The wide recognition of creative director as an occupation and branding as a work is a definite achievement made by Sato.
From 1996, when Sato was still working for Hakuhodo Inc., he worked on the branding for StepWGN, Honda’s mini-van line for 8 years. Starting from 2006, he took charge of all global branding communication activities for Uniqlo and the re-branding for Seven Eleven with its private brand at its core and in 2003, his works with Rakuten started after receiving request to design their VI. Sato has not only worked with branding projects but has also succeeded with revitalizing the regional areas as well. One of the characteristics of his work is how the projects continues for a long period of time, just like his work with Imabari Towels that have started since 2006.
“Kashiwa Sato Exhibition”, to challenge for an unprecedented exhibition.
This fall, Sato’s 30 years of activities will be exhibited from various angles at the National Art Center, Tokyo’s “Kashiwa Sato Exhibition”, which will be his largest solo exhibition to date. The works that we were familiar with in our daily lives will be presented as artworks and the exhibition space will be curated by Sato, himself.
In 2006, fashion brand, Uniqlo started its expansion to overseas from its flagship store at New York. Sato took charge of the global branding communication activities which is connected to the management of the company. The activities included the designing of the logo-mark displayed in both Japanese Katakana and English alphabet, flagship store designs, product planning and promotion strategies through collaborations between creators from both Japan and overseas.
“I received an offer to exhibit “Kashiwa Sato Exhibition” about 3 years ago from the NACT. Since its opening in 2007, the NACT took design as one of its important exhibition themes, but there was no major exhibition about architects and designers. However, being a national museum in this age, the center decided to choose design as their exhibition theme, and in 2016 the “Miyake Issey Exhibition: The Work of Miyake Issey” was held. The following year the NACT exhibited the “Tadao Ando: Endeavors” for its 10th anniversary. I feel tremendously honored to be selected for its third exhibition”.
”I was awed to have a major solo exhibition after Issey Miyake and Tadao Ando,” says Sato with a smile. Still, he had a vague hope that one day, his exhibition will be held at this place.
“This art center was the fifth national gallery to be established in Japan and it had been 30 years since that last art center was built. Since I was able to design the symbol mark and the logotype for the NACT, I had hoped that if I could work hard enough, that one day my works can be presented at a place like this. However, since the museum is a national gallery where exhibitions such as the “Renoir Exhibition” (2016) is held and not a design museum or design gallery, I had thought it may be difficult to present my works due to the difference in genre. Therefore, I was very pleased when the gallery gave me an offer”.
Kashiwa Sato’s office is designed by Takaharu + Yui Tezuka. The bright white walls are storage spaces without any handles and there is only a large table with chairs placed equally spaced in the large office. This interview was held at his beautiful office where his method for reaching the essentials is implemented.
Sato has experienced several solo exhibitions in the past. In 2002, when he received the Yusaku Kamekura Award, his solo exhibition, “Sato Kashiwa The Power of Art Direction!” was exhibited at the Creation Gallery G8 and in 2004, “Sato Kashiwa Beyond” was exhibited at the Ginza Graphic Gallery.
“The exhibition space was small at the Ginza Graphic Gallery and since the place is a design gallery, the audience understood design. On the other hand, the NACT has approximately 2000㎡ space, an exhibition period of 3 months with a diverse audiences which makes it completely different from the past. The exhibition cannot be only interesting for the ones who are related to design, so I will need to take an objective look at my works, reedit them, and present them”.
Presenting his wide variety of projects as an experience-based exhibition.
There are hardly any major exhibitions of an active designer. This explains how Sato’s 30 years of achievement have greatly influenced the age. In preparation for this exhibition, could there any exhibitions that he took references or hints from.
“Last summer, I visited the exhibition of Virgil Abloh (Designer of Off-White and Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear) held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He is a creative director, fashion designer and an artist. In one way, there were common points to the exhibition. Even though the nature of the exhibition is different, I was deeply inspired and interested to see how well his diverse works that goes across various fields were presented at the exhibition. I strongly felt that we live in such age”.
In 2007, Sato designed the logo for the NACT which opened in Roppongi. Since the museum focused on new concepts such as being a museum without a collection and carrying a role as an art information center, Sato chose the Japanese kanji character “shin” (new) for their symbol mark.
While Virgil himself is a commercial icon, not everyone carries the products that he designed and the age range that recognizes his work is limited. While in the case of Sato, his works have become a part of the life for the general public. There are not many designers with works that are unconsciously known by both the young and elders of any genders. The Uniqlo logo’s outlined katakana characters and alphabet characters on the red colored background, the Seven Premium logos that was based on the original design of 7&i, the T-Point’s blue background with the yellow T mark and the R mark of the Rakuten logo can all be seen somewhere in our everyday lives.
”Yes, this is what makes the presentation at the exhibition difficult. Since everyone have seen the logo of Uniqlo and Seven Premium in the streets every day, it wouldn’t be interesting if I show them at the exhibition. For the past 2 years since the exhibition has been fixed, I have been thinking how to visualize the wide variety of my works. Since I had been designing many logos, one of the main exhibits of the exhibition will be a corner where all the logos that I designed can be seen. Of course, they will not be printed on the A4 sheets of paper but it will be presented using huge drawings, sculptures and pop-art. Ultimately, I wish to make an exhibition where each project is presented differently and the visitors can experience the spaces, products, videos and interactive works.
Born in 1965 Tokyo, Sato is a graduate of the Department of Graphic Design at Tama Art University. After working for Hakuhodo Inc., he established his own creative studio SAMURAI in 2000, working as a brand strategy architect. His major projects are global branding strategies for Uniqlo and Rakuten Group, branding projects for Seven Eleven Japan and Yanmar. His wide range of works include “The future of Housing Complex Project” with Urban Renaissance Agency, the branding of Imabari Towels and large-scale architectural project as well. Sato was appointed a Japan Cultural Envoy by the Agency for the Cultural Affairs of Japan for 2016.
Kashiwa Sato Exhibition
The National Art Center, Tokyo /Special Exhibition Gallery 1E
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
September 16th, 2020 (Wed.) – December 14th, 2020 (Mon.)
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Every Fridays & Saturdays, September: 10:00 – 21:00
Every Fridays & Saturdays, October & November: 10:00 – 20:00
*Last Admission 30 minutes before closing
**Closed on Tuesday except September 22nd (Tue. & Holiday) and November 3rd (Tue. & Holiday). Closed on September 23rd (Wed.) and November 4th (Wed.) instead.