kashiwa sato interview
samurai’s founder, kashiwa sato tells us about his approach to branding.
DB: please could you tell us briefly about your background?
KS: I was born in tokyo . when I was a kid, I was very good at drawing, talking and inventing new games with other kids – these three characteristics were the seeds of what would eventually become my passion and profession. after graduating in graphic design from the tama art university I went on to work at hakuhodo for eleven years as an art director managing more than fifty clients for them. over those years, I gradually came to think that I could expand the possibilities of design and art direction particularly in terms of branding – so in 2000 I started my own office, samurai, which offers a holistic approach to corporate and visual identity, product development, space design, architecture, website and image creation. today samurai has a team of ten designers, including interns.
fuji kindergarten identity
(building in collaboration with tezuka architects)
DB: how would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
KS: I wear many hats; art director, creative director, brand architect and communication director.
DB: do you still work as a ‘hands on’ graphic designer?
KS: yes, because often our clients expect that I will work directly on their projects.
DB: how do you share the workload between yourself and the team?
KS: as creative director I provide the overall direction, I judge everything and finally present everything to the clients and to the public. the team members of samurai are busy executing, drawing and realizing the concepts.
inabari towel japan identity
DB: what attracted you to designing brand identities?
KS: I enjoy creating the very core of a communication.
DB: what advice would you give to a young, aspiring designer?
KS: do not be too egotistic and do not be too mindless – don’t follow every request from the client. another thing would be that when working with larger companies try to work directly with the top management, the people who can make the important decisions.
the nippon foundation identity
DB: what are your thoughts on specialization vs. generalization?
KS: the most important thing for us is to keep in mind the customer’s view point. too much specialization prevents you from observing the important points of view that customers have.
DB: what would be your dream project?
KS: any project with social significance, with a client who I can relate to and share their vision. I enjoy working with clients who have a global perspective.
packaging / identity for kirin’s gokunama and namakuro drinks
DB: do you think it’s important for a graphic designer to be able to draw?
KS. those who are capable of drawing are able to give clear direction, those who can’t are not.
the national art center, tokyo identity
DB: besides your work and design in general, what are you passionate about?
KS: I am enthusiastically devoting myself to my six-year-old son’s improvement of karate.
NTT docomo N703ID creative direction
DB: what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
KS: mr. takuya onuki, who was a mentor to me while I was at hakuhodo told me ‘always keep your eyes and mind cool’.
DB: what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
KS: for me no advice is ‘bad’. you can learn something from everyone and everything – if you listen carefully. ultimately you decide what advice you will act on.