Designer's Voice vol.1

2019.7.1Communication designer

Establishing a more dynamic brand by going beyond the graphics.

Communication designer Miho Hara.
Up till now, she has been working on various graphic design projects related to Nikon products, such as logos and packaging.
Now, she is further expanding her fields of activity.

Paper isn't just paper

What are your main concerns when designing?

I belonged to the graphic design department at my university, however I was actively focused on making three-dimensional objects. I was not just attracted by three-dimensional objects, in terms of design. Being set free from two-dimensional output, I became more interested in capturing objects from wider perspectives and discovering other aspects, such as the material itself.

On one occasion, I entered a public design competition and received a prize for my work. The design I made was A4-sized paper perforated like graph paper lines so that it can be easily divided into your desired shapes and sizes. I expanded the uses of paper to include the creation of such items as tags and simple three-dimensional structures. Not just seeing the paper as paper, I tried to widen its potential uses from new points of view.
I've naturally kept thoughts along the lines of "Seeing things more widely from other perspectives" in my mind from my college days until now.

What kinds of projects have you been involved in at Nikon so far?

I have been involved in mainly designs for product packages, main graphics for exhibitions, posters, leaflets and novelty goods, etc. Most of them were for consumers and related to cameras.
I designed the logo for the Z series full-frame mirrorless cameras, which were released last year. At that time, the mission was "inheriting Nikon's tradition and adopting new era values". For this project, I employed the logo's essence from our conventional D series and F series cameras, and enhanced it with more advanced and modern design.
Although I am continuing to work on several other camera-related items, recently, my areas of business have been expanding more and more.

Solving internal issues with design thinking

What do you mean by "your areas of business have been expanding?"

First of all, output other than the generally assumed two-dimensional images is increasing, such as space design for facilities and demo rooms. This means not just working on surface decoration, but also requires thinking from the stage of creating the spatial concept based on the business and plans. Involving designers from the earliest stages of the development makes it possible to achieve high-quality output. It is also a recent trend that such design processes are increasing.

Recently, BtoB projects such as industrial equipment are increasing. This is because, in BtoB work, expectations regarding the design thinking for problem-solving are rising year by year, which is leading to an increase in designability needs within our company. However, for business units that are working on design thinking and design development for the first time, everything is like groping in the dark. So establishing a cooperative relationship to support them is also our important mission.

What results are expected when communication designers become involved in projects?

Until now, output materials from each business unit have been created separately side by side, which has resulted in inconsistent messages from Nikon.
We graphic designers intend to arrange and unify them cross-organizationally as designers, and I believe that in this way we can establish a consistent "Nikon-feel" throughout the graphics. Designing such customer-related communications, I'd like to support the Nikon brand's consistency.

Another aspect is that we can solve more essential problems which have never previously been solved. Let's suppose I was asked by clients to "design exhibition materials beautifully". However, by listening to their explanation, I might sometimes discover that just redesigning the material is not enough to accomplish their intended purposes. In order to understand their issues deeply, I would hold a workshop and organize issues and purposes, such as what they want to say and what really matters.
As a result, even though I was just asked to revise the visual design of the documents initially, I may end up suggesting "Since you are targeting these kinds of audiences, might delivering a message through movie be the best way?" in some cases – from a deeper point of view than what was requested at the start of the project.
I draw out more essential solutions rather than merely adjusting the colors and shapes of the originally requested materials.
What's more, holding a workshop benefits participants by leading them to a better understanding of each other in each process. We value these elements of "working together" most of all.

Understanding recent design trends and transforming them into fuel for the future

I heard that you are currently also teaching at a university.

Yes, I teach at the Department of Integrated Design at Tama Art University, which is a recently established department. The department includes design thinking in its principal concepts, and places a lot of value on products and UI. So, when I received a request I took the opportunity, as a designer of in-house manufacturing. Every time I stood on the podium, there were fresh surprises like, "Students use this way of thinking!" or, "Recent education teaches students these kinds of things." I am supposed to teach the students, but I also receive a lot of stimulation in return. I accepted this job because through such excellent stimulation I might be able to bring back more inspired discoveries to the company.

What are you and other communication designers aiming for in the future?

We have to create the sophisticated messages that the Nikon brand requires, and deliver strong brand images. To realize this, it is indispensable for each of us in Nikon to have more sensitivity to design, and I would like to support this point widely.
On the other hand, we designers have the important mission of "drawing the goals we want to achieve and embodying them". To succeed, I would like to continue to provide better solutions for internal and external issues from a communication design perspective, going beyond the framework of graphic design.