2021年2月10日  |  Column Design

Sato Kashiwa

Last week I visited Kashiwa Sato exhibition at the National Art Center, Tokyo which is currently being held from February 3 to May 10, 2021. The designer who is responsible for so many design systems, branding, logo, et cetera for various big names in Japan and overseas; take for example UNIQLO, Rakuten, Yanmar, Imabari Towel, even the logo for the National Art Center Tokyo itself.

For this exhibition an audio guide is provided for free by using your own mobile phone to scan the QR code that grants you access to the audio guide library, if you don’t have a mobile internet data with you, the exhibition venue provides you with a free wi-fi too which is rather neat.

Upon entry, there are 6 posters with some personal logo he designed, one particular poster that catch my interest is one with an 8-pointed star and a letter S at its center and followed with words: Super, Star, Special, Self, Sato. I enjoyed this cheekiness, confidence and self-awareness of Kashiwa Sato with his own design prowess. That’s a great start to an exhibition I thought!

The real exhibition began with some of his advertising works in the form of billboards that decorated the skyline of Tokyo such as billboards for PARCO and LOFT to mention some,  followed with some packaging design for Kirin, album theme and package for popular Japanese musicians such as SMAP and Mr. Children.

The next section focuses on big names logo that he designed, such as previously mentioned names such UNIQLO, Rakuten, Yanmar, Nissin, Imabari Towel, New National Art Center Tokyo, Honda N, 7&i Holdings (Japanese owner of 7-11 brand), and many others. These logos are exhibited in a massive 3D form and not all of them are displayed on the wall, some of them are displayed to be protruding from the floor itself. Some of the same logo are also displayed on the other side of the wall with in the form of a mathematical graph to exhibit the minuscule details of the logo such as the sizing, letter spacing, tilt angle, etc.

Then the route forked into two direction, one on the right that leads to a room that explains a little about what is design and branding followed with a huge stuffed Rakuten Panda that is especially designed for this occasion. The other route leads to another corridor starting with several graphic designs and posters including graphic design for Issey Miyake by Naoki Takizawa. Then come hundreds variety of 7Premium products (consumable product line of Japanese 7-11) that Kashiwa Sato had designed and developed a design system to easily manage and unify the brand image and aesthetic of these hundreds of products. Following the the 7Premium products, design system for Nissin products are also displayed in its own unique manner.

Passing through the corridor, another large space that exhibits various iconic branding project does not only concern itself with graphic design, but also spatial and building design, as well as system design. Take the design of Naoki Takizawa fitting room, UNIQLO Park, Kurasushi, and one of the most impressive for me is the design of Fuji Kindergarten that I often saw being distributed online outside Japan, as a model kindergarten that exist in Japan. There are also housing project with other design collaborators including the prolific architect Kengo Kuma.

Oh and another impressive thing that a designer with such influence like Kashiwa Sato himself could execute is that the design of a standardization system for Imabari Towel. To be able to influence a company to follow a standard set by a designer in order to produce their own product is absolutely a great power and trust possessed in the hand of the designer. This reminds me of Apple Inc. that grants their designer a great power to direct a creation of a new product, it’s refreshing to see similar method being practiced outside Apple.

At one end of the space, a dark room with a collaborative music video by FANTASTICS from EXILE TRIBE specially made for this occasion, the song STOP FOR NOTHING is rather an earworm and I found myself humming some of the rather absurd (for an English speaker like me) but nonetheless catchy lyrics time after time even after I have left the exhibition.


Nearing the end of the exhibition, there are some section for art design called LINES/FLOW that expresses the designer’s own view towards lines that he found a human construct, as there are no such thing as straight lines in nature, and these art pieces are supposed to express that view.

Finally the exhibition concludes with a section for UNIQLO UT that exhibit and sell some specially designed UT products, and followed with other products by other brands and companies designed especially for this particularly Kashiwa Sato exhibition. Honestly I would really love to purchase the exhibition catalogue book, but I couldn’t find the English version, so I’ll let it slide this time. It’s not that I can’t read Japanese, but I have purchased too much exhibition catalogue book during my time in Tokyo, so…..