Tell us about Chakotaco. What is it going to be about and what do you hope to accomplish? And where did the name come from?
Chakotaco is a multi-disciplinary design and consulting office made up of Takao Umehara and Hisako Ichiki. We have been best friends since age 18 and have been collaborating just as long. Takao trained himself in graphic design and work in the branding field. Hisako (Chako) trained herself in fine art and architecture.
Our focus at Chakotaco will cover three categories:
1. Design consulting: We help clients visualize their brands and express them through graphics, products and space.
2. Self branded products: We will be launching our own projects and product and putting them into the market. These will be small productions. We are planning to produce some clothing and home use product.
3. Creative workshopping: We will be visiting schools, companies and various other institutions to conduct workshops which will focus on design oriented thinking.
Design certainly seems to be figuring more and more into everyday consumerism. This is good thing, right?
The purpose of design is to help humans live. It’s nothing more than that. Design isn’t only about aesthetics. A good functional system itself is a design. How transportation systems work, how our body works. Good design can improve us physically, emotionally, mentally. So, the idea of design being brought into everyday life is a great thing.
You are both big into branding. We love brands and the idea of differentiation. But why do so many brands seem so opposed to embracing strong differentiation?
We believe in the power of branding, but it doesn’t necessary mean we love brands. We like to have a positive impact on life by promoting designs that enhance the value of daily life, whether it is a book or a house. We aim to reach one more person and make his or her life happier and more positive and more creative. That is what we look to accomplish by through the power of design and branding. Branding is a means of communication, not the purpose.
Regarding your book Extra Ordinary: If you had iPod earphones, a Starbucks Straw and an American Apparel headband, could you make me a tie that would get me a date with that hostess at Nobu? In other words, would it be fair to say that you are the MacGyvers of design?
The idea behind Extra Ordinary is to see our everyday environment in a fresh new way. The book project was not purpose or goal driven, but about curiosity and freeing ourselves from what we are supposed to see or think. Earphones, a straw and a headband? We would probably come up with something silly, like a portable peace sign.
You’re Japanese. I see fashion on streets of New York that I remember laughing at in Japan five years ago. Would you say Japan is pushing the fashion envelope more than any other country? And if so, why?
Japanese fashion is very unique and different. Although, we wouldn’t say it’s pushing the envelope more than other countries, but it does push some boundaries. We live in small spaces, culturally we’re predominantly one race and we tend to value groups over individuals. As a result, we learn to be different within cultural limitations. And limitation can be powerful tools for being creative and innovative.
Ok, this is a selfish question. I’m a huge sports fan. Why are so many professional team logos so lame?
People’s perception and expectation in aesthetics vary. As for sports logos, they need to appeal to my 6-year-old niece, as well as my 18-year-old neighbor and 68-year-old father-in-law. This makes design very difficult. In such cases a simple fire or bull logo may work just fine. Although, we are always open to new challenges if any sports team would like a new logo.
Any closing thoughts? Maybe a state-of-the-union on the state of design?
We see design as a tool, branding as communication and the world as a playground for having fun.
Hisako Ichiki + Takao Umehara
For more of Chakotaco’s work, visit them at: