Branding Tool Communication Designer

Spreading the Sharp Brand Far and Wide

Design Division , CEO Office
Visual Communication Design
Ai Araki

I studied graphic and user experience (UX) design at college, and I now work in branding. I am involved in website management for my division, advertisement production for design magazines, supporting the establishment of business brands, and managing the company’s official Instagram page. I would like to continue to diligently create things that tickle people’s fancy.

Daishinsha Delight Inc. writer
黒川 陽子
Yoko Kurokawa

As a Japanese manufacturer, Sharp releases new products to the world one after another. Many ideas and dreams must be behind them. What is this “Smile Creation Quality” that Sharp Design takes so seriously? What kind of people are the designers of these products? I will inquire directly and uncover the hidden passions and ideas of the designers!

The “Designer’s Voice” that we work together on is your baby, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed, thanks for all of your support! The time has finally come for me to appear on the website that I manage (laughs). “Designer’s Voice” is a website that presents the real voices of the creators of our products so as to showcase the attractiveness of our in-house designers, who are invisible to outsiders. I am the 65th designer to be featured.

65th! That’s a lot of people. How do you feel about the response that you have been getting?

I was very relieved when I heard from someone that joined the company that they wanted to work at Sharp because of “Designer’s Voice.” Although I had envisaged an image of the readers, I was anxious because of course I can’t see them. Recently, I’ve had people happily tell me, “I’ve made it one of my goals to be on Designer’s Voice!” and sometimes we get recommendations from people saying, “I want this person to be featured on the site.” The number of people applying for jobs has also increased, so I think we are finally starting to see the effects of the website five years after it was launched.

Wow, that’s amazing. Araki, is much of your work done over a long period of time?

Yes, most of the work I do is related to branding, so it is something I work on for a long time. Like an identity, I believe that a brand is not created in a day and that the core of a brand is revealed through repeated communication with other parties.

Is there anything that you are conscious of when you work?

Yes, I try to work with a consistent attitude. For example, in “Designer’s Voice,” we place importance on presenting the designer’s voice in stories that convey the designer’s personality. We ask the designers to provide us with a draft of their article, but sometimes the draft ends up just being a description of the product. But since the site is “Designer’s Voice,” we want to introduce stories about the design. In such cases, we ask the designer, “What is the most important design point that you want to convey?”

Oh, so the designer writes the draft themselves? That seems like a good way for the designer to show off their personality.

Yes, it is. Because most of the designers are serious people, the content tends to be a bit stiff, but I see that as part of its charm. While I of course take advantage of their individuality, I also adjust the overall tone of the content. For example, if there is a photo with a dark tone, we lighten the subject’s complexion, or if there is language that could hurt someone’s feelings, we soften it. I believe that each little taste of expression resonates with the overall brand image. Therefore, I am always conscious of creating a worldview without deviating from the brand expression.

I see. Speaking of a worldview, the advertisement series for recruiting is also your work, isn’t it?

Yes, it is a very challenging job. We have been developing these design ads for several years.

Every ad has a person in them. The catchphrase is the same with only the subject changing, i.e., “XX is also design.”

AXIS is a magazine read by people, including students, interested in design, so the ad series was developed mainly for recruiting purposes. In this series (top photos), the theme is “Getting to know Sharp’s designers,” and a unique story about one designer with a wealth of experience is introduced in every issue.

What part of the advertising process are you involved in?

All of it. Of course, I don’t do it all by myself. The recruiting team is responsible for planning. I am in charge of design direction, and I participate in every step of the process, from planning to photography direction, copy production, and layout.

So what do you find interesting about it and what are you particular about?

The photos! Together with the photographers, who are full of ideas, we discuss different suggestions and try different things during the shoot. With limited time and environments, we encounter many challenging moments. I have memories of each photo, but that’s a long story, so I won’t go into it here (laughs).

In the previous “Understanding Sharp’s Product Design” series, you were also very particular about the photography, weren’t you?

Yes, in the product series, I approached the shoot from an artistic perspective that was different from typical catalog photography, with the idea of changing the concept of the hero shot. The vacuum cleaner shoot is a good example of how we were able to achieve this. People used to say, “When it comes to vacuum cleaner photography, the standard shot is one that shows the entire unit from the handle to the suction port.” However, in our advertisement, we cut out the suction port. We did this to highlight the design of the body, which is what we wanted to convey the most. Of course, some people objected because the suction port is an important part of the product.

Wow. I didn’t realize it was such a taboo subject. What happened after that?

I said, “I think this is a cool way to showcase the design. Let me make a suggestion.” With this attitude, we reiterated our thoughts to the team and managed to get approval. Then, a short time after the ad was posted, to our surprise, the website for the vacuum cleaner featured a large photo of just the handle as the main visual! They didn’t say that they referenced the AXIS ad, but I secretly think it was accepted as a new hero shot (laughs).

Yes, let’s believe that! (Laughs) By the way, have you been conscious of the brand since you joined the company?

Now that you mention it, the very first job I was given when I joined the company was to create the “face” of Sharp.

What? As a new graduate!? The face of the company!?

We designed the combination logo to be used in catalogs, commercials, websites, and all kinds of media, and this combined the Sharp logo and “Be Original.”

Ah, that combination logo we see all the time!!

In November 2016, Sharp created a new corporate slogan: “Be Original.” The challenge was how to balance that with the company name logo when combined. We were asked to create an image that was imposing and elegant.

That was a very meaningful first job, wasn’t it?

Yes, it was. When we were creating the combination logo, I took the time to carefully consider the idea behind “Be Original.” and the Sharp brand philosophy. Employees senior to me in my team were kind enough to listen to me enabling me to bounce ideas off them, so I was able to work with confidence.

Even though I always work with you, I didn’t know that you had such a story to tell! What kind of story (future) do you envision next?

Well, I would like to develop more initiatives that target people overseas by taking advantage of our website and social media. I am involved in managing my division’s website and the company’s official Instagram page, and I feel that the content of those sites, as well as other tasks, are becoming more substantial. I feel that some of the things that I am working on can be used for branding not only in Japan but overseas as well, so I would like to expand the scope of the areas I can disseminate information to.

For my last question, please tell me about your off-time, which no one knows about! (Laughs)

To tell you the truth, I like making sweets and handicrafts, and I am always making sweets for everyone at work. As for handicrafts, I embroider and wear dresses with my friends that I made by re-purposing kimonos. I guess I do both hobbies because they lead to creating fun memories with the people that I like. My attitude for experimentation and fun is the same regardless of whether it’s my hobby or my job!

Note: The department that the author belongs to and the content of the article are correct at the time of writing.


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