Satsuki Ogino, a third year student at the Art and Design Faculty of Tama Art University, threw a scourer soaked in paint -- and gave birth to an alien!

Be Inspired! A Trip To Tama Art University

Have you ever had the feeling that in Japan, since things are so over excessively convenient, people tend to lack imagination…? This might be a bit of an overstatement but it’s a serious topic that could determine the future of the Japanese creative industry! Just as we were contemplating this, we had an unexpected e-mail from art director Koh Chihara, inviting us to see the final review of his original lectures on “Imagination” for the third year students of the Art and Design Faculty of Tama Art University. Sounds like fun! We immediately took off to the Kaminoge campus of Tama Art in Western Tokyo to find out how these art college students were letting their imagination run wild.

Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane

For this review, 33 students were already given thirteen different assignments based on the theme of “imagination.” Regardless of the media, students had to come up with their own representations and interpretations in their designs based on their memories. Then, they were asked to choose any one of the assignments to create a piece in a limited period of six weeks.

The sign of the Kaminoge campus stands out in the dark… Needless to say, many great designers graduated from Tama Art University.

From the back of the classroom. Everyone is very serious! Many Japanese professional designers visited the presentation too.

The Works

Let’s introduce some exceptional works from the review: First of all, the piece from Shota Inui who chose a book design assignment to “imagine freely about a country that you have never been to and design a local publication.”

Shota designed an evening newspaper published in the slums in Brazil, in which he featured a fictional news story that an old man living there had found a new table mountain on the front page. Other articles included gang wars, the latest updates on the carnivals – based on Shota’s imagination that Brazilian people would be thinking about the carnival constantly, after hearing that the carnival preparations are underway throughout the year. Also, he added radio listings instead of TV listings. Presuming that the newspaper would be made on a low budget, he chose cheap, low-quality paper and graded down the graphic drawn, to intentionally create a rough-looking finish.

The front page is about an old man from the slums, who made a historic discovery. The edge of the paper is notch cut by hand to make it look like a real newspaper!

We’ve never been there either — but it does look like a picture from Brazil!

Shota who explains his work (on the left) and tutor Koh (on the right.)

For this work, lecturer Koh Chihara gave a high mark for its texture and typically Brazilian use of colours. However, in the meantime, he also impressed the students and visitors by asking poignant questions such as “Would the graphics in slum newspapers be looking so cool? Shouldn’t the photos of the murder scene be more realistic? Would they have the budget to print a newspaper in colour?”

The tutor, Koh said “this picture of a dead body (on the left) looks too cool.

The page with the carnival info…

… and people on the wanted list. Good drawings!

Next up was a work by Harumi Onodera who chose a typography assignment on “imagining the personality of your next door neighbour and designing his/her business card, nameplate and personal seal.”

Harumi who lives in a four-story apartment building along the Tama River, has actually never seen the husband of the family living next door — but she has heard his voice. So she imagined “Even though the rent is very cheap, the husband is working till late everyday. And we live along the Tama River… The husband could actually be a legendary creature, Kappa doing fishing for a living!” Based on the verified fact that the wife is a human, Harumi decided to create a work that would work in both the Kappa world and the human world. Also, from the fact that the landlord is very kind, she imagined that the rent is paid by the fishes from the river. Moreover, as the young child is often seen alone ion the balcony, she presumed that the wife must be doing piecework at home, and the kind of lady to fall in love with a Kappa must be fond of fishing… therefore she must be making fishing lures! Harumi’s work progressed as her imagination runs free…

The nameplate indeed, gives the impression that the resident is not human. However, Koh simply inquired, “Does he live without hiding his identity?”

A seal for the human world was made from a cucumber, Kappa’s favourite food.
The business card for selling fishing lures. Presuming that Kappa’s friends won’t be able to read, she designed it as a pop-up card. Clever!

Although Koh tried to get to the bottom of it again and again, Harumi’s work reflected her imagination with almost impeccable details, making the presentation filled with laughter throughout.

A Kappa-style seal showing a fish nicked with Kappa’s fingernail: It took this shape based on the idea that seals were originally used as a form of identification.

Harumi Onodera who did a great presentation and made everyone laugh so much!

The third on the list is a work by Satsuki Ogino who challenged an assignment to “draw rough sketches of at least 100 characters using your non-dominant hand and tools you have never used before. Then pick one and brush it up with your dominant hand and do a presentation on its design process, purpose and the settings of the finished character.”

For that, Satsuki created sketches using all sorts of tools and items, including marshmallows melted in a microwave, a pen attached to the end of a long tube of a hoover, a brush made from her own hair, orange peels, sea weed and other…

Satsuki explains the rough sketches…

… one of the earlier tries.

From there, she selected several rough sketches to create some characters based on the settings that they are “aliens who moved to the earth from the depopulating outer space” and expanded her ideas with the imagination that they are pretending to be playground equipment parks to hide from the humans during the day.

A rough sketch made with melted coloured wax — turned into…

… some extra-terrestrial characters! Great!!

And every single one of them are…

… looking out of the ordinary.

Afterwards each characters are transformed into…

… miniature models!
A model of aliens pretending to be slides and other equipment for playing in the park. What amazing imagination and creativity!

For this, Koh commented that it was “an extremely interesting work born out of normally inconceivable techniques and bizarre shapes!” The class burst into applause!

Koh Chihara explains, “How you come up with an answer for a tall order that almost sounds like a joke and associate it with unique and convincing representations is a programme for conception of ideas applicable to the students’ future assignments, works and lives, and it also has an aspect of a research into their imagination and creativity too. By experiencing the joy of communicating your personal discoveries and experiments to other people – or the fear of not being able to convey it at all – I wanted the students to acknowledge the “diversity in individual values” and hopefully be able to give calm judgements on the ‘senses of values generally considered to be good in the streets’.”

This review was truly intriguing, brimming with imagination of the awesome works by the 33 students — including those works we couldn’t get round to today. This convinced us for sure that the future of Japanese design is looking bright! To Koh Chihara and the students, thanks a lot and keep up the good work! Folks, if you want to see more of it, visit here! And don’t forget to drop a line about your most enjoyable lecture you had in your student days yourself!

  • roku

    so the work by Satsuki Hagino was to draw with non preferred hand and then redo it with dominant hand?
    interesting work!

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  • Jay

    Curious but why doesn’t pingmag have any art work for sale? I would love some posters or wall decorations from many of the artists covered here.

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  • blauereiter

    Tama must be a great place to study…I remember visiting Musashino Art University a few years back and the air of creativity surrounding the place was so palpable it made me want to be a student all over again.

  • angellesmelle

    that’s great, I think that’s a pretty good school, but I wish people could get assignments like that in little kid school too.

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