For this part of the dialogue, we’ve invited DRAFT alumni Ryosuke Uehara and Yoshie Watanabe who established KIGI two years ago. The dialogue occurred on April 1st when the cherry trees were still in full bloom. After entering the room, a commemorative photo of the cherry trees was first taken. Ms. Watanabe mentioned that the cherry blossoms were the best ever; and Mr. Miyata said, “Ok then, I’ll take a picture too.” Somehow, the three of them together was a very nice thing to see. The ice was broken with talk about hairstyles of long ago.


–First, I’d like to ask Ms. Watanabe and Mr. Uehara about their relationship with Mr. Miyata. How long have you known him?

Watanabe: 27 years.

Uehara: That’s amazing! Half of your life.

–How about you Mr. Uehara?

Uehara: I was 24 years old when I joined DRAFT, and I’m 42 now so 18 years.

Miyata: Almost the same number of years (laughs).

–Almost half of your lives…That’s amazing. Mr. Miyata has watched over you for a very long time.

Watanabe: When I joined the company, Mr. Miyata was 37 years old!

Uehara: Younger than I am now. That’s amazing.

Watanabe: But my impression of him then hasn’t changed much.

Uehara: Even the hairstyle?

Watanabe: His hairstyle was more like this (gestures).

Uehara: Like an afro?

Watanabe: The sides of Mr. Miyata’s head are shaved now but before his hair was all the same length.

Miyata: When you change barbers, the way the hair is cut changes too. My hairstyle changes about every 10 years.

Watanabe: Because (Mr. Miyata’s) hair was almost all the same length, (the ends) curled up.

Miyata: Yes, everything was at right angles (laughs).

Uehara: Ahaha!

Watanabe: Then at one point, he started using hair gel.

Miyata: Gel’s really useful…

Uehara: Because your hair settles down?

Miyata: It shapes the hair.

Watanabe: (Mr. Miyata) did not use gel before so his hair was at right angles.


Miyata: Basically gravity doesn’t work on my hair. Unless I really grow it out, it won’t hang downwards.

–It somehow portrays Mr. Miyata well.

Uehara: That’s right, his personality too. I have unruly hair so when I twist it, it sticks out. Maybe my personality’s that way too (laughs). It sticks out while twisting and turning (laughs).

Miyata and Watanabe: Ahaha!

Miyata: Ms. Watanabe’s hair has always been like this. It hasn’t changed much.

Uehara: If Ms. Watanabe cuts her hair shorter, it would be like Mr. Miyata’s.

Watanabe: There were times when it was even shorter and longer, but basically it’s like this.

–What was your impression of Mr. Miyata when he was 37 years old?

Watanabe: When I joined the company, work on Lacoste, Mos Burger, Nihon Kogyo, and PRGR have already begun; and my impression of him now and my impression of his way of dealing with those companies haven’t changed. If anything, if this person is called an art director, I thought that I could never be an art director. He wouldn’t talk about design with the people from the companies; he would have plenty of meetings about how to invigorate the companies on the inside before talking about design. He would sleep over (at the companies) for days, have meetings the whole day and afterward he would play golf (with those people). This continued for several years, and during that time the talk wasn’t mostly about design so I was constantly frozen in place, and the rest was about trying to stay awake.

Miyata: Hahaha!

Watanabe: Really, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. That’s why there was nothing else to do but stay frozen in place. “Work” was done that way so I thought it was impossible for me to become an art director. That’s why at 37 years old, Mr. Miyata’s relationships with companies were already established.

–He hasn’t changed since, right? Is there anything memorable about him during his younger days?

Watanabe: Uhmm, there were plenty of low-key, straightforward tasks then so I don’t know if they were stimulating or not. With regards to Lacoste, their ads only had polo shirts on them without people. In order to show the collar of the shirt beautifully, we placed stuffing to plump it up, and we also folded the shirt equally on both left and right sides. At any rate, we did everything just to show the shirt in a beautiful way – this is what’s memorable to me.

Miyata: Yes, yes.

–Were those the instructions that Mr. Miyata gave?

Watanabe: Perhaps I should say, more than instructions, Mr. Miyata likes Lacoste polo shirts very much so it felt like as long as the polo shirt was shown properly, we didn’t need to do anything else. He just told me and my seniors at work at the time how to portray the polo shirts.

–So that’s when he thought of putting stuffing to plump up (the collar).

Watanabe: Yes. It’s not like these days when you can manipulate (fix) images. It was a time when the photo was everything.

–How about Mr. Uehara, what is memorable for you?

Uehara: When I joined the company, D-BROS was already established and the ads (the company was working on) were Kirin, Toyota, Mos Burger, PRGR. Since I was a student, I’ve always wanted to be a creator of posters. I thought, I would make very artistic posters and become a star!

Watanabe: (laughs)

Uehara: But the moment I joined DRAFT, I thought, (becoming a creator of posters) wouldn’t happen. Put simply, when looking at ads of the time, creating art for posters did not exist. So even if I’d make a somewhat cool poster and join meetings, I couldn’t explain myself as a designer, even the art director couldn’t explain it so I didn’t expect that my poster would pass deliberation. At that point, it felt like I suddenly learned the difficulties of advertising. So I realized that I wouldn’t accomplish my dream of making posters.


Uehara: Posters that I’ve imagined. My dream of becoming a creator of my own posters disappeared, but at that time I was involved in Mos Burger ads and D-BROS so in these two I found the light of salvation. Mos Burger had posters made too, but different kinds of small things as well. Those small things felt very new to me. That’s because I was thinking that after all, a single frame is the greatest expression of what a designer makes.
But that thinking’s not true, even small things are bright and shiny too. I saw this in Mos Burger, and D-BROS started doing these small things too. I thought that I could probably do (those small things) so I was always going around the company observing (laughs). I would go to the room where the designers were creating Mos Burger ads and see what they were doing. I would see Ms. Watanabe at the very back of the room, meddle a bit by asking, “What are you doing?” Then I would return to my own room and work. That’s what’s memorable to me.


–Mr. Miyata, what’s your impression of the two? You were probably almost like a parent watching over them? And to top it all, (you were watching over) their work, at the most detailed parts.

Miyata: Ms. Watanabe would say no to the things she didn’t like out loud.

Watanabe: My seniors at work probably thought, “What the heck?” (laughs).

Miyata and Uehara: Ahahaha!

Watanabe: I did say indulgent things like that (laughs).

Miyata: Yes. But surely that was because there were things that you wanted to do. But Mr. Uehara was the type to have self-restraint. This one (Ms. Watanabe) didn’t control herself, this one (Mr. Uehara) did. But then she matured. All the while, of course she studied and experienced different things, but who she really was didn’t change. She matured as she experienced more things, and she learned how to practice self-restraint, but at the core she was the same. It’s good that (what she experienced) just passed through her core.

Watanabe: No, not at all.

Miyata: Mr. Uehara wasn’t like her; he had his own inclinations but surprisingly, he had self-restraint. He wouldn’t say it out loud but he would try to express his inclinations in a tangible way. That’s why sometimes he would just explode.

Watanabe: Ahahaha!

Miyata: That’s to be expected, of course. Those who don’t have self-restraint release their feelings bit by bit so there’s nothing to it; but at any rate, Mr. Uehara would supress (his opinions). Something like, “I’d compete by expressing my inclinations in a tangible way, because I’m a designer!” Now that he’s not at DRAFT, and has more experience, I think he feels much lighter but he’s the kind of person who can’t have someone on top of him. He’s the type that he’ll be alright with or without Ms. Watanabe. That’s probably the difference between someone from Yamaguchi Prefecture (where Ms. Watanabe is from), and someone from Sapporo (Mr. Uehara is from Sapporo, Hokkaido).

Watanabe and Uehara: Hahahaha!

Watanabe: Roughly, yes (laughs).

Uehara: So that’s it, (Mr. Uehara) can endure the cold.*

Watanabe: But I’m from the mountains and it’s cold there too (laughs).

–The two established KIGI two years ago – Mr. Miyata, do you think that they’ve changed?

Miyata: They’ve certainly changed. Mr. Uehara is more intense.

Watanabe: Surprisingly, I haven’t changed but Mr. Uehara has indeed changed.

Uehara: Yes, something has changed.

Watanabe: Did I change too?

Miyata: Yes, you’re now talkative.

Watanabe: Huh?

Miyata: Ms. Watanabe needs to get used to things – when she’s used to something, she’s the type to say things in words. The more she gets used to something, the stronger she becomes.

–How about changes in Mr. Uehara?

Miyata: I think he has completely changed the moment he had to manage a business. I think he probably studied how to talk to people in order to get through them. Before this, he probably thought about how to deal with people within their company; and now I think he is seeing and doing things he has never seen and done before all at the same time. But I think his desire to create art has always been at his core.

Uehara: I think I’ve probably become good at utilizing my reactions. When I was at DRAFT, I was mainly given fun projects to do, but now I have to earn a living so I’m also working on difficult jobs. As a reaction to this (reality), I’ve begun to think of wanting to create art, to be more adventurous. I think I’ve changed a bit in this regard. So we’ve somehow kept our business afloat, which is probably close to a huge miracle considering how were were like when we were at DRAFT (laughs).

Miyata: These two never cut corners in whatever work they had.

Watanabe: That’s probably truer of Mr. Uehara.

Miyata: There’s hardly anyone else like these two. Even in small things, they did things properly and carefully. I’d like the people we have now to learn from these two.

Uehara: It’s true that there were some people who said “I’m not that good at design” but in my case, I never wanted to show (that kind of stance to others).

Miyata: That’s the right thing to do.

Uehara: Because after all, it’s a competition.

Miyata: There are three types of people: one who has the same attitude (as Mr. Uehara’s), one who learns even as he/she says (he/she isn’t really good at design), and one who says the same thing but doesn’t know what to do. Someone who can work on a small thing carefully from the outset has great concentration abilities when working on a large project. Even if it’s something as small as one direct mail ad, the result is good enough to submit to the ADC Tokyo Art Directors Club for consideration. That’s because there’s that chance.

Uehara: When I was at DRAFT, the projects were set up in a way that I didn’t have to think of the details such as the budget so I could really concentrate and submit lots of crazy proposals. Designers today should be more like this! They are given free rein so I wish they would do more and more. When I was at DRAFT, I was spoiled by Mr. Miyata in this sense so I thought, I should do more and more! That’s because if I go through Mr. Miyata, I’d win (laughs).

To be continued.

*Translator’s note: Sapporo is in Northern Japan and it is usually cold there.

Buy the “KIKOF” here

KIKOF is a product brand born from the Mother Lake Products Project. It was joint-developed with KIGI, which mainly operates in Tokyo producing various creations from graphics, products, fashion, and traditional craftsmen who operate around the Biwako Lake in the Shiga Prefecture.

▼Back Nomber
Part 1 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata: Preparation is Courage
Part 2 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata: “Everything Else is Trivial After my Encounter with Trees.”


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.