Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Toshinori Mori ("TM") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

TM : I enrolled in the mechanical department of the university, but thought that it didn't suit me, dropped out and re-entered the graphic design department of a vocational school of design. I learned there for two years. So I haven't learned the specialized knowledge like I would at an art university. After purchasing a personal computer (Mac) personally, I learned how to use Illustrator and Photoshop from books.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

TM : I've always liked drawing and crafting since I was a kid. I also understood that I had such a talent by winning prizes in contests. But I didn't think it would be a job in the future. One day when I was living a day-and-night reversal at university, I bought a book with a design that caught my eye, and I was impressed when he got a work of “Ayao Yamana” that had illustrations such as Shiseido drawn there. I entered a vocational school where I was the president. After that I got a job as a designer and became independent and worked on the project in front of me. I designed various things. However, from the age of 50, I started to question the idea of designing to help with consumption. So I started to draw original illustrations. I am currently drawing an illustration because there are people who are happy with this drawing.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

TM : I can't say either. I think there was a flow of both. I haven't worked in a blessed environment as a designer. I worked on various projects desperately thinking that I could only do this job to eat. Now I understand that I was born to paint. I was destined to do this job.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

TM : I am currently drawing works that will please everyone, but in the future I would like to make more art-oriented works. I think it will be a more abstract work with a more personal theme.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

TM : A good design cannot be done just by sitting in front of a desk. Opening the five senses in nature and feeling what it means to be beautiful and what it means to be happy. The role of the designer is to think about how to make people happy.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

TM : Good designers work for companies. Distinguishes designer works for the consumers.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

TM : I think that a design that feels the designer's intention (I design according to this policy) is an excellent design.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

TM : I think this is because I feel "happy and rich" by being able to own these products. I think that "happiness and abundance" is different depending on the person...

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

TM : If I have enough time, I would like to make an "artistic cat" by cutting out cardboard and assembling it. By being in space, it is a kind of object that can leave everyday life and make you feel "free" for a while. It's for myself, for cat lovers, and for art lovers.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

TM : I would like to expand the picture of Tabineko to the actual size, and make a three-dimensional work by arranging each layer with a gap. So to speak, a full-scale "Tabineko" landscape. One can then actually enter the world of "Tabineko".

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

TM : The person making the product doesn't know whether the finished design will be finished as expected. Of course, I design with all the power I have, but there is no guarantee that it will get high marks. So, I spend most of my day in stoic. I don't want to waste my luck outside of design.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

TM : The manga by Osamu Tezuka, which I read when I was a child, was a big influence. When I was a high school student, I once posted an illustration in a motorcycle magazine. I was also greatly influenced by the bike illustration of "Kimitoshi Honma," who was the winner at that time. I was also influenced by the manga artists “Yoshimoto Baron” and “Kazuo Kamimura” who had become college students. After becoming a toy designer, I adored designers who draw cute characters such as "Dick Bruna", "Charles Monroe Schulz" and "Tove Marika Jansson". Also, I was very much influenced by the movie work of "Hayao Miyazaki". However, my current favorite is "Matisse". ^_^

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

TM : I mentioned "Matisse" in the question above, but I can't say why I like Matisse's work. He says he likes the five senses inside me. I think he's in a "state" where a talented artist can make a tremendous effort and finally get to it. Isn't it because it comes from the work?

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

TM : As I said, I am attracted to the work of "Matisse". That's because his work makes me feel the essence of art.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

TM : I worked hard on various jobs (illustration, graphic design, product design, package design, character design, etc.) each time. That's how I gradually expanded my skill range. I think that deepening various knowledge and experience in this way leads to the quality of the work.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

TM : I enrolled in the mechanical department of the engineering department of the university, but dropped out and re-entered a vocational school of design. Therefore, I think that when I graduated from university as it was, I became an engineer for a machine manufacturer somewhere.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

TM : I think it's a work to create things and things that make you feel "rich feeling". It contains "love", "dream", and "hope".

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

TM : I believed it was right to make a work that I was happy with. At one point, many people liked and purchased works that I didn't like. I realized that until then I was a lonely designer. I think that the person who bought it at this time made me who I am now.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

TM : When the PC came out into the world, I was convinced that I would use it for designing in the future. After that, I learned by myself how the PC works and how to use various software. Similarly, SNS skills now give individual designers a great deal of sales power and sales power. Designers in the future will not be able to design. How to send it is also important.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

TM : When I was in my 50s, I worked as a freelance designer. However, I realized that the requested work left me nothing. There was a lot of ad hoc design work that was quickly consumed. So I thought that I would make something I designed and sell it at an online shop to make a living. To do so, I saved the requested work and made my own work. I was very poor before I could live by selling my work. ^_^ I now think that period was necessary.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

TM : I am currently publishing my work online for people all over the world. For designers and illustrators, we are presenting at Behance. If you are a fan of "Tabineko" illustrations, we will announce them on the "Tabineko" official website and Facebook "Tabi neko" page, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, and Pinterest. We also make announcements on personal Facebook pages and blogs for acquaintances in the area. Anyway, I thought that it would be possible for various people to see by making presentations in various places, and I have increased the number of presentation sites.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

TM : The work of making detailed digital illustrations using a personal computer has become difficult due to age. From now on, I would like to make analog tableaus and prints using paintbrushes. I'm thinking of going from a designer to an artist in the future.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

TM : To publish a book of illustrations for "Tabineko".

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

TM : Maybe you are expected to make a new picture calendar every year. First, it's impossible. ^_^

DL: How does design help create a better society?

TM : Now, under the influence of COVID-19, dark shadows are pointing to the hearts of people around the world. I think the role of my design is to brighten the hearts of those people.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

TM : In the spring of 2020, sake using the illustration of "Tabinneko" as a label is now on sale. In the future, a total of 4 liquors will be on sale, one for each of the four seasons in spring, summer, autumn and winter. I'm excited to see the four lined up.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

TM : After all, it is a "Tabinneko" illustration that continues from 2011 to the present. We have a lot of people who are fans and we also purchase works and goods.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

TM : From now on, I think that the number of individual designers creating works themselves and delivering them directly to buyers around the world through SNS will increase. Also, I think that the design will be more focused on the part of the person's mind, and the difference between art and design will disappear.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

TM : I think I'm heading in my heart. Design that makes you feel "richness of your heart" Designs that feel "love". Design of "emotion".

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

TM : In the case of Tabineko Illustration, it takes time to produce and ship the work, but it takes about a month to finish one illustration. It feels like it will be completed little by little every day. I can't force it. You can't do anything good even if you force it. I think I have the time needed to get it done.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

TM : First, select the original landscape photo. If not, shoot it and go out.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

TM : Take your time carefully.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

TM : The feeling of living now determines the direction of design. In other words, I think trends determine design.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

TM : Currently, whether you make something or print it, the basics are exchanging data. Design expressions are now treated as data. The role of technology lies in the digitization of expressions.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

TM : Mac mini and EIZO monitor, EPSON printer PX5V &SC-PX3V Adobe Illustrator&Photoship

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

TM : Color is emotion, material is seasonal, environment is air

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

TM : What was your motivation to draw this picture?

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

TM : How is this made? Why did the designer choose this shape, color and material? Do not design like this for yourself.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

TM : I haven't met such a wonderful partner yet. ^_^ I think co-design will be especially necessary in the coming era.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

TM : Maybe my brother. It was my brother who brought me a new culture from my childhood. I often imitate what my older brother started, and in the end, I tend to be deeply absorbed in it.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

TM : A comic for adults called "Cohabitation period" of "Kazuo Kmimura" that I read when I was a college student

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

TM : When I received a job request, I offered a service with more proposals than the other person requested. In other words, there are many wasteful parts. However, I think that this useless part has accumulated for many years, which has led to improving my skills.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

TM : When I was a university student, there were many students of the same age in the apartment I rented, and I often gathered in someone's room and played mahjong until morning. After that, I dropped out and went to a vocational school in Tokyo, and I never met the members at the time. If possible, I would like to play mahjong again with the same members and in the same apartment.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

TM : I applied for this award with the intention of becoming famous and getting people all over the world to know me. For now, it doesn't seem to be famous in Japan yet.^_^

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

TM : My favorite color is a little orange-yellow. The place is quiet Yamazato. Foods include tofu, eggplant, sweet potatoes, Japanese sweets, and coffee. The season is May of the fresh green. Do you like summer too? Items are bicycles, cars, motorcycles, computers, cameras, chairs. Brands are Apple, EPSON, Nikon, HITACHI, SUZUKI, IKEA.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

TM : When I was working in toy design production, a request from a major motorcycle manufacturer came to me for a job called "Toy Designer Thinking Bike". At that time, I proposed a weakman type moped that runs while playing music, but I liked it and decided to make a full-scale mockup of only the outer shape. Before ordering the measures, we first made a simple mockup ourselves. I scraped Styrofoam, covered it with paper, painted it with gesso and colored it with acrylic paint. In the final prototype, a large dummy tape rotates and music plays. It was more of a big bike toy than a moped.^_^

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

TM : The music you listen to while you work, the cats that ask for rice, and the bicycle that frees you from work.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

TM : Of course.^_^

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

TM : Maybe I'm dead in Millennium.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

TM : You can buy my work at this store. https://www.etsy.com/shop/TabinekoJAPAN



Tabineko Illustration Calendar

Tabineko Illustration Calendar by Toshinori Mori

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