Meet Jun, a Designer Who Seeks the Nature of Design Through Creation and Destruction

People have their own ideas and perspectives, and each have their own inspirations and roots from the past. Although those episodes may appear to be random at glance, dots connect to lines and somehow link to what they do now. Different people have different roots, and do different designs, and we are here to realize that in “Diggin’ Roots”.

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We will explore the creative roots of Jun Nomura, a designer who believes in destruction and creation is the key to seek products’ true nature, based on his experience in various occupations as an engineer, designer, and UX researcher.

Jun Nomura

BASE Inc. UI/UX Designer twitter / note

After studying industrial design at university, Jun joined a UI design production company. Moving from one organization to another, he has been engaged in UI design work for more than ten years. While often working on the boundary between design and engineering, at times, his focus is engineering. In April 2019, he moved to BASE Inc, and from 2021, he has shifted his area of operation from UI design and currently focuses on UX research.

1. What is your philosophy behind design?

I cherish switching between “building mode” and “breaking mode.” Rather than breaking, it may be correct to call it subtracting, discarding, or deconstructing, but altogether, I call it “breaking.”

Anyone can “create” if they know the tools and process, but on the contrary, it’s hard to make the decision to break something. I may sound stubborn, but I think professionals should be able to think about how to evolve a creation, even after it has been made.

My experience in high school inspired me to think about what I can do after the project is done. At a school festival, my classmates and I made six dolls of our homeroom teachers out of handballs, PET bottles, and toilet paper. After the event, my classmates said, “It would be too bad to throw them away,” and decided they would keep them, but as expected, the dolls were left around the school and became trash. I have memories of going through the work of searching all over the school, collecting, dismantling, and separating the dolls by myself to fulfill my responsibility as their creator. From this experience, I began to focus on thinking about things after creating them and on people’s awareness of me and my creations.

It was when I was a university student that I began putting breaking mode into practice. One of my projects was writing code to create a prototype UI, but at that time, I was still fumbling because I didn’t know anything about programming. The code I wrote was complicated and although I did my best, I decided to rewrite it from scratch. This taught me creation requires not just building, but also breaking it apart and rebuilding it.

2. What are your ways of boosting productivity?

To get a job done, I made it a habit to subdivide tasks and check off  lists at the end of the day. I use Notion to manage my work and my personal tasks. I’ve tried various methods, but simple to-do lists suit me best. It’s reassuring to see progress in subdividing large tasks and leaving checkmarks as they get completed. 

Also, although it isn’t to make progress in my work, I try to actively post on the Slack oogiri channel within the company. It’s a bot that gives a theme at a fixed time every day; I let it linger in my head and then post when an idea hits me.

In-house Slack Oogiri Channel

Due to remote work, opportunities to meet face-to-face with in-house members have drastically decreased. There are times when I have a conversation with someone I finally meet for the first time on a project, and the conversation stems from “That oogiri was funny, don’t you think?” Unexpectedly, I learned that such little things could facilitate business communication.

As for my favorite things, I can’t let go of my bone-conduction earphones called AfterShokz. They make online meetings much more comfortable. 

3. Who has been your greatest influence?

Three people influenced my life.

The first is my parents. Both my father and mother are creatives. My mother is a designer, and my father is a writer, so I have been familiar with creative occupations since I was a child. When I was in kindergarten, my future dream was to be a manga artist, and my elementary school dream was to be a designer.

Jun’s Graduation Collection Left: Kindergarten Right: Elementary

Because of this, I had a lot of opportunities to come into contact with creative tools like Mac and Adobe software. When I was in high school, my parents bought Photoshop, but I couldn’t use it well, so they asked me to edit this one photo for 5,000 yen. I think it’s because of my parents that I was able to cultivate the idea of making money with skills I acquired from a young age.

The second person is a college classmate who gave me a chance to become a UI designer. He wasn’t the type to stand out in the department, but his design quality was very high, and I thought his foundational design ability and intelligence were otherworldly. I happened to work part-time at the same printing company as him, and we planned to create self-introduction content. While everyone used design tools such as Illustrator to create, he created interactive content using Flash that makes sounds according to the movement of the mouse. Even down to the sound source, on his own. (laughs)

Until then, I had been interested in programming, but I thought it was a world that had nothing to do with me, so I was shocked that someone in my class was good at it. From there, I began to write a script while asking my friend about it and working with Flash myself. At that time, my aim was to become a graphic designer, but I thought being a UI designer would be more fun, so I changed my course. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m attracted to UI design because my graphics skills weren’t that high. (laughs) It was a turning point in my life when I discovered the path to becoming a UI designer. I believe my life has changed a lot because of his influence.

The third is Hajime Hirono. I met him when switching from being a designer to being an engineer to improve my skills in problem-solving. While working as an engineer, I had a problem in that I wanted to approach the essence of a task more. At that time, I heard a presentation by Hajime at a designer event called UI CRUNCH. He was speaking about the challenges of the Japanese economy from the fintech sector. It was a fascinating presentation, with many exquisitely passionate questions such as, “What does it take to solve this problem? (silence for a few seconds)… Design! (screaming).” Furthermore, what he was saying hit the mark. I was worried about my career, but after listening to Hajime’s presentation, I decided to return to the design industry, thinking, “After all, it is design that can solve problems.”

4. Is there anything particular that might be the roots of your designs and ways of thinking?

I can’t think of anything, but I guess it would be a Tamiya’s Mini Four Wheel Drives if you insist. When I was in elementary school, there was the first mini four-wheel drive boom, and when it came to birthday gifts for boys, it was a mini four-wheel drive. At my friend’s birthday parties, there were always one or two of them

 among the presents, and the children who received them would say, “Thank you, but it’s too much trouble to assemble.” At times like that, I would undertake the role I had made. For the children, the mini four-wheel drive was something to enjoy driving, but for me, it was something to enjoy assembling. It can only go straight, so I’d make it, run it once, and then confirm, “Well, it runs….” By that time, I feel like I realized that my role in this world is to be in charge of making something.” (laughter)

Racer Mini Four-Wheel Drive “Thunder Dragon Jr.” Source: Shogakukan “Mini 4WD Successive Machine Catalog” Korokoro Online

I also played with Lego for similar reasons. I used to make a lot of castles, but I think I was an odd child who just kept dismantling things and rebuilding them.

5. What were you into as a teenager?

I was into minor comics in game magazines. My father, a writer, was in and out of publishing companies, and he occasionally came home with game magazines. I was really into reading the manga series published in game magazines. At first, I was interested that there were people doing what they wanted to do in different places, such as game magazines, rather than where they wanted to be, such as manga magazines.

Game magazines contain basic game information, so they insert comics into the leftover pages. For example, if you say, “This time, it’s 8 pages,” it’s like putting out eight pages from your stock. The number of publications varies from month to month, so the stories can get cut up into pieces. Plus, my father didn’t bring them home every month, so I would miss significant parts… I’d been watching stories that suddenly start and stop (laughs).

To make up for that, I enjoyed going to used bookstores like Book Off and gathering information about the missing portions of magazines or books. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I would imagine the missing parts to make up for them in my head. It was also fun to put together stories in my head based on pieces of information I would gather.

Looking back now, this has something in line with the design. In development, there is the creator’s intention and the user’s needs, and I think it is necessary to connect this fragmented information, but I think many people give up because that is difficult. On the other hand, because I had this experience of taking pleasure in collecting incomplete information as much as possible and using my own resources for things that I still couldn’t find when I was a teenager, I could make it as a designer. 

Also, there was reader-participation content in the minor mangas. The reader designs an original character, draws it on a postcard, and sends it in, authors would actually make characters they like to appear in their manga. I sent one and it was chosen once; I remember feeling very happy that something I thought up and drew was published in a commercial magazine and seen by many people. I think this feeling is one of the roots of my aspiration to become a designer.

Jun’s design at the time, “A Warrior With Nothing Below the Neck” Drawing by Yu Aikawa Original work by Eiji Otsuka, 1998 “New Stigmata Joka”, Kadokawa

6. Are there any services that inspired you in terms of design?

I came up with about three.

The first one is FigJam. Its functions are intentionally limited, and thanks to this, I feel that my work and thinking become faster because I don’t have to think about too many things. This is the service I use the most now. From a developer’s perspective, there are requests for additional functions from both inside and outside the company, and I imagine it would be less difficult to simply add functions. However, I think it’s terrific that there is an approach of ​​deliberately limiting functions, such as removing something if the number of functions is about to increase. In any case, instead of pouring energy into enhancing functions, I am fascinated by products that can be properly subtracted from.

The second is the illustration of a manga called Witch Watch.

Kenta Shinohara, 2021, Witch Watch, Shueisha

Of course, I like the content of this manga, but I am particularly fond of the flat colors, which give it a sense of depth. This perfectly fits my image as a child dreaming of becoming a manga artist, thinking, “I want to draw this kind of picture!” The lack of gradation, the flat tones, and the perfectly lackluster colors that are not even vivid really resonated with me. One of the reasons I like this may be that the amount of information in the sense of color is scarce. The color of the character on the right’s T-shirt, the color of the character on the left’s hair, and the color of the ground are the same, and the number of colors is very limited.

The third is a project called “I See U See.”This is a project aimed at making cameras that blind people can enjoy. I learned about it about three years ago, and I thought, “I’d like to do this kind of work someday,” and it has become my goal.

I See U See: The Video

The project began with the realization that blind people also enjoy taking pictures using the camera on their smartphones. However, as they continued to examine and research prototypes, they found that the aspect blind people actually find enjoyable is not the act of taking pictures or feeling objects but the “reaction of people when they upload photos on social media.” As a final product, a service was created where you post your photos on SNS from your smartphone and comment on the points about them. You can make comments like “You have a cat,” or “The sky color in this picture is very beautiful,” and now the camera is used as a starting point for communication.

I was mainly interested in this project because I noticed that blind people use cameras. I was also interested in the process of repeatedly creating, testing, and breaking prototypes, and in the fact that they are trying so hard not to become a business. Carving a niche area, it may lead to business, or it may not. Exploring the social significance that blind people can enjoy in their lives… It’s a product design that makes me think deeply and I want to do this kind of work myself. 

Also, I know that in the not-so-distant future, as I get older, my eyesight will start to deteriorate with farsightedness, and physical inconveniences will arise, so my interest in physical disability issues is growing. I desire to make the world easier for everyone to live in.  

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Related Links

BASE DESIGNER BLOG: This is a design blog run by designers of BASE Inc. We provide information relating to the design of the online shop creation service “BASE,” the shopping service “Pay ID” for buyers, and the efforts for design organization.”

Written By

Mizuki Yamamoto

Mizuki is an editor at Spectrum Tokyo. She usually works with product development for BtoC, as a product designer for food and beverage Saas. She likes taking a walk, food and coffee, and interior design.

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