Taku Satoh

Taku Satoh was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1955. In 1979, he graduated from Tokyo University of Art and Design. In 1981, Taku completed the Graduate School of Design. In 1984, through Dentsu, Satoh established Sato Taku Design office. In his biography, Satoh recalls his father being a designer and playing with his father’s compass and modeling clay. He claims baggy pants and record jackets as items that inspired him to look into design and advertising. 1981, he unexpectedly took a job with Dentsu. As he entered the world of advertising, an art director told him “You’re not cut out for a designer.” He left Dentsu for three years while he worked on personal projects. He is now the director of 21_21 Design. His largest recent projects are “Water” (2007), “Design Ah!” (2013), and, my favorite, “Design Anatomy a method for seeing the world through familiar objects. (2016).

The Interview:

Mr. Satoh was nothing but smiles and kindness from the start of the interview. However, this was no regular interview. Mr. Satoh only spoke Japanese. My Automattic designer, Ballio Chan, was able to make a connection with a translator who was also awesome to get to meet. The whole interview was just an overall amazing experience.

The first question I asked was what made him want to work on this project. He informed me that John Maeda invited him on the project and he was more than happy to participate. Mr. Satoh had met John Maeda multiple times and was very honored to get to assist him on this project.

I then asked him what inspired him to work with water, and how he came up with the concept of an upside sown umbrella. At 21_21 Design Site they realized they didn’t know very much about water. Mr. Satoh was told one of his favorite meals, beef and rice, took over 2,000 liters of water to grow and make. He realized that that was a lot of water so he investigated where the water was used. He found the beef was raised in the United States, that the cattle eats corn, and corn takes majority of the water. He said Japan indirectly uses more American water than they do their own. He told me that an umbrella is used to escape from rain. However, if you turn it upside down the water would gather in the rain. He said the upside umbrella would convey the idea we should gather water, and that we should be thankful for rain.

I questioned what projects he was currently working on and he informed me his multiple projects ranged from a lot of different varieties. He has currently been working as a director of an educational children’s show in Japan. I informed him I had read that he had been working with animation and he told me he isn’t an animator.

He also made a point to add that technology in design is important, but I should not underestimate the value of my hands.

I asked him which project he used the most. He immediately was able to pull out a package of gum that he had personally designed. He was also discussing a milk label he designed that is very popular in Japan.

Mr. Satoh revealed that some designers design to sell and to include themselves in a project. He said that can make the designer more popular, but can also hurt them when their “style” doesn’t remain as popular as it had previously been. He has been able to sustain himself by not pushing any certain style into his design.

I asked what the process of designing a logo was like. He said you have to know the corporation and remain an important role in the business.

I also asked Mr. Satoh what inspires him not only in design, but in life. He said curiosity. He proceeded to inform me that nothing is boring, but maybe the people doing or presenting something make it boring. This is a perspective you don’t hear everyday and I’ve been trying to remind myself of this each day. Who would have known that with this interview I would have a whole new life perspective.

The most important and significant question I asked was what design meant to him. Mr. Satoh blew my mind with his response! He said design was like water. We cannot live without it. He said that we see water but we aren’t capable of seeing how it connects us.

Advice Mr. Satoh left to me was to stay open to opportunities. He inspired me to not call anything boring, but to change how I see it in order to learn from it. He advised me to think of the future and to know all the possibilities that await me.