The Word Works

: Design

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Selling Creative

Published By: John on 09/22/06
Categories: Brain Design Hit Products

In the Aoyama Design Kaigi section of the September 2006 issue of BRAIN, graphic designer Kitagawa issay, copywriter Maeda Tomomi, and product designer Sumikawa Shinichi discuss the proposition that creative (words, designs and images produced by creative imagination) should be seen as corporate assets. They begin with an issue much how the minds of people like themselves who rely on their creativity for their livelihoods: How do people on the corporate side see their ideas.image

KITAGAWA. Creative has become a corporate asset. But there are other corporate assets as well. Technology, for example, taste, for example, communication ability: all are examples of assets whose value is, like that of creative, hard to quantify.

I fear that the heirs of those who founded corporations after WWII are not taking proper care of the invisible assets that the founders created.

SUMIKAWA. I work in product design. The example I have brought with me today is a shoehorn. It’s priced at 7,000 yen but recently has sold very well. When I noticed that previous shoehorns were made of celluloid and stuffed away in shoe closets, I was inspired to make a beautiful shoehorn. I said to myself, “Let’s make the world’s most beautiful shoehorn.” But I had the idea seven years ago, and it took me five or six years to bring it to fruition.
It’s very hard for corporations to accept an idea like that, which takes so long to realize. And when we outsiders bring ideas to corporations, it takes them a very long time to understand and accept them. To succeed we have to grit our teeth and have confidence in the ideas we’ve come up with.image


The problem is that when an individual designer brings ideas to a corporation, getting them through to an OK takes an immense amount of time. Or, perhaps I’m just not very persuasive (laughs). I kept hearing people say that “A shoehorn priced close to 10,000 yen will never sell.” I was young and lacked both experience and confidence. There are so many great young designers around, attitudes like that are a real waste. Corporations need to cultivate an eye for new ideas.

MAEDA. The newspaper ads for Takarajimasha in which I have been involved are a good example. We’ve been working together for 11 years [during which these ads have, by the way, one several prizes]. It might seem odd that a publishing company that owns its own media would spend money on expensive newspaper ads. But this is a strange company, and they don’t find it odd at all.

Once, there were two years in which they stopped producing these ads. As a result, their scores in corporate image surveys declined.  “So, those ads weren’t a waste, after all” they say.

The problem is that things we used to take for granted aren’t persuasive anymore. If all we can offer is 20th century-type talk about efficiency, the clients won’t see the need. Some are even asking, what is this talk about efficiency? It is easy if we explain and they buy it, but the era when that was enough is past.

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