Web and Graphic designer from Japan working with Love, Passion and Dedication. No Yakitori, no life.

LocationTokyo, Japan
DateMay 08, 2018
The meetup

Still amazed by the energy of the streets in Tokyo, I went to Garden Eight’s office; Mikiko and Natsuko welcomed me. This interview was special because some of it was in Japanese. My Japanese being pretty rudimentary (konichuwa, sayonara and arigato), Natsuko was here to translate and help us during the interview. 

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If you experience a lot of things and meet a lot of people, you get richer and you have way more empathy. It will be easier for you to understand people.
Chapter 01
About the designer

Can you introduce you to us and tell us a bit about yourself? 

Hello, I'm Mikiko, I’m 28 years old and I'm from Fukuoka, south part of Japan. I’m a designer at Garden Eight. I started learning figure skating when I was 8 years old, and I felt like there were no good brands for figure skating, and that's why I wanted to become a designer. After graduating high school, I started studying at KIDI PARSONS, a design school in Kanazawa. It's a very small school with only 10 people in each class. It's a sister school of the Parsons Art University in New York City. When you graduate from KIDI PARSONS, you can go to the Parsons Art University. I was really interested by studying abroad so when I graduate from my school in Kanazawa, I went to New York City. I chose Fashion design as major because I was still interested in creating a figure skating brand. I stayed in that school in NYC for 8 months, but I realized that I wasn’t good at creating clothes, and I didn't really like that. I decided to go back to Japan, and I went to school in Tokyo for 2 years to study graphic design. After graduating, I joined Letters and 3 years later we became Garden Eight where I stayed for 2 more years, so five years in total. 

Garden Eight's website

How would you describe your work here at Garden Eight? I heard there were people here doing both design and code, is it the same for you? 

I try to do both design and code for most of the projects. I do design more than coding since I sometimes do projects that don’t involve code or I work with another developer from other companies. If I’m working on a project that’s what we would call an easy website, I'll do both design and code as I’m still a novice in coding. I think I need to do both if I want to make creative websites because I need to know what's possible. When you know what’s possible, you can push your design further in my opinion.

I'd like to know how it works here in terms of process. Do you have one designer and one developer teaming up for a project or it’s just one person by project who handles both?

I’d say it depends on the workload. Sometimes we do one project per person, but sometimes I'd only do the design and someone else will handle the code. It depends. There are no strict rules around that. 


Jeanasis Media

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I never thought about it. I really like the beginning of a project where everything is still possible. I love creating another world in my mind while I’m designing. I love searching websites and graphic designs for references.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

First, I have a cup of coffee when I wake up. I normally have lunch before going into the office or while walking to the office. I start work around 1pm until around 10pm. During the day, I take some breaks, going on some walks outside, smoking or drinking coffee. I also love to use Pinterest, so it's one of my hobby during the day to kind of relax while still getting inspired.


Mikiko focused on her work

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m currently working on my own project. 11 years ago, I came up with the idea of creating my own fashion brand for ice skaters, and I’m glad I finally did it.


Ice Skate's sketch

What clients are you working for here at Garden Eight?

It can be startups or big companies, it really depends. We started to do branding which is cool because we can start the process earlier and be involved from the beginning. I’m really exited about that. 

I love creating another world in my mind while I’m designing.

Can you tell me about a project that has made you the most proud? 

That's a hard question. I’d maybe say a website for a make-up artist I did back in 2015: Kodonishimura. He is a friend of mine from NYC. It was sort of a challenge for us at the agency. We wanted that every designer create a website in one week. I designed it focusing on being elegant and friendly. I did the code as well.

The second project is for a Spanish restaurant called “the Ringo". I designed and developed it. I focused on presenting many pictures and colors in the best way. I wanted to depict the high quality of the restaurant while showing its warm atmosphere.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

I find my inspiration in different things. I could name Pinterest, Awwwards and Instagram for example. I also get inspired while listening to music and watching movies. 

How do you get inspired while watching movies? Can you give me some examples? 

I get really inspired by movies because of the fonts they use, the composition of the frame and the photography style. 


Insidious / Truman

What do you do when you get stuck on a project and you don't know what to do?

I usually listen to music and if I'm still stuck, I will change the music to make me think differently! As I said, music deeply impact the way I design. 

How do you keep learning and growing as a designer? 

I want to get inspired all the time, and if I’m not inspired, I try to do the things I told you before to get more inspired. It’s also important for me to identify my weakness and try to improve them all the time. 


Keio University


Keio University

What is a good advice that someone gave you? 

My boss told me that I should communicate with myself more often and try to know myself better. I like that concept because it makes me try to understand why I like specific things and why I don’t like others. 


Tokyo, Japan - © Robin Noguier

Chapter 02
The design industry in Japan

How will you describe the design education system in Japan? 

The design education system in Japan is good but we are not the best at thinking about concept. Of course it depends on schools, but at least at my school, we were more focused on the skills and the craft more than the concept. We lack skills in presentation and how we tell people about our work. I think we should learn those kind of things more at school. In Japan, I think designers are not aware enough of their own sensitivity. We should focus more on the uniqueness of each designers.

How will you describe the design industry in Japan? 

Most of the design agencies are in Tokyo and some of them are in Osaka or Nagoya, but it's mostly concentrated in Tokyo. There is a good design community in Tokyo where agencies meet up and we all have good relationships with each other. It’s a good environment to work! 

At my school, we were more focused on the skills and the craft more than the concept.

So you will say that Tokyo a good city for creatives? 

Yes, of course! We have a lot of designers here in Tokyo so we can work together and learn from each other. Also, nowadays there are more foreigners in Tokyo, so we can be inspired by them. The mix of the cultures is a really good way to improve.


Mikiko posing in the streets of Tokyo

Growing up in Japan, was designer a path that you think you could take?

Yes it was! I’ll tell you a short story. When I was 15, I had a really old cellphone and I wanted to make some graphics for it. I made it and then gave it to my friends, and they really like it. That's when I decided to become a designer. It was that simple.

If I was a young creative in Japan and I wanted to become a designer, what would be your advice?

Watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music, travel to many parts of Japan and elsewhere to have many experiences. If you experience a lot of things and meet a lot of people, you get richer and become more empathetic. It will be easier for you to understand people. On the opposite, finding bad designs in various places like small towns, roads, stations and TV and think about how you could improve them is also a good exercise. 

Would you advise someone to go to school to learn design or self-teach?

Both. First, go to school, then work by yourself. You cannot expect school to give you everything you need. You have to dig deeper on what you want to be really good at. 

What are some agencies or designers that you like?

For graphic design, I like Nippon Design Center, Kigi and Draft. In web design, I like Shiftbrain and Baqemono. I also admire the work of Kenta Toshikura and Misato Daikuhara who are more creative developers. Finally, I follow closely and love the work of Ueno, Phoenix studio in Montreal, Flavien Guilbaud and Tobias Van Schneider.


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Final boarding call

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