My Japan Stories Vol.2


Good news came when I least expected it...
“In late October 2021, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry announced that it was hosting a logo design competition in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of the Look East Policy. I then immediately launched a project team within my design office to make entry. Our team came up with a basic concept – a simple design that bonds Malaysia and Japan.
As the concept was clear from the start, we completed the design in just four days. We intended the design to describe the relationship, exchanges and the bond between Malaysia and Japan by using the colors of Jalur Gemilang and Hinomaru, and by making the design seamless, as if drawn in one stroke.
We make entries to various design competitions on a routine basis. When the entry was unsuccessful, no information comes from the organizer. With many other projects we were managing, we totally forgot that we have even made an entry to this logo competition for LEP40.
Then, MITI called us saying that our very logo design won the competition. It was such a happy surprise.
Advice from my sister
Becoming a graphic designer had always been my dream since I was a student. I was fascinated by the idea that something I designed are eventually enjoyed by many through product packaging and posters.
After graduating from secondary school, I was studying at a design academy in Malaysia. One day, my sister suggested to me “Why don’t you study graphic design in Japan? You will have to earn your tuition and living expenses while studying, but I believe the whole experience will be good for you in the future.” You must be willing to endure hardships when you are young, so they say. I sincerely appreciate what my sister had advised me back then.
What I gained from a series of “NO”s
I arrived Japan in 1990. It was my first visit to Japan, moreover, first time to travel to a foreign country. I lived in Motoyawata in Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture throughout the five years I lived in Japan. For the first two years, I studied at a Japanese school in Ichikawa City. The remaining three years, I studied graphic design at the Ochabi Institute.
I studied during the daytime and worked part-time during the night. Mind you, this was a foreign country. NO friends in the beginning. NO family. NO going back home for the weekend. Back then, NO smartphones like we enjoy today. NO LINE, NO WhatsApp. NO Internet, and not even Emails. It was one of those days.
My days of studying abroad in Japan was busy and challenging, but I have no memory of feeling my life was difficult. I was simply enjoying my life studying graphic design. And on days off, I enjoyed every moment of spending time with my friends from Japan and other countries.
Don’t think of anything!
While I was in Japan, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a three-month lecture by two designers of Walkman, a device the entire world was absolutely captivated back then. It is not an exaggeration to say that the opportunity was the very foundation of my life as a graphic designer
Based on what I learned from the two designers, “When making something new, don’t think of anything” is my personal motto. If you start think about this and that, you are unconsciously thinking within the limitation of what you can do. If you do that, new creation will not be made.
Therefore, you first imagine what you want to do. Then, think of how to approach that image. Do not think whether you can or cannot. If you place limits on yourself, you are also placing limits to any kinds of possibilities.
Japan x Malaysia Hybrid
After coming back to Malaysia in 1995, I was with a design firm for three years, and then I became a freelance graphic designer for two years. In the year 2000, I started my current company, New Ideas Design House.
What I learned in Japan are not immediately viable in Malaysia. Based on what I learned in Japan, I create designs that meet the needs of the Malaysian market.
Some of my clients are Japanese companies operating in Malaysia. I am happy and proud of myself to see packages and posters that I designed at stores and on the street. It is even more so, if those packages and posters are Japan related. It has been 20 years, but anything related to Japan bring back memories of the time I was studying in Japan.
Just try!
Because I studied in Japan, I know “Japan” based on my own experience. It is not “Japan” that you hear from somebody, nor “Japan” you see on the Internet. Nothing beats experience.
My message to anyone who is considering of studying in Japan is to experience it yourself. As I mentioned earlier, don’t think of anything. If you want to go, just go. If you want to try, just try. As they say, when there is a will, there is way.
Any experience in Japan will definitely be positive add-ons to your life. You will naturally be able to see and consider things from a broader perspective.