Meet Yusuke, a Designer Who Believes There Is No Concrete Method in Design and Coffee

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 Yusuke Takami, a designer at Information Services International-Dentsu, who continues to pursue pleasant experiences and impressions beyond the formulas of design.

1. What is your philosophy behind design?

I would say that I keep asking questions in my own way while constantly questioning the fact that there is no correct answer in design.

When I started my career as a designer, a senior colleague told me, “Design is mathematics. If you do the math, you’ll get the answer.” Certainly, by following that and learning definitions and rules as a means of solving problems, the efficiency and quality of my work improved greatly, and I was able to feel myself growing. As the saying, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” goes, there are already established methodologies for most things in this reasonably mature IT industry.

While I agree that there was some truth to this, I was skeptical about it. I don’t want to deny its way of thinking, but us designers deal with humans, and the required problem-solving case changes complexly depending on the environment and conditions. Thus, I don’t think it’s as simple as being led by a single optimal solution to the equation.

A mathematically calculated answer is the most efficient, but it will only lead to a trite solution achievable by anyone for the same problems. What we should aim for is the creation of value beyond meeting certain standards. It is to face problems creatively while constantly updating our perceptions according to environmental factors and trends in the world.

Even in my current job, there is a strong demand for designs that meet the needs of the market while approaching the standard based on market data. I feel that it is also the pleasure of design to keep asking whether it is the correct answer at the site or not. As a designer in an organization and as an individual designer, I feel that I need to continue facing these challenges.

2. What are your ways of boosting productivity?

It’s my coffee every morning. It is my daily routine to make coffee that I purchased specifically and roasted myself before work. Being a fan of the outdoors, I experienced roasting coffee beans in a pot in the morning while camping, and fell in love with the comforting space filled with the fragrance of roasting coffee. It makes me feel like I have just spent a very good quality time. In this day and age, I enjoy outdoor activities such as trail running in the mountains as a relaxing hobby to maintain healthy physical and mental performance.

Trail running allows me to face my inner self in the unique silence of the natural forest. It can also be a digital detox, and I can directly feel the minute changes in the condition of my mind and body. My legs hurt and my body is naturally tired, but listening to the chirping of the birds and the sound of the wind creates a wonderful time where I can feel a mysterious inspiration that I don’t usually get.

A trail running race in which I was supported by my friends and we reached the goal together

I became completely addicted to coffee and gradually increased the amount I roasted at one time, so I ended up buying a lot of equipment. I roast all kinds of beans in a week, but since I wanted to share the experience, I gave some to my trail running friends, which led to me starting an online coffee bean shop that now goes beyond the scope of a mere hobby.

That led to me naturally coming up with the idea of designing the logo, packaging, and story all by myself. With such small products, I was careful in the entire design process, from the receipts to the packaging, delivery arrangements, and business flow. I feel I am able to make use of my past work experience. Recently, my home has become too small, so one of my goals is to create a full-fledged atelier that also serves as a roasting place.

Yusuke’s favorite outdoor coffee bean roaster

3. Who has been your greatest influence?

Community director Naoyuki Sato, whom I met through my work in advertising design, has had a great influence on me.

Community Director, Naoyuki Sato

I met him when I was working at a design company in Hiroshima, and we still keep in touch. As a creator and as a manager, I receive a lot of inspiration from him up close. He was also the reason I switched from ad design to marketing and user experience.

For example, his representative creative directions during his Dentsu era, “Slam Dunk 100 Million Copies Appreciation Campaign” and “Senichi Hoshino Victory Appreciation Newspaper Advertisement” series, etc., convey gratitude to the fans who have been reading them for many years when they came to an end and left a deep impression on me.

The idea of advertising as an after-sales message of “thank you for your support” to the fans, rather than an advertisement to make someone buy something was novel and a creative idea that did not fit into the formula of the conventional advertising industry. The portrayal of a blackboard of an abandoned school as a way to express gratitude was also lovely. I was in my early twenties at the time, and the idea of providing new value for the fans of the work made a deep impact on me.

It is not the beauty that is put into a mold like a puzzle, but his way of dealing with creativity that conveys the story as a work and the impressions of a community that transcends generations that have had a huge influence on the way I view work as a designer today.

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

A disposable camera.

This is a memory of my school days when I didn’t have a high-end camera. Disposable cameras (instant cameras) at the time had poor image quality, and if I failed, shots would be irreparable. In addition, there was an additional charge for developing photos. They couldn’t be used as casually as the built-in camera on modern smartphones. On the other hand, I was extremely excited when I thought about what I could express by shooting in the midst of many restrictions.

Holding a camera made me feel like an artist, and this experience may have been my roots as a designer. I could direct the worldview by taking the reins and directing the space by asking my friends to pose and so on. It was a wonderful time in which I could cut out moments unique to that place and color everyone’s memories.

Thinking about it now, even students at the time were able to easily create an identity as an artist by using tools like instant cameras, so I think it demonstrated its limited value in that time series. Its quality as a product cannot be compared to that of today, but the fact that it provided a special experience and value that could only be obtained through an act that requires a lot of effort or through an inconvenient object has something in common with the design philosophy I mentioned earlier.

5. What were you into as a teenager?

At the time, I was addicted to the radio. The first time that, for some reason, the song I requested was picked up by a DJ led to the radio becoming an indispensable presence to me. Moreover, it was the final episode of a program that I had been listening to for many years. It was a program called “Yasuhiko Akasaka’s Million Nights”. This program was an opportunity to broaden my knowledge of music because it played a wide range of genres, from oldies such as the Beatles to comic songs, while there were also many requests for the hit songs of that time, so-called J-POP.

The Sony Handy Portable Radio, the successor to the radio Yusuke used to love at the time

The Internet was not a common communication medium for young people at the time, so I think it was one of the few media for online communication. Talking to the radio about your worries and requesting songs. Having a DJ send a message to an individual. It is a fascinating experience that allows you to share your empathy with the world.

Even though it’s so easy to get any information now, I still listen to the radio every day. It makes me feel a little at ease.

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

This is SUUHAA, a local web media in Nagano Prefecture that I visited several times on a trail running expedition. From the user’s point of view, it seems to directly express the “comfort” that is difficult to compare in the rich local forests and the experiences in them.

This media was created by Mr. Kakijiro Tokutani, editor-in-chief of the local media Jimokoro. The word “Suuhaa” was created as an expression to describe the region of Nagano and its rich nature, and the creative wholeness derived from the concept is captured. Furthermore, it is very interesting that the landing point is heading towards a community where people and nature aim for abundance together.

Comprehensive media for moving to Nagano, SUUHAA

I used to design the experience for a service called Jimdo that allows anyone to easily create a website. It was very difficult to try to bring an overseas service born in Hamburg, Germany, to Japan at a time when no-code tools were not so mainstream. No matter how revolutionary the function was, it was not enough to take root among the general public. I understood that fostering a community is important for something to spread and find sustainability.

At that time, I frequently visited rural areas, gave lectures to the general public who were not familiar with IT, created sites with Jimdo, and helped spread the charms of the local areas. In doing so, I discovered that charming people, things, and ideas that I had not known about were all over Japan. In addition to beautiful and well-thought-out designs, I feel that the creation of content that makes people feel the presence of people like SUUHAA, and that even allows us to see the climate and temperature, will captivate the audience.

Jimdo, operated by KDDI Web Communications

I think there are formulas for marketing strategies that match the times, but we are only dealing with humans. If you apply community design to mathematics as a business, a kind of “tackiness” will stand out. In order to create a truly pleasant experience and excitement, we must pursue them steadily. It is very difficult, but isn’t it exciting to keep chasing such things?

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Written By

Noriaki Kawanishi

Noriaki is an editor at Spectrum Tokyo. Leading the design strategy of various businesses in the cross-organization of LLC. A "survival" designer who runs a guest house and co-living business of his own. He likes camping and Makita.


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