Brandmaker Profile features the people and their work on both the creative and the business side of branding in Asia.
Name: Hiromi Maeo
Title: CEO, Branding enhancer, Art director
Hometown: Hiroshima, Japan
Current location: Tokyo, Japan
School: Anabuki Design College Hiroshima
First job out of school: Real estate advertising
Current gig: Founder, CEO, enhanced Inc.
Website you visit most: www.behance.net
Book every designer should read: Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann and Balance in Design – Kimberly Elam
A native of Hiroshima and now based in Tokyo, Hiromi Maeo’s sophisticated style and minimalistic designs span the identities of Japanese firms both large and small.
More recently Maeo, who founded enhanced Inc. in 2012, has seen his work expand to an increasingly international client list including Google, YouTube and Amazon.
Perhaps what makes the CI and VI work of the 20+ year industry veteran stand out from many of his peers, is the highly sophisticated style of his design process.
From an array of refined grids spring forth the meticulously constructed shapes that serve as his interpretation of what lay at the core of a client’s brand.
Last year he was named the first Japanese member of the Adobe ico-D Mentorship Program. That, along with the birth of his son late last year, has turned the attention of Hiromi Maeo increasingly towards the next generation.
And while his focus shifts more and more towards those to come, he is the first to admit that developing oneself is a never-ending process for us all.
“I would like to grow myself further so my son can be proud of me, too.”
Branding in Asia recently caught up with Hiromi Maeo at his office in Tokyo. He was kind enough to share his work and speak with us about himself, his heroes and his designs.
What kind of brief or project do you enjoy working on most?
I enjoy working with corporate clients who have a clear vision and goals as well as a passion to innovate. Usually, the project goes very smoothly if they do. I particularly enjoy working on projects with clients who have their eye on the international market beyond Japan.
I also enjoy design work for domestic projects that I can redefine and revive something traditional. Either one requires a clear vision and a goal in order to successfully conceptualize their visual identities.
You’ve been in the design industry for 20 years. Besides technology, what are some of the biggest changes from then and now?
Founding my own company and an introduction to Behance brought big changes personally. When I founded my company, I upgraded all my work style and types of clients I work with. It changed from designing for ‘passive works’ as an employees to ‘proactive works’ as a willing partner with my clients. The way I design and the thinking process have been renewed since then.
Using Behance created a big impact to the range of works and clients I work with. Now I am getting more and more offers from clients who have seen my page there.
If you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself about working in design, what would you tell the younger you?
I would tell myself to read more books and act on what you learned from them. I would also tell myself to expand your sights to overseas, communicate with others, learn from others, and grow oneself.
This is not just in the field of graphic designs, but across the web or physical products … I can see they have simply followed what their clients told them to do. Visual information is far more important than that.
Are there any new styles or trends in Japanese branding that you’re most fond of?
Honestly, I do not pay much attentions to domestic designs so I am not too keen about the design trends in Japan. There are a few companies in the technology field I am interested in, but overall I do not think designs here are polished yet. I am more interested in overseas design trends.
I am involved in CI and VI development so rather than paying attention to the short term trends, I am very interested in new design philosophies and process such as dynamic identity designs and in new ways to present visual identity.
Are there any styles or trends you are getting tired of seeing?
I try to keep everything minimalistic. I am not going to point out certain styles or trends, but those designs filled with too much information are very exhausting to look at. This is not just in the field of graphic designs, but across the web or physical products, the information is not designed well, and I can see they have simply followed what their clients told them to do. Visual information is far more important than that.
If you could work on a brief with any creative person ever, who would it be? What kind of project would you like to do together?
Massimo Vignelli; If possible, I would love to learn more from his words. If I could collaborate with him, just like he had planned for redesigning of New York subway map, I would like to work on the redesigning of Japanese transportation maps that are too complex and confusing to look at.
I would love to work on the airport sign project and CI for airlines. Japan has many overseas travellers coming, but I do not think the visual signs are intuitive and they are too complex. I even feel that way as a Japanese. But for foreigners it must be awfully inconvenient. At such areas that are international travellers junction, it is critical to collaborate with foreigners and get input from them rather than only Japanese designing for them.
I’d also like to work with Dieter Rams. His ‘Ten Principles to Good Design’ has been my a guide for me and still is. If I could collaborate with him, I want to work on headphones or speakers. I am a loyal user of Bowers & Wilkins headphone, I would love to use minimal and beautiful headphones that he and I created.
What is your biggest passion outside of work?
Educational activities for the new generation of young creatives or young people in general as well as mentoring. I am currently appointed as a mentor for the Adobe ico-D Mentorship Program. I am the first Japanese mentor elected.
Also my first son was recently born, so I would like to spend time with him looking out for his growth. I would like to grow myself further so he can be proud of me, too.
MTRL KYOTO New Identity / Loftwork Inc. (2015)
Brief: “VI design and art direction for recently opened co-working spaces in Kyoto and Tokyo.”
DOTO Rebranding / DOTO (East Hokkaido Electric), 道東電機 (2015)
Brief: “Rebranding project for a firm with a 50-year history in Eastern Hokkaido. I wanted the symbol to be minimalistic and timeless, designed to be a visual milestone marking the next 50 years. The red line at the center of the logo is the wall they must get over daily. Because they challenge to do so, they will grow and be able to face even bigger wall. The color red symbolizes the passion to conquer and energy and it is the color of Japanese soul.”
YouTube Space Tokyo Art Night 2015 Graphic / Google Japan (YouTube Space APAC)
Brief: “Designed for the meetup events of YouTube creators and artists. Group of same shape objects such as dots, circles, stripes are used to represent their common trait “create something” which creators and artists share. By layering objects, the moire effect represents the transformation of their minds brought about by meeting of two. When you add YouTube over them, such transformations become even more significant.”
MICAI Identity Renewal / MICAI Limited (2015)
Brief: “Logo renewal project for investment a solution provider based in Hong Kong. Their objective is to become personal finance manager by making a simple and easy investment platform for private investors. The metaphor used is a tree representing the financial prosperity and good life brought to users who invest through this platform. I created the logo to have universal appeal so they can expand the market beyond Asia.”
You can see more work of Hiromi Maeo’s creations on his Behance page.