on clients and projects. My work does tend to focus more on the youth target audience.

What area of web design lacks the most?

0bjective point of view. Too many web designers (designers and creatives in general) do the work to please/impress other design-types and not the audience.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

It’s not online anymore but it was a very visual site for my portfolio. Way back in 95, 96.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

I’ve written a bunch of articles but not books. I’d like to.

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

Drag and drop in Flash 2 (I think it was Flash 2). Actionscript was pretty basic back then and you couldn’t do much. It’s not online anymore.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

For the next 3 - 5 years, yes. After that, it’s anyone’s game.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

I definitely think someone can get into the field without school/educational experience. Some of the best designers I’ve met don’t have formal school training (although many of the best designers I’ve met have form training so education definitely helps).

As I’m now in the position to review resumes and portfolios, I see the quality of students varies quite drastically from school to school. Schools do have definite impact on their skills and quality when they graduate.

When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?

Doing good work.

How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?

A lot of new skills I’ve acquired over the years, I’ve had to teach them myself.

When I first learned Flash (it was before Flash was owned by Macromedia so that’s a long time ago), my art director then just came to me and asked “do you know this new program...? Can you try?” And then I found out that the presentation was in 3 days. I literally stayed up all night to teach myself and do something presentable to the client.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

A desk.

What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?

I’m not much of a labels man but I do like APC, a French fashion label known for simplicity of their designs (and lack of logos everywhere).

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Keep it simple. Keep it clear.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much.

Thank you. My pleasure.


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