Kaoru Kishida joined BrandCulture as an intern in 2019 and is now an invaluable member of our design team.
Originally from Japan, Kaoru moved to Australia in 2015 to complete a Bachelor of Design (Honours) before joining BrandCulture as an intern in 2019. Last year, we were delighted to welcome Kaoru back to our team, where she brings a concept-driven, experiment-led approach to her designs. With a passion for graphic design and interactive media, she loves creating designs that transcend culture and are distinctive and user-friendly.
We spoke with Kaoru about her transition from Japan to Australia, and from student-life to life as a professional designer.
You originally joined BrandCulture as an intern. What were your first impressions?
BrandCulture specialises in branding, wayfinding and experiential graphic design and I could see that these fields of design are not purely aesthetic. They require a lot of thinking, planning and documentation. Wayfinding especially is a very serious design discipline: I was amazed to see this, but also a little worried as to whether I could thrive in a studio that takes on such serious projects! I also loved the studio’s culture – I had a very vibrant community of great designers mentoring me.
You were born in Japan but have lived in Australia for several years. Do you think your Japanese background impacts your design aesthetic?
It’s hard to say how much my Japanese background impacts my work as a designer now. I grew up surrounded by Japanese designs, so this aesthetic is deeply embedded in me. At university, I used to find my classmates’ designs more flamboyant and braver than mine, whereas my designs seemed more Japanese – very quiet and humble, which I didn’t particularly like. But recently, I have started to appreciate the influence I get from my culture. Japanese design can be really simple, streamlined and practical, often with no excess. These are qualities I have started to really appreciate.
Last year, you returned to BrandCulture as a designer. Can you walk us through a typical day in the studio?
My day starts with a WIP meeting, which is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. I’m most alert in the mornings, so I try to focus on all the big thinking tasks while my head is really clear. After lunch, I finish more time consuming or repetitive design documentation tasks. I try to finish before 6:30pm – sometimes I stay late, which I don’t mind, but I do love that life in Australia is less restricted and stressful than in Japan.
What advice would you give to students who are just starting out their career in design?
It’s important to start working in a studio as soon as possible by taking on an internship or getting work experience. It is a completely different level of intensity compared to when you’re studying. Time management is a big thing. I still struggle with it, but it’s very important.
Communication is another thing to work at. At university, you’re mostly working independently. I learned that in a studio, you have a shared responsibility to make life easier for the other team members. This means constantly letting people know where you’re at and what you’re doing, because this will affect the people around you. It’s also a good idea to ask for feedback regularly: your seniors will almost always cast light on the design problem.
Where do you find inspiration outside of work?
I love abandoned buildings and ruins. Often abandoned sites are restricted areas, but I would visit them more if I could. There’s something about old, used, decaying places that I love – maybe it’s the contrast with the ‘new’ designs I produce at work. I’m also learning to belly dance!
What are your favourite places in Sydney and why?
I love the walking track at Barangaroo. I love how accessible it makes the harbour, and I enjoy following the rocks and stairs – the rocks are artificial, but as a destination, Barangaroo combines the natural and artificial really nicely. I also love the Blue Mountains – how cool and quiet it is there.
Pictured below, clockwise from top left: outside of work, Kaoru loves hiking with friends; Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, a renowned izakaya street in the city where she grew up; and “Arpeggio”, Kaoru’s honours project reflects her passion for tactile and interactive designs.