Designer's Voice vol.3
July. 15, 2021 | Marketing Communication Designer
Yoshiki Kitamura, a marketing communication designer who pursues "design" possibilities that transcend shape and appearance.
The Power of Design
I have been involved in advertising-related activities at Nikon for many years, and I currently work at the Design Center and Marketing Section of the Semiconductor Lithography Business Unit. Although I belong to the Design Center, I cannot draw pictures or lines in conventional artistic ways. I did formerly belong to the art club when I was at high school, but I only joined because I was invited to. I'm actually not capable of creating a graphic or product design.
So, that might make you wonder what exactly I am designing at Nikon. Simply put, I design communication. Over the years, I have witnessed the exact moment when various designs such as advertising graphics, commercials, and products touched people's hearts. I became interested in Nikon when I was a student and at that time was actually one of the many people who longed to own the F3 SLR camera.
Through such power of design, we can build better relationships between Nikon's efforts in products and corporate activities with our customers to enhance the overall encounter — ultimately, we are pursuing new possibilities for advanced communication.
Shifting from "appearance" to the essence of design
My first job at the company was installing Nikon's neon signs in cities around Japan. It was a very simple job, but I remember devoting myself to checking how faithfully the shape of the logo was reproduced. We had to ensure that the logo itself was a true representation of Nikon as a company.
In addition to that, it was also a valuable opportunity to be able to experience the work of Yusaku Kamekura, a leading graphic designer. Since then, I have been involved in various projects with external creators during my work in the production of exhibition panels, videos, and brochures.
We would like to create beautiful and cool products that are worthy of carrying the Nikon brand, and help people to fully understand and appreciate them. I am confident that I have been making my best efforts towards achieving this common goal with creators thus far.
However, it was later that I realized the true essence of design, which is concealed behind what is actually visible. One specifically memorable experience was when I was involved in the opening of the Nikon Museum, a corporate museum, as we were commemorating Nikon's 100th anniversary, with many other external staff members.
The Nikon Museum was intended to serve as a platform to display the history of Nikon's various businesses, products and technologies in one location and to convey a comprehensive overview of the company. I was asked to introduce BtoB products that the general public rarely sees and to also explain the optical technology that is at the core of all Nikon products. But the problem was that, no matter how beautiful the graphics or cool movies are, it is difficult for people to be interested in things that are so far removed from their daily lives.
There are some things that cannot be solved by conventional methods... I felt that the difficulty of this project was different from anything else I'd participated in up to that point.
If this is in fact the case, we thought, why not try letting people see the actual product, and developing eyelevel communication with the various visitors?
After racking our brains, we came up with a relatively simple answer.
For example, the semiconductor lithography systems (steppers/scanners) which are indispensable for semiconductor manufacturing, have been called "the most precise in human history." We still had the equipment from the 1980s, which has been stored at a factory in Kumagaya. So, we asked the designer at that time to maintain the equipment so that people could see the actual movements for themselves.
Nikon has been researching "opto-electronics technologies" since the company's inception, but because most people are not normally aware of it in their daily lives, we needed to present something that they could see, touch, and feel. For example, we placed a Synthetic Silica Glass Ingot, the basis of the projection lens, at the entrance of the building and set up a corner where even young children could simply understand the science of light.
In addition to the perfection of the space, the modeling of the product and the beauty of the panel, we pursued the best communication from the visitor's point of view. In the end, I felt that I could actually touch the essence of the design.
New possibilities for Nikon design
We are now hoping to use the power of design to improve communication between Nikon and the world.
Nikon established a unique division that integrates its brand division, which is responsible for communication with many people including users, with its design division. This unprecedented structure allows us to effectively utilize the skills of our in-house design team in a variety of communication fields other than just products and graphics.
"The power of design" is beneficial not only to users, but also to a lot of people within Nikon itself. There are many products and services that could produce better results as a business if communicated in a different way.
Naturally, this does not just mean that creating more elaborate brochures will suffice. We really want to convey the best aspects of our products and services to the public, and we must carefully address the current issues one by one. Nikon's designers always work with the user in mind by maximizing their abilities to come up with the optimum solutions. Furthermore, utilizing the skills of outside creators will further develop and maximize the effectiveness of overall communication.
I truly believe that the power of design is strongly supporting Nikon's challenges for the future.
Creating contact points between Nikon and people
In order for more people to get to know more about Nikon, we have produced two movies at this time, which are examples of such efforts.
These movies involve information that usually tends to be rather over-serious as a "corporate introduction" explaining what Nikon has achieved up until now, what Nikon is creating, and what Nikon intends to produce in the future. However, we have completed these new movies in a style that can be enjoyed by people who have never even heard of Nikon, or who may usually find this kind of information too dry to bother with.
"Manufacturing Makes It Happen" introduces the directions Nikon is taking in the future through the passion of lively company employees.
Even though Nikon is a company, it's the people in it who really bring it to life. It would be best for our message to be delivered in a relatable way. That is why we asked Nikon staff involved with product development in various fields to appear in these movies and share their thoughts in their own words.
The second movie is "Our Future is...", which aims for a new form of expression by combining live action and animation.
How can we get the word out about Nikon, especially to younger people? In response to this question, one of our staff members suggested using animation in a movie. Since there was no precedent, we were unsure as to how to go about it at first. However, when we went back to the basics of design in order to connect with people, there actually appeared to be no better solution. Together with the staff members, we immediately visited a production company known for its animation capabilities and started to discuss potential storylines.
As a result of this, four high-school students were asked to envision the future that each of them would like to realize. Nikon's products and technologies were then linked to their visions of each particular future. I am sure that these movies will show a fresh new side of Nikon.
It's always about communication
How will design change in the future? At the moment, various technologies have been developed and communication between companies and people, as well as just between people, continues to evolve. I believe that new methods of expression and innovative media will increasingly emerge as we move into the future.
Even so, the essence of thinking thoroughly about the person to be communicated with and facing any issues seriously will never change. We will continue to perfect the design of relationships between Nikon and people, while creating an environment where individuals both within and outside the company can maximize their potential.
Team members talk about design and communication
Solving communication issues with internal and external teams
As the demands of design change, it is important to gather as much wisdom as possible inside and outside the company, and discover solutions as a team. How can we effectively draw a path to problem-solving without sticking to one method such as graphics or products? That is what I aim to uncover in the future. I would like to take on new challenges by widening the scope of my own antennae.
I want to continue pursuing new forms of communication
Currently, we have specifically proposed image expression employing animation. For younger people, animation is a familiar expression that they have been accustomed to since their childhood days. I thought that it would probably be the best way for younger generations to learn about Nikon.
As a result, various creators cooperated with us so that we could realize a spectacular movie.
As presentation platforms such as social networking have diversified, the number of "people who express" has been increasing in the world. I think that new creators' expressions contain hidden hints for communication that have never been seen before. We hope to be stimulated and broaden the range of communication for ourselves as well.