‘A Strong Identity is an Icon’ Says the Designer Behind the Uniqlo Logo

March 7, 2018, 3:56 PM UTC
Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018
033 Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018 Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 Singapore 16:50 -17:05 DESIGN IN FOCUS: ICONIC BRANDING Designer and brand architect Kashiwa Sato explains “iconic branding,” his unique approach to achieving brand dominance in a saturated marketplace. Using his own past projects as case studies, Sato will share his process – from concept clarification and communication strategy to logo and brand development. Presenter: Kashiwa Sato, Founder and Creative Director, SAMURAI Photograph by Stefen Chow/Fortune
Stefen Chow/Fortune

Kashiwa Sato sees the world through icons, and just about anything can be an icon, the leading Japanese designer told the Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on Wednesday.

“The purpose of branding is to create a strong identity. A strong identity is an icon. I’ve created many icons over the years. They are most important for communication. They must be simple and direct,” said Sato. A graduate of Tama University’s Graphic Design program, he spent 11 years at Japan’s Hakuhodo advertising agency before founding his own creative studio, Samurai, in 2000.

He is perhaps best known for his use and design of fonts and typefaces to create iconic logos, and his insistence that a brand be simple, clear and memorable. In his minimalist approach to complex ideas, he draws inspiration from Japanese culture and traditions. When the head of Uniqlo asked him to design a logo for the business, Sato chose red and white, which he said instantly identifies Uniqlo as Japanese because it is reminiscent of the country’s flag. He then designed an English type face in English inspired by katakana, a Japanese writing system or alphabet used to for foreign words.

“It identified Uniqlo as something unique in the global fashion industry. The logo is the fundamental aspect of the brand,” he said.

“I see everything through icons and iconic branding,” Sato added. And as he continues to create more instantly recognizable logos, most of the world will be seeing more of him.

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