Meet Miwa Kuramitsu, a Designer Creating the Perfect Groove in Daily Life
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”.
This time, we will explore the creative roots of Miwa Kuramitsu, who is involved in designing various services rooted in daily life and continues to explore the groove of “just right.”
Miwa Kuramitsu | Representative of KRAFTS&Co., Design Strategist
After working in game UI design at Capcom and serving as the Head of Design Strategy at Cookpad, Miwa became the representative of the design studio “KRAFTS&Co.” in 2022. Their style involves accompanying the concept design, system creation, and organizational strategy. Recent works include branding design for “Spectrum Tokyo.”
1. What is your philosophy behind design?
Since I have been involved in designing services for general consumers, I am always conscious of the concept of “just right.” Currently residing in Tokyo, I am originally from Kyushu. I lived in Osaka during my 20’s, before moving to Tokyo in my 30’s. Living in the city and working in design, I found myself influenced by the glamorous and fast-paced world, in which “just right” sensations tend to lean towards somewhat peculiar directions.
So when I am in the process of creating services, I try to expand my views throughout Japan via user interviews and research. In my previous position, I was involved in service design related to “daily cooking,” which provided me with numerous opportunities to engage with cooking enthusiasts from all over the country. Each person was leading a different and unique life, and I had the chance to witness the joys and challenges in their everyday lives.
“Just right” is a state of being able to solve underlying issues without overly focusing on the fact that users are utilizing the service. It’s a state where, without realizing it, they are able to address their challenges. It’s like gradually getting closer to the person they want to become and feeling that they have control over their daily lives.
To achieve this, it is essential to ensure that users can comfortably access information and navigate the service. Recently, when providing feedback during design reviews, I often use the word “rhythm.” I believe rhythm is a crucial element in creating the sense of “just right.” Through this approach, I find joy in bringing a sense of comfort and enjoyment to people’s everyday lives, as well as creating tools to solve their problems.
２. What are your ways of boosting productivity?
During the initial stage of generating ideas, I try to sketch by hand as much as possible. This is because it allows me to freely express the shapes and concepts that come to mind without being constrained by the limitations of the tools themselves or my proficiency with them.
I have been following this approach for several years and have tried various types of paper, including A4 copy paper, but I eventually settled on Maruman’s square-shaped sketchbook. The size of this sketchbook is just right for carrying it around along with my laptop. It has a paper quality that is slightly transparent on the back, which allows me to use it without worrying about mistakes. I am currently on my fourth sketchbook. As for pens, I really enjoy using Zebra’s Sarasa pens because they provide a great drawing experience.
Since this sketchbook is primarily for capturing ideas, I try not to use it for meeting minutes or to-do lists. The main reason for this is that I want to simply maintain this sketchbook to be a collection of ideas.
When there is a need to expand on ideas, I sometimes leave my smartphone and computer at home and only bring this sketchbook with me to the office or a café. It is not only about the individual ideas themselves but also about how they evolve within a project. The evolution of ideas being recorded in the notebook is the most important aspect for me.
By the way, SpectrumTokyo’s character, Abyss-kun, was also born from this sketchbook.
There is a sense that “drawing is faster than thinking in your head.” After outputting ideas through hand-drawn sketches, I became aware of the gap between the images in my mind and reality. If I realize that I lack the skills to create what I envisioned, I can then think about what to do next. Ultimately, “if I can’t create something with my own hands, then I can’t create it,” and at that point, I either give up or shift my thinking towards seeking help from someone else.
３. Who has been your greatest influence?
In terms of being a catalyst for having a sense of self-affirmation that “it’s okay to pursue design,” the friends I met in the design department of the art university have been a significant influence.
Living in a regional area where there were no people around me pursuing artistic careers, and attending a regular high school that focused on college preparation, I felt like wanting to pursue design and expression as a profession was “going off the beaten path.” My family thought it was challenging, saying that just because I was going to a design university, it didn’t mean everyone would become a designer.
Eventually, my family came to accept my decision, and I enrolled in a design-focused university. Once I started attending, I found myself surrounded by people who enjoyed creative expression and were creating seemingly unconventional things. There were people sewing skirts out of egg cartons and others who were constantly sketching in their sketchbooks except during classes and meal times. It was in that environment that I felt a sense of relief, thinking, “Oh, it’s okay to do this.” There was no one stopping us, and it felt comfortable to see everyone pursuing what they loved.
Although I am still connected with only a limited number of them, some of them have become designers or even instructors at design schools. I continue to be inspired by their achievements and contributions.
4. Is there anything particular that might be the roots of your designs and ways of thinking?
When I first started working as a new graduate, I joined a game company and worked as a graphic designer, creating designs using pixel art. What I learned during that time still forms the foundation of my design approach today.
In the pixel art environment of that time, we had to express meaning within limited areas, such as 32×32 pixels, using a limited number of colors and simple shapes. It required a clear awareness of “what to convey and what to eliminate.” I learned the techniques and mindset of abstracting real objects through deformation. The focus was on thinking about what elements make an object recognizable so that it can be understood at a glance. The guidance I received from experienced pixel artists still influences me today, and I thoroughly enjoyed the work.
Interestingly, recently I had the opportunity to collaborate with a sock factory to create patterned socks as KRAFTS&Co.’s original merchandise. During the communication with the factory, I realized that the “pattern instruction sheet” we used was reminiscent of the world of pixel art. It was a situation where what I learned back then could be applied, such as saying, “If we make the seal’s eyes larger in this size, it will look more like a seal.”
Even if it’s not explicitly stated, it is crucial to have the perspective of “ensuring that the meaning is not lost even at the smallest unit of representation.” For example, in web page design, designs created by skilled individuals effectively convey the main theme even when viewed at a reduced resolution. This aligns with the concept of “rhythm” that we discussed earlier, as such designs have a good rhythm from top to bottom. Personally, I always strive to be conscious of whether the intended story is being conveyed when viewed as a whole.
５. What were you into as a teenager?
Since my teenage years, I have been creating scrapbooks. I collect things that I find cute or interesting, such as magazine clippings, stickers, and candy wrappers, and once a year, I sort through them and paste them into the scrapbook. I was inspired by the method featured in Kosikawa Sato’s book “Kosikawa Sato’s Super Organizing Technique.” At first, I would just paste everything together in a jumble, but recently, I have started categorizing them by genre to make them easier to find.
Having this scrapbook allows me to see the characteristics of each era and the evolution of my own preferences. It’s like having the things that caught my attention at that time preserved in a freeze-dried state. Recently, fashion from the 2000s has been trending as “Y2K,” and when I design, I often find inspiration from the past.
６. Are there any services that inspired you in terms of design?
I have a daughter, and I think the children’s animation called “Hey Duggee” which can be watched on Disney Junior and YouTube is really good. The depiction of animals and the level of deformation are cute, and the way the animation is paced and animated can also serve as a reference for adding interaction in UI design. Despite its simplicity, I believe that the way they create depth and movement is actually quite challenging.
Another recommendation is a children’s animation called “Numberblocks.” It is an English content originating from the UK, where blocks representing numbers like 1 and 3 go on adventures as the main characters.
What’s amazing about this animation is that while enjoying the adventures with the characters on the screen, children naturally learn the concepts of addition and subtraction. Despite the entire series being in English, my child who watched this animation suddenly understood the addition without even realizing it. Not only does the concept of addition become clear as the characters come together and combine, but even difficult concepts for children, such as “2 and 8 make 10, and 4 and 6 also make 10,” are absorbed while watching the animation. I believe that “learning concepts while having fun” can only be achieved through meticulous design.
I am also interested in the field of “design for children.” Still, I am aware that there are many hurdles to overcome, such as adapting to the developmental stages, ensuring appropriate expression, and ensuring safety. However, if given the opportunity, I would love to try it someday.