–Truthfully speaking, for the first part of our dialogue, I would like to know what your interests are. I was wondering what pinpoint answer Mr. Miyata as a workaholic would give when asked “What are you most interested in / concerned with?

“That would be managing the work that I am doing now in an orderly fashion.”

–That work would be the work from a one-off client, right?

“Yes, yes. The (work for) that brand was critical this year; and the upcoming final tidying up would be difficult. So plainly speaking, I am most concerned with the work that I am doing now. I’m doing my very hardest so I think it’ll be alright but soon I’ll have several other concurrent jobs that I need to respond to.”

–That’s right. You have many projects so at any point in time you always have a project that’s about to end.

“And each time it’s a small deadline. Another thing I’m concerned with is my irritation when work stops. The times that I am irritated are more than the times that I’m not.”

–Really? Aren’t there more times that you are excited?

“I’m excited when I start moving but naturally there are worries before I get going.”

–It doesn’t really seem that way (laughs). It looks like your work is proceeding the way you’ve planned it.

“Not a chance. Work is hard for everyone.”

–I’ve been given the chance to work closely with you so I know, but you do prepare and revise a lot. I think I wouldn’t be able to know this if I didn’t work closely with you. You leave plenty of time for preparation; and when you’re refreshed you firmly make enough time for looking back (over your work) then you take a long time to prepare again for the next project. It’s like a cycle.

“Well, I don’t really do this in front of others. That’s because preparation means having courage. I always give this example – if you bump into a scary person on the street and that person shouts, “You idiot! What the hell are you doing? Come here!,” what will you do? You don’t run really fast, you’re not good at punching people and you’re not good at arguing. You really can’t do anything, can you? So let me tell you what you will do.”

–Will that be always be prepared?

“That will be kneeling down on the ground. There’s nothing else to do! (laughs) That will be prostrating yourself and saying “Sorry!” in a loud voice. When you do that, (the scary person) will think “Oh, it can’t be helped.” But the moment you say “What?” (when the scary person calls you back, the scary person) will say, “Apologize first, you idiot!” You don’t really plan to prepare for this kind of a situation so there’s nothing else to do but apologize. But in work, if you don’t include what you’ve already experienced in the past, you’ll run into terrible problems. Isn’t not including your experience at work the same thing as not planning to prepare for the same situation as the example I’ve given?”

–The preparation that you are talking about now means that if you don’t prepare, accidents will happen. People learn (from the past) so that the next time that something happens, they’ll be able to do something in a flash. That’s also one kind of preparation – that precisely because of experience, you’re ready. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about things that might happen everyday?

“I don’t. I don’t (spend much time) thinking (about those things) but I know that if I prepare for my work today, there will be no problems today.”

–That’s true.

“Therefore, you really should prepare properly. As long as you prepare, you can elude whatever trouble using your past experience and knowledge. But it doesn’t mean running away from the trouble, and it doesn’t mean punching the other person. You also don’t need to prostrate yourself. When you are told “be careful!”, things can be resolved with a simple “I’m sorry!!” That is, if you’re prepared. But depending on the job, there are times when you do the opposite – you take the time to properly do things. Each person has a different way of doing things. A company president is a person who thinks about what to do everyday towards a future goal. There are company presidents who don’t think this way but shouldn’t company presidents first think of ways for employees to be happy and receive salaries continuously, for investors to invest in the company, and for resolving things that are lacking?”

–It’s about having more of a bird’s-eye view of everything, isn’t it?

“In my work, part of the preparation is meeting such company presidents. I listen to the different things that they say and then speak to them.”

–Communicate with them by getting information from them first. Because there are times when the answer cannot be deduced when there is little information.

“That’s right.”

–When you were younger, did you think that preparation is courage?

“Words don’t come out if they don’t occur to you; and visual things don’t come out if you don’t sketch them out with all you’ve got. There are things that come out right in an instant, and those things are either really amazing things or really big failures. There are too many people who aren’t prepared!
For example, if we are told to bring up what our “genfuukei”* is, and then asked why this is our “genfuukei,” we won’t be able to say why. There might be answers of “it’s just a feeling.” So, what is that feeling? A photographer cannot take a photo of your feeling. Without a common language, how will you convey it to a photographer? You can’t do it without properly organizing and consolidating what your “genfuukei” is. Why do we Japanese people think “wow!” when we go to countryside? Each person has his/her own “genfuukei,” and we need to express (our “gennfuukei”) in a common language. It’s not about saying, “How about a nice photo then?” (for a common language). A nice photo is a nice photo – it’s a different thing. “Genfuukei” doesn’t mean “a nice photo.” My “genfuukei” is a scene of Japanese people living in the countryside, and there’s always a small hill behind their house. And in front of the house, there’s a field of produce and a rice paddy. There’s also a river nearby. This kind of Japanese scenery usually faces to the south, so the reason why I like this kind of scenery is because there’s direct light. It’s not a matter of back-lit photos being cool and beautiful – that’s a totally different thing. When you take a photo in direct light, you can feel the scenery for yourself. This is because this is precisely how Japanese people live.

–A smell is something that resides in the memory, right? That’s why smells don’t appear (in a genfuukei).

“Yes. Once I went to Los Angeles, and the skies there were very blue, the houses all cute with American flags, and I thought, how nice and lovely. It wasn’t as if I was taking a mental picture in my head. It became a memory. But I haven’t seen it again, no matter how many times I go back there. I just don’t know how biased I am though (laughs). The sun was much brighter and the walls, which should have been white were very dirty. And the sky wasn’t that blue either (laughs). But surely the climate now isn’t that much different from the climate 40 years ago.

–Hahaha! We do indeed have biases.

“My biases get stronger and stronger that in the end, it’s turned into a different scenery in my memory – the scenery’s been added to.”

–That’s why our collective thinking have collective biases placed upon it.

“Yes. That’s why it’s hard for someone to meet his/her match (partner). Hahaha! In the example of “genfuukei” that I gave, when I “prepared” or primed everyone for it, everyone else won’t think about (their own genfuukei) so what I say goes. That’s a dangerous thing. It’s not a fair fight. In the past, when a photographer would have meeting with us, we’d end up fighting. The photographer would bring about 20 books, slam them down with a thud, and while the books were tumbling down they would make an impassioned presentation saying, “This is how the pictures should be taken!” We designers would also insist, “This is the way to do it!” We’d mostly fight and no one knew who would win. No matter how distinguished the other person was, we would go at it until both parties were able to seriously convey their thoughts. But now, we don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.”

–Why is that?

“That kind of habit is gone now. Photographers now have their own backpacks.”

–What does that mean?

“A photographer would come to us now with the same backpack that I have, with a planner inside. Photographers before would always have their cameras slung from their necks (not stuffed into backpacks). In other words, while I am a creator, I am not a writer nor an artist. The designers at DRAFT aren’t artists either. We are creators. But photographers, stylists, and illustrators are artists. When they change even just one small thing, the expression of the thing widely changes. That’s why they are called artists. But if they aren’t thorough as professionals, there will be a big problem. That’s because our preparation takes a long time – preparation that we have accumulated over time.”

–That means that if they produce results more than what is expected of them as artists, that’s good but if they don’t, you want them to properly prepare more.

“Someone who brings me something he/she enthusiastically draws in 2-3 days that I think is amazing (for the short time it took) – I think that that person is actually responsible behind the scenes.”

–Yes, that kind of a person is actually responsible.

“In his/her own way, he/she is responsible. Being responsible in one’s everyday movements, being aware of being responsible even while walking in the streets – everything is an accumulation of being responsible. If you don’t prepare for it, you can’t fight or win.”

*Translator’s note: Genfuukei (literally, “fundamental scenery”) is a Japanese phrase that means mental images of idyllic scenes that Japanese people are nostalgic for; for example, landscapes of their hometowns or the earliest memories that they have of their childhoods.

(Interviewer:Akio Hayazaki)

 

miyata
Satoru Miyata
Born in 1948 in Chiba Prefecture. CEO of DRAFT Inc.. Creative Director. Joined the Nippon Design Center in 1966. Received an honorable mention from the Japan Advertising Artists Club in 1969. After leaving the Nippon Design Center in 1970, established the Satoru Miyata Design Office in 1978. The company name was changed to DRAFT in 1989. Launched D-BROS in 1995, and commenced product design development and sales. Awarded the Asahi Advertising Award, the ADC Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prize, and the Yamana Prize of the Japan Advertising Awards. Subject of the book “Design Suru Na” (Don’t Design) by Keiichiro Fujisaki / DNP Art Communications.

 

hayazaki

Akio Hayazaki
Born in 1972 in Gifu Prefecture. Company Director of DRAFT Inc.. In charge of the D-BROS Project since February 2014.