Here at Awwwards we are passionate about culture, design, and Japanese technologies. We imagine we are not the only designers fascinated by the world in which rich visuals and integrated technologies combine.
Today, we bring you an exclusive interview with Keitaro Suzuki from Tokyo, designer at the renowned agency SHIFTBRAIN Inc.
How did you get into this industry?
I began to work in the design industry when I was a senior at university, majoring in economics in 2006. When I was a junior at university, I became interested in design after studying "Branding". That was when I began to learn graphic design at art school.
After that I started to work on a freelance basis doing web design, graphic design, and movies. Fortunately, I was offered a variety of design jobs from several different clients.
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The world of design is multifaceted, but I knew I wanted to focus on graphic design above all, so I became a member of a production company dealing primarily in graphic design. In that company I got to work on a lot of web projects and developed an interest in interactive content in web design. That was when I decided to join my current company, SHIFTBRAIN, which specialises in web based design.
What trends do you see coming in the near future in web design?
Recently, I have come to rely heavily upon Responsive Design in order to create projects which will be suitable for a variety of devices.
Adjusting website design to suit mobile devices can be tricky as you are more limited with mobile design. Because of this, the quality of mobile designs isn’t truly reflected when viewed from notebook or desktop computers.
In the future, I feel like we’ll need to create separate sites for desktop and mobile devices. In terms of tablets and smartphones, they will become much simpler and easier to use, and they’ll focus on the necessary information. This way, the UI will be much better suited to each device.
Desktop and notebook PCs will become integrated with the TV, so I think a rich representation will become available in higher resolution.
SHIFTBRAIN Inc. Tokyo
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Have you fulfilled your hopes?
When I was a child, I wanted to be three different things when I grew up. First, I wanted to be a carpenter, because I loved making things from an early age; I always wanted to build huge structures using a variety of tools.
Next, I wanted to be a magician. Magicians always had the ability to excite and surprise a lot of people; I believed in true magic and wished I could have powers like that. I even took a course in magic when I was junior high school.
When I was older, I dreamed of being a film director. All throughout my life movies have had a huge influence on aspects like my lifestyle and way of thinking. I have always wanted to have a similar impact on someone else’s lifestyle and way of thinking.
Right now, I think that the type of design and art direction that I work on now, reflects the ideas I had about my future when I was a child.
Every day, I create something using my bare hands: like a carpenter; I have the ability to captivate people with the magic of technology and design; and maybe my work will influence people's way of thinking about life: like a movie. I’m very satisfied with with the direction my life has taken.
When you start a new project, what design process do you follow?
First of all, I decide on a design concept. The design concept is set out using simple words to clarify the role and purpose of the content, and taking into account the brand image and target audience.
After I have decided upon a design concept, I collect the visual elements based on the concept; I like to create mood boards.
This concept and elements which all form a part of what we are trying to create are shared among designers, developers, and other creative members of the team. We then create a website derived from that concept.
At this point, I will create a wireframe based upon the design concept and here I will decide which UI works best according to the content.
How much is your work focused on user experience and content?
When I create a concept and design of a website, the most important thing to me is that each user experience is an emotional one. So I always regard user experience as an extremely important part of what I do.
The expression of the design changes considerably depending on the content of the site. Like EC sites which are about making direct sales, my main focus is on the usability of the site, making as plain and simple to use as possible. With web magazines, for example, which host a lot of articles, it is so important to have a UI which facilitates the reading process as much as possible.
As I often deal with branding and promotion, I have focused on what kind of messages are transmitted through the visual elements and UX.
Whatever new approach I try, I have to make sure that it is simple and easy for the user.
So I consider well thought-out content, interactivity, and beautiful visuals are of the utmost importance when it comes to web design. Think of it like a movie whose beautiful visuals tie in seamlessly with an epic script which allow us to gain a new perspective of the world in that precise moment.
Which are your favorite studios, designers or agencies?
Another person who inspires me is Christophe Huet, a professional retoucher. He expresses his work in never-before-seen ways.
Also Universal Everything create wonderful visuals and pictures; I strive to create projects like that.
Where do you look for inspiration in your day-to-day work?
Awwwards, of course! I also keep an eye on FWA and other bookmarked sites as well.
Also, I look for the inspiration from my RSS reader which is categorised by graphic design, interactive design, product design and so on.
For great visuals and inspiration in real time, I check out Twitter and Tumblr. Most of the time, good ideas strike me when I least expect it; like on the train for example.