Wrapping up: Spectrum Tokyo 2023

As the year comes to a close, our last article of the year will reflect on our activities in 2023. We will review the actions taken by our team and the insights gained in relation to the theme we set at the beginning of the year.

Spectrum Tokyo began its activities in July of last year, so this summer marked our first anniversary, and we are now about 1.5 years old. It has been a year of significant expansion for us in various ways.

So what exactly is Spectrum Tokyo?

Recently, we’ve become known for our annual design festival held in December, but there are lots more we do. We refer to Spectrum Tokyo as a design community platform. Our main activities are centered around the following three areas; Magazine, Meetups and Festivals, and we aim to provide content and create spaces for those who want to learn and delve deeper into design:

Besides these, we are continuously trying to establish new channels as well. In a nutshell, we believe that creating content and spaces that embrace the diversity of design and break down domestic and international borders leads to better design.

This Year’s Theme:

Our theme for this year’s activities was ‘Creating Numerous Encounters in Design,’ and we decided on this at the beginning of the year. After starting our activities last year, we felt that this industry lacks two types of encounters.

Encounters with Comrades

At the end of last year, we held our first large-scale offline event as Spectrum Tokyo. After experiencing the pandemic, we realized the importance of gathering in person. Regardless of how many views we get for online events or how many thousands of sign-ups we have (I have done such events in the past which were also fun), the value of a 100 actual show-ups felt so much more than thousands of online views.

The difference lies in whether or not there are encounters with actual people. While it’s not impossible to meet people at online events, it’s difficult and time-consuming. Meeting people in person, we unconsciously gather various information and get to know them. Through this, we meet like-minded comrades and also sense those who don’t quite fit with us. I believe what people lost due to the pandemic was this type of experience.

Encounters with people are the greatest source of learning and motivation. They can open up one’s closed perspective and sometimes even provide direct teachings. The success and failure stories of others become convincing and realistic knowledge (though they should not be taken at face value), and equally important is the opportunity to talk about oneself. It helps you understand your current skills and career position, and learning to communicate about yourself is also a great learning experience.

Encounters with Knowledge and the World

Design has become a topic of discussion in various places more than before. However, there are always biases and trends in topics and themes. As a content creator and a community themed on diversity, we have been conscious of putting out unique content that cannot be seen elsewhere, fostering new knowledge and encounters with different worlds. Especially after the pandemic, I felt a significant loss due to the necessity of seclusion for several years. The industry seemed to have sunk into a slightly negative or sulky state, whether it was a decline in people’s desire and ability to explore new worlds, or a commoditization of topics (though this is just my personal impression). That’s why, as Spectrum Tokyo, we were committed to exciting content creation that would reignite excitement about design.

As the world gradually returned to physical interactions and the industry buzzed with AI, some vitality seemed to return even without our direct involvement. However, our desire to create content that excites new perspectives and ideas remained unchanged throughout the year.

(Looking back, these two points will not only be significant guidelines for this year but will continue to be so in the future.)

Our achievements in 2023

Published articles of a wide variety

In Spectrum Tokyo Magazine, we published a total of 34 articles. In our interviews, we consciously featured digital design’s role in society and daily life, as well as products targeted at slightly unusual audiences or clusters. We also belatedly published articles on our editorial team’s visit to Denmark last year. Additionally, there were many rich and in-depth columns written by our writers. I believe we managed to provide updates that was diverse and interesting. A big thanks goes to everyone who wrote for us this year and to all those who cooperated with our interviews.

Held monthly meetups

This year, we started the Spectrum Tokyo Meetup, an in-person event, from around March. Including spin-offs, we held it about eight times, with over 500 participants in total. The format involves various professionals giving five-minute lightning talks on design, followed by networking. Surprisingly, despite the high barrier of conducting the event entirely in English for locals, nearly 70 people attended the first session, with a good mix of locals and internationals.

The reason for making it English-only was simple: we wanted to create a space for locals to practice English, and also a chance for people to connect despite language barriers. We also thought that an English-only restriction might attract a different audience and foster unique encounters not found in other local events. Indeed, the mix turned out to be interesting, attracting both locals who wanted to study English and foreigners working in Japan. Normally, these two clusters are separated and rarely intersect, so we received a lot of positive feedback, especially from foreigners, who appreciated the opportunity to talk with local Japanese designers.

Additionally, through these meetups, we came across an interesting insight. One day, a participant who attended the English version of the meetup told me that he was disappointed of the fact that we started a Japanese version of the meetup and also of the fact that we did not announce that on the English social media channel. He was keenly interested in what local Japanese designers were thinking and believed that sessions conducted in the native language would inherently have richer content. I had never considered inviting English speakers to the Japanese version of the event, as I assumed there weren’t many foreigners who spoke Japanese and they would feel isolated. However, it made perfect sense that, just like Japanese people wanting to learn English, foreigners would be looking for opportunities to learn Japanese too. This was a revelation for me.

Following this, we merged the meetups, which were previously held under different names for Japanese and English versions, and started alternating them monthly, welcoming both Japanese and English speakers to both types of sessions. It’s still a work in progress, but I think moving towards a more inclusive approach is a good direction for us.

Launched Instagram

As for me and my team members, we often meet fascinating practitioners in design, and as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, these encounters are very educational for us. However, due to time constraints, it’s not feasible to conduct article interviews with everyone we meet. So, we’ve been thinking of broadcasting more casually, like through Instagram Reels. Our new member of the crew is currently trying out various things in this vein.

We’re still in the trial-and-error phase, but the content is shaping up to be light and offers a glimpse into the real lives of those active in the field. Please take a look and follow our Instagram for more updates to come!

Late-night radio shows

In July, on the occasion of Spectrum Tokyo’s first anniversary, we tried hosting a late-night radio show (only in Japanese). The intention behind this was to create a space where our team could talk about what we usually think about and how we operate. Gathering and reading messages from listeners just like a classic radio show turned out to be unexpectedly enjoyable, so we continued to broadcast every Tuesday night for the past months.

Sometimes we invited guests, shared behind-the-scenes stories of our various activities, or just talked about trivial things when we ran out of topics. We continued quite casually, but to our pleasant surprise, there were people who consistently listened in.

Reflecting on our theme of fostering encounters, we realized that this radio show tended to become somewhat insular in content. However, it also served as an experiment in developing video content, and in that sense, we gained several insights. Based on this experience, we are planning to deliver it in a slightly different format next year.

Wrapping up

So, this year we were able to introduce Spectrum Tokyo to many new people. Our followers on platforms like X and LinkedIn more than doubled, so I think we can say we did a good job. However, we are still a small community in the corners of Tokyo, so we will continue our effort.

Thank you to everyone who was involved with us this year.

With this article, we conclude our updates for the year. Next year, we will continue to prepare various initiatives to energize the industry in our own way. We look forward to your continued support!

We hope that the coming year will be a good one for all of you. Please have a peaceful New Year.

Spectrum Tokyo

Written By

Ryo Sampei

Ryo is Editor-in-Chief of Spectrum Tokyo. He works as a Producer and Content Strategist at Flying Penguins Inc., a UX design firm in Tokyo, Japan. He is also in charge of Design Matters Tokyo, a pop-up design conference from Copenhagen, Denmark. He loves video games and punk rock, both from the 90s.


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fest partner Gaudiy, Inc. fest partner note,inc.
fest partner STORES, Inc. fest partner Ubie, Inc.
partners Design Matters

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