CCD INTERVIEW Kashiwa Sato
Let's work together to design a new Rakuten brand for the world.
In 2018, the design of Rakuten's global brand logo underwent a complete renewal, reflecting Rakuten's powerful ambition to continue reshaping common knowledge going forward. Mr. Kashiwa Sato, who was in charge of designing the new logo, has served as Rakuten's Chief Creative Director (CCD) for 15 years. Rakuten is now entering a phase of great transformation as it makes its full-scale foray into the global market. We spoke to Mr. Kashiwa Sato about the attitude Rakuten requires of its designers in order to work together on unprecedented and dynamic new projects, as well as the value of the experiences that they can gain only from working at Rakuten.
Positioning design at the core of management, and strengthening branding
Design is the core of management. When I first met Mr. Mikitani 15 years ago, he had already embraced this concept, so he entrusted me with the task of maximizing the value of our brand through design. Mr. Mikitani had incredible foresight if we were to consider the publication of the "Declaration of Design Management" (*) by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) this year.
Rakuten is not a manufacturer, but a service provider. Its services are the medium that perform the role of spreading knowledge of the Rakuten brand around the world. In this sense, design fulfils the extremely important role of making the Rakuten brand visible. Rakuten's dramatic growth over such a short period of time is also the result of fully harnessing the power of design.
Going forward, Rakuten will continue to pursue globalization on a greater scale. The attempt to further strengthen our branding in the world by positioning design at the core of management is, I think, an innovative example among Japanese corporations.
Enhancing design quality across the whole of Rakuten Group
The Rakuten brand has now penetrated all corners of Japan. I think we can say that Rakuten has produced results in its branding efforts that focus on the use of design. My first assignment at Rakuten in 2004 was the design of the brand logo, which combines the universally understood letter "R" enclosed in a circle, with the kanji characters for "Rakuten," which are familiar to the Japanese people. At the same time, the branding exercise was strengthened with the entry of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles into the world of professional baseball, marking the birth of a new team for the first time in 50 years. This became a successful case study of branding that propelled the recognition rate of Rakuten from the previous level of about 30%, to about 90%.
As a new initiative, Rakuten established the "Design Lab" in April 2018 to continue innovating Rakuten through the power of design. This is an organization that I had wanted to develop in Rakuten for a long time. From the Rakuten logo that is also used on the new uniform of the FC Barcelona team, to the icons for apps, the designers from the Design Lab and I work intensively to supervise the massive amount of creative tasks generated by the wide range of projects. By enhancing design quality across the whole of Rakuten Group for each and every individual project, we aim to maximize the value of the Rakuten brand.
Designing the "Rakuten character" through cutting-edge initiatives
Design is a solution. Design exists as a means and methodology for resolving issues. What should we do in order to create a user interface that is easier to view and operate for users? The consideration of this question itself constitutes a form of design. Rakuten is now advancing concrete actions to provide the solution for this problem.
One of these is "Rakuten Experience" ("ReX"). It is implemented as an initiative for improving the overall UX for the Rakuten Group through design. Rakuten's designers also make active use of the UX Research Room, which is a dedicated room for carrying out verification and improvements for UX through user tests.
"ReX" and user tests: If we were to naturally incorporate the "Rakuten character" and introduce it to users through the new interfaces that reflect these two initiatives, we should be able to further strengthen Rakuten's branding.
Resolve issues and pursue good methodologies through design. Results definitely await us beyond that point. Rakuten is a company that harnesses various advanced technologies to contribute to the world. I would like the people who will become Rakuten's designers in the future to have a strong awareness of this fact. I also hope that they will be filled with excitement and anticipation doing the fascinating job of creating new things.