This is the latter half of the dialogue between Mr. Satoru Miyata and Mr. Ryosuke Uehara and Ms. Yoshie Watanabe of KIGI who are also art directors at D-BROS. In the first half of the dialogue, Mr. Ryosuke Uehara and Ms. Yoshie Watanabe excitedly recounted stories from their days at DRAFT. In this latter half, I asked them about their KIGI endeavors.

>>Part 3 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata (First Half), with Two Guests from KIGI (Ryosuke Uehara and Yoshie Watanabe)


Miyata: I can say this to both of you now that you’ve left DRAFT, but don’t you waver on how to proceed with your work? I don’t mean this in a bad way, but since you are both serious (with you work) you try to ally yourself with your clients more and more. The more you ally yourselves, your partnership becomes more solid, and you drift further away from your own way of expressing things. I think you have this kind of dilemma.

Uehara: Well…

Miyata: Presuming you have feelings of wanting to be amused. So you do things more imprecisely, but you are always thinking of enlivening things. If that’s not the case, I don’t think you can do design. But of course you will do your work properly, but you also make some parts imprecisely on purpose. When you were at DRAFT, that sort of environment was made for you; but now you have to do these kinds of things all on your own. Your talents have grown remarkably compared to when you were at DRAFT, but I think that you sometimes feel that something’s not working properly.

Uehara: If I ever strike it out on my own, I think I’ll be that way too. If I were alone, I’d surely worry endlessly about a design for 2-3 days. But because Ms. Watanabe is there, I don’t worry endlessly. If I ever throw a ball, she would throw it back. There’s that rebound so the decision’s not just on me. Sometimes, I leave the decisions to her (laughs).

Watanabe: Well it’s the same for me too.

Uehara: Because of that, we don’t have much time for worrying endlessly.

Miyata: I also don’t worry endlessly with regards to expression. I’ve never felt that.

Uehara and Watanabe: Really!

Miyata: The moment I feel (some worry), I’m already on the go so if I move, I get to see some results. If I see a cherry blossom, I see something (else); when I see (the cherry blossom) up close, I begin to see something else. It’s better to just start moving. The moment you confine yourself inside the house, you won’t be able to see anything.

Uehara: That’s true. When you take a walk, ideas come to you.

Miyata: Right? Information that comes to you via sight is amazing. Information that is on-point comes to you in a rush, and while you pursue that afterimage you also make decisions. The eyes are closest to the brain so if you acquire that sense (skill), you don’t have time to worry – that’s if you acquire that sense.

–Indeed. By the way, do the alumni of DRAFT gather from time to time?

Miyata: Not really. I wish we’d have at least one reunion!

Watanabe: That’s true! I wonder what would happen if all alumni got together.

–Please do have that gathering. So for the latter part of this dialogue, I’d like to ask about KIGI’s endeavors. You’re succeeding in a wide range of fields, from graphic design to product design.

Watanabe: (facing Mr. Uehara) Please go ahead! (laughs)


Uehara: Umm, we’re working on different projects in graphic design, product design and exhibitions. Recently, we’ve started making things too. While we work in a wide range of fields, I think we’re sowing seeds now. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the world so we’re sowing the seeds, and nurturing the shoots that sprout. But it doesn’t mean we’re cutting corners in whatever we do – we do everything seriously. But there is that anxiety about what would happen if the number of projects increase greatly (laughs).

–You’d like to try working and having fun in other fields too?

Miyata: But there are still 10 times more the projects that you’re doing now (in your fields) (laughs).

Uehara: Ahahaha! That’s right.


–Mr. Miyata, objectively speaking, what kind of designers are they?

Miyata: I think that they have the same sensibilities that I have. We’ve worked together so that might be a given, but I feel that our ways to thinking are alike. How do I say it, they don’t think that “graphic designers should only do this” – while they are graphic designers they are also involved in other things. They think it’s normal to think what would happen if they look at graphics from another angle.

Uehara: Yes.

Miyata: I’m also this way, so I can face architects with a composed face. I can put in an appearance in different places. Graphic design is a simple, two-dimensional world. It is the foundation, so in the end everything goes back to the base. It’s the same as being naked right? During winter you wear lots of clothes like coats and scarves, but in the end you’re really naked. I think that this base is graphic design and design. Europe has always been strong in graphic design. On the other hand, countries that still need to grow graphic design-wise will be strong in computers and imagery.


Uehara: I agree with that, but there are parts of me that have been influenced as Mr.
Miyata’s creative director. I’ve created a way of thinking that centers on being a creative director, and he taught me that I can do any expression from there. In this sense, I feel like the world now is now turning into a creative-designer based world.

Miyata: Yes.

Uehara: Even in the product design, architecture, and interior design industries.

Miyata: It used to be rigid before. Lines were demarcated – architecture was architecture, interior design was interior design. It’s true that (the lines) are disappearing.

Uehara: I think that Mr. Miyata has always thought that the production, expression and advertising spheres are all important; and everyone knows this. Many of the successful people that I see grasps this configuration. It doesn’t mean that they are all doing graphic design – there are makers and there are architects. It seems that these people work like creative directors.

Miyata: When you think of it, of course it’s only natural. Surprisingly, this hasn’t been the case until today.

–As the first installment of the “Mother Lake Products Project”* that you are involved in, you have created these KIKOF vessels and utensils. Are you already preparing for the second and third installments?

Uehara: For the second installment, we will offer woodwork furniture.

Watanabe: We’re also adding crepe sachets, linen lunch mats, and aprons little by little.

–I’ve also heard that you’re going to have a new base for your expressive endeavors.

Uehara: We are actually building a shop in Shirogane (Tokyo). We found a free space so we’re thinking of having a small gallery there. We are aiming for a grand opening in the summer but until then we have begun conducting trial runs.

Watanabe: We thought of putting KIKOF products there but we also want to carry KIGI-related products, and of course D-BROS products. Depending on the season, we’d also like to carry CAKUMA clothing. We’d also like to create a place within the free space where we can hold small exhibits.

Uehara: As a space where we can freely express ourselves, we’d like to do something. We thought that we need something (else) for this. This won’t just be us, but it will be a place created collectively by three companies – us, Marushi Seito that manufactures KIKOF ceramics, and a production company called bluestract. We like the area and the property so for the time being, we three companies would like to have a go at it! (laughs)

–This is part of the “different things (you’d) like to do.”

Uehara: Yes, that’s right.

Watanabe: It’s alright even if it’s just on a small scale.

–Could you tell us about any back-stories regarding production, if you have any?

Watanabe: I don’t know if this is a back-story but something I find interesting are a few instances of coincidental discoveries. The vessels and table are already in production. I just wanted to design both, but both the design and production methods matched perfectly.

Uehara: We were able to cover up flaws as well.

Watanabe: It just so happened that I wanted to design a table with a certain thickness. Then the craftsman said, “If we were to use wood that is normally used in ordinary furniture, it would be impossible to do, but if we use cedar, we can make a table this thick.” That craftsman has always wanted to make furniture using cedar, but since cedar isn’t strong, he couldn’t use it in furniture. But for the thickness that I specified, the table could be made. Moreover, compared to other wood, cedar is twice as light! So we agreed that cedar would be the best choice to use.


–That’s amazing.

Watanabe: Cedar has a lot of knots in its wood. There are plenty of unusable parts if you would like to show the wood in a beautiful way. But by painting it with polyurethane paint, it turns into a wood that doesn’t have a lot of odds and ends.

Uehara: We also wanted to do that from a design point of view. There are other things too. When we said that we wanted to scrape the surface a bit, and to emphasize the grain to make it resemble the surface of Lake Biwa, we had it made using the floating method. This involves indenting soft parts by polishing, and making the grain “float” up. By scrubbing the wood using a particular brush, the grain “floats” or arises.

Watanabe: While cedar’s surface isn’t strong, this method pushes down the soft parts and the scraping hardens the surface a little. That was just exactly the right (way to produce the table). Even the chairs are easy to sit on because we also used the floating method of scraping. But this method can only be used with a certain thickness, so we were surprised by a lot of things. That said, there still a lot of issues that need to be resolved.


Uehara: From a design point of view, when you always aim for things that don’t exist yet, things that the world hasn’t seen, you understand why these things don’t exist. You realize, “Oh, so that’s why!” That’s interesting. But by conveying your enthusiasm, craftsmen would think their hardest for you.

Watanabe: Even with the earthenware vessels, porcelain or semi-porcelain wouldn’t allow the vessels to stand at the correct angle, making them topple. But since we used ceramic clay, we were able to keep the shape.


Uehara: That’s because ceramic clay contains air and is therefore light. Although it seems to be characteristic of the clay used for Shigaraki ware.

Watanabe: As you’d expect, nothing can be made without the cooperative structure between designers and craftsmen. I also think that craftsmen can only create the same things over and over if they didn’t have the desire to take on challenges.

Uehara: Shigaraki ware craftsman Mr. Imai (President of the Marushi Seito Inc.) said, “Traditional crafts isn’t called traditional crafts because the same things are continuously made; it is about trying to destroy things while creating new things.” This is why he took on the challenge of making new things for us.

Uehara: That’s because Mr. Imai and his associates aren’t only thinking of their company, but the whole of Shigaraki ware. Even if they succeed but the Shigaraki industry does not, they think that they will eventually fail.

Miyata: This combination of traditional crafts and design will probably bear new things. And when everyone thinks that these new things are really easy to use, they will continue to be made for one hundred years and then something new will probably then be born.

*The “Mother’s Lake Products Project” was established by Professor Noriji Sato of Ritsumeikan University. It is a project that aims to create traditional crafts that match modern lifestyles by utilizing the topography of Shiga Prefecture which is rich in natural resources, including Lake Biwa, and crafting skills cultivated for many years.

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.”
Part 3 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata (First Half), with Two Guests from KIGI (Ryosuke Uehara and Yoshie Watanabe)

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.