Case Studies

Evolve Collab x Kotobuki: Inernational Bench Competition


This project started as a spin off project with one of the leading creative agencies in Portland, Evolve Collaboration and a 100 year old public furniture maker in Japan, Kotobuki.

Uplift PDX has orchestrated a one week creative workshop back in the Summer of 2017 with these two companies. At the end of this creative workshop, the Kotobuki team had come up with over 200 new ideas for a new bench project.

The two design teams kept in touch after the workshop and when the Evolve team found out there was an International bench design competition coming to Portland in the Summer of 2018, they decided to enter into this competition by collaborating together.

Hard at Work

The project itself is a simple street bench design competition, but the process of collaborating between two companies in different countries was a challenge with a 17 hour time difference and language barrier.

Each of the team members, as well as the Uplift crew spent countless hours sending files, and Skype meeting.

On top of the many hours spent over online correspondance, the Evolve team members Chris Butler, Christian Freissler and Katsu Tanaka from Uplift PDX, all went to visit the Kotobuki team in Japan for the final design meeting.

More Than We Imagined

We all spent a lot more time than we ever expected to create a final design for the bench, but the end result was more than we imagined. We came up with the bench called, “Lookout,” which included a bike rack and high chair style bench that fits Portlandʻs vibe.

We were chosen as finalist, 15 benches from over 200 entries from all over the world.

It was such an honor to be a finalist but at the same time, that means we had to create an actual 1:1 scale fully functional bench that will be installed at Portland Waterfront park for 6 months within a month and a half timeline.

We decided that the frame part of this bench will be manufactured at the Kotobuki factory in Japan and the wood panel and assembly would be created by the Evolve team in Portland.

We had strict timelines and benchmarks to hit the deadline, but we finished it in time!

In the end, we did not win the competition but we proved that was possible to collaborate between two companies in Japan and the USA to make something amazing if we all have a positive intention and share a clear vision.

For us at Uplift, it is so amazing to see two companies that had no connection just a few months ago being connected and now creating something totally new to the world.

Our mission to inspire, connect and uplift are truly shown through this project.


Portland Hospitality/ Hotel Management

Exploring Portlandʻs Hospitality & Hotel Management

We had a great opportunity to give a special portland tour for the prestigious Japanese Developer Mitsui Real Estate and Creative Agency Yomiko from Tokyo. They work in the Hospitality business, primarily focused in hotels and resorts.

We created this short tour including Portland’s famous branding agency OMFGco, who is the mastermind behind Ace hotel’s branding and many other nationally renowned brands in town, and Evolve Collab, one of the most inovative strategy and design studios in town.

Rather than taking them to new and upcoming hotels in Portland, we took them to Oregon based bar and hotel group McMenamins’ property Kennedy school and Edgefield resort just off of Portland.

They were shocked to discover that these two amazing hotels were very underrated and now well known compared to the trendy hotels and enjoyed learning about the space and history of the buildings.

Japan Trip with Evolve Collab

Uplift + Evolve Collab

We had our first business trip to Japan with Evolve Collab, visiting several of our current clients in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Fukuoka.

First stop was Kotobuki. Last year we had a creative workshop together, and since then we have been involved in working on a few unique projects.  The most recent of these projects is the Portland Bench Competition. We are creating a bench design to enter into this competition and it turned out to be the perfect time to check out the prototype. As we took a look we were also able to talk further about the project’s next steps.

Visiting Suntory Design Studio

Next we went to visit an old friend of ours at Suntory Design. I have known Mr. Minaguchi, the head of Suntory Design, for a few years. He fully renovated/transformed Suntory Design’s work space with all the inspiration he got when he visited Portland creative offices a few years back. The new Suntory Design studio was designed and 3D rendered by Mr. Minaguchi himself. It strongly resembles Portland creative studios, with high ceilings, adjustable tables, and open assigned space.

I have visited many Japanese companies with design studios, and I would say Suntory Design’s studio is definitely one of the best environments for designers.

After our presentation we shared lunch at the big middle table with all of the other Suntory designers.

Building Bridges

We met with another creative team, Ransom LTD, and a few other clients we have worked with previously. The creative team from  Ransom LTD just happened to be in Japan for another project and we ended up having a great dinner together.

The next day we left early for Nagoya to meet with Brother at their world HQ. Evolve has worked with the team at Brother for a few years, and a sample piece from the production that they were working was just recieved.

We were invited to the Brother Museum  with all of the sewing machines from all over the world dating back to the 1800. There were hundreds of sewing machines, each with its own great history.

We were so excited to visit Kyoto on this trip. Through the support of Cos Kyoto and Human Forum we were able to meet with City Councils from both the prefecture of Kyoto and the City of Kyoto. We discussed how to create stronger bridges between the creative communities of Kyoto and Portland; brainstorming possible creative events, volunteer opportunities, and international internships between the cities.

Creating an international makerspace to bring creatives together

Evolve Collab moved to their final meeting at Panasonic in Fukuoka while I went to meet with Mr. Taniguchi from Taniguchi Komuten, a company that has been renovating old farm houses (古民家) and townhouses(町家) in Otsu City. Otsu is one of my favorite cities in Japan, and is only two stations away from Kyoto. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and Lake Biwa, with a long history of being a center of trade both by water and by land to other areas of Japan.

Mr. Taniguchi  is now starting a new project called Craft Collage. The project entails building a space where various makers and craftsmen from all over the world can work in a in a place to make connections and inspire each other.  We will be a part of this project once the building is completed.

Moving forward

What a trip in one week. Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Fukuoka; meeting with leading Japanese companies, and with City Councils to create dialogue for a better future.

Evolve Collab is one of the leading creative agencies in Portland. I truly believe that by connecting someone like Evolve with Japanese companies, something positive will come out in the future. We are happy to make the first steps toward a positive collaboration.

Stay Tuned!

A Special Creative Tour 2017 For The Japan Management Consultant Association

Our 4th collaboration with the Japan Management Consultant Association

We produced a special creative tour for Japanese business owners in October 2017. This marks our 4th collaboration with the Japan Management Consultant Association led by Kota Sakagami. Japan Management Consultant Association is the largest business consultant organization in Japan with over 10,000 membership with small to mid- sized business owners throughout Japan.


Each year, Mr. Sakagami recruits 15 business owners from the vast member base who particularly show special interest in learning more about the market trend and business culture in Portland for this tour. Based on the participants’ business interests and needs, UPLIFT then tailored the tour to incorporate relevant topics and businesses to visit. The tour compromised of a series of lectures and discussion with curated Portland creatives and business leaders.

One of the unique features of our tour is incorporating Portland culture into the itinerary. We began our day with morning Yoga and Qi Gong lessons to ease participants’ mind and body. Then we headed to Portland’s famous coffee shop to enjoy a freshly brewed coffee before we began our busy day.

We believe that providing participants with the unique Portland experience is immensely important in order for them to fully immerse themselves into the Portland culture and understand what the city is built upon. We would like to give a special thanks to our UPLIFT members Brenda Russel and Mikaela Jones for the amazing body movement and sound bath lessons.

At the end of our busy day, we introduced our participants to our Portland’s extraordinary food culture and had dinner at some of the renown restaurants. Special Thanks to Jason French at Ned Ludd and Joshua Macedden at Tusk, who served them with some incredibly impressive selection of food for this special occasion.

A fruitful collaboration

We also visited various creative companies that are based in Portland, such as W+K, Nike, Ziba Design, Airbnb, Wework, Central Co-working space, Eggpress, OMFGco, Coava Coffee Roasters, The Good Mod, Big Giant and Evolve Collab to learn about their businesses. The participants had the opportunity to ask intriguing questions at the end of the visit and they all seemed very inspired by these companies and their business leaders.

Special thanks to our UPLIFT members Jeremy Pelley at OMFGco and Spenser Staley for taking their busy time to give inspirational and informative presentations to our participants.

The main objective of our creative tour is to provoke and inspire new perspectives for the participants, whether in their personal lifestyle or work style. Portland is a city that people can lead well-balanced life. It is our genuine desire that the participants took away some valuable perspectives to bring back home and apply to their personal life and their businesses.

On our last day of the week, we celebrated the success of our tour at KIRIKO Studio that was founded by UPLIFT Founder Katsu Tanaka. We celebrated over some delicious appetizers that were catered by our UPLIFT member, OBON PDX. All the participants were very engaging with one another and they all had a great conversation about their business ideas and their new perspectives and also enjoyed each other’s company into the night.

We look forward to continuing this fruitful collaboration with the Japan Management Consultant Association.

Visiting Design Week Kyoto 2017

Uplift was honored to be invited as guest speakers at Design Week Kyoto this year

Our relationship started with Mr. Isao Kitabayashi, the founder of Design Week Kyoto and the owner of COS KYOTO, who visited Portland for the first time in 2012.

Since then, we have done various creative workshops and inspirational tours with groups of Kyoto business owners and city council members.


Our team member Jason Sturgill has been in the design field in Portland for last 2 decades and teaches design and illustration at Portland State University. Jason-san is also one of the founding members of Design Week Portland which influenced Mr Kitabayashi to start Design Week Kyoto. For the opening reception, Mr. Sturgill gave a presentation on his experience and his collaborations with Portland craftspeople, Katsu Tanaka from Uplift assisted in translation.

We stayed for the entire festival, experiencing the city of Kyoto and visiting a variety of factories and craft studios, talking with designers and artists and exploring potential relationships between the city of Portland and Kyoto.

The most productive workshop that has ever been done by Evolve Collab

On the final day of the workshop, we rented the rooftop of the Society Hotel and had a celebration party. We all had an incredible and memorable time.

Although all the kotobuki participants were non-English speakers, we had our team members Midori Karasawa and Mina LaFountain help our workshop run smoothly. They are both professionally trained translators who have been in the design industry for a long time.

The end result of this workshop was amazing and Founder of Evolve Collab, Christian … told us that this workshop was the most productive workshop that has ever been done by Evolve Collab.

Kotobuki And Evolve Collab Summer Creative Workshop

A Japanese furniture maker turns 100 and looks to Portland for inspiration moving forward

We organized an amazing collaboration between Kotobuki, a Japanese furniture maker, and our Evolve Collab team members.

Kotobuki recently celebrated their 100th year anniversary. In light of this milestone, the new CEO Mr. Koyo Fukazawa has been pushing the boundary of their classic furniture making by actively collaborating with designers outside of Japan to encourage innovation.

Kotobuki + Evolve Collab

Prior to starting the workshop, we put together a tailored tour of Portland to serve as inspiration and research for the workshop participants. We highlighted upon the public spaces, parks and production spaces in the city. We also visited various innovative creative agencies such as W+K, Airbnb, Ziba Design, and Nike to see the current trends of these prestigious creative offices in the US.

Our workshop consisted of three phases. The first day was allotted for exploration. Any and all possibilities were open to brainstorming. We kickstarted with various projects and came up with hundreds of ideas.

Phase two on the following day was then focused on filtering through our ideas from the previous day. Our thought process was to view which ideas were the most realistic and how to make them a reality.

On the 3rd day, we came together to discuss our ideas further. More importantly, the third day enabled us to bring the workshop to a phase of conclusion. We reviewed what had been learned during our time together and then summarized the workshop.

The entire workshop was fully documented by both teams and Evolve Collab gave the final summary / document 2 weeks after this workshop to fully engaged with Kotobuki team.

In addition to the main event of the workshop, we also worked with our team members Brenda Russell and Michael Jones to create a special exercise program meant to help release stress and ease tension during the workshop. The exercise program proved to be very successful it also served as a bonding opportunity with the team members.

We tried to keep the workshop from just 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. More physical exercise was added to the schedule as well as dinner at popular Portland restaurants. These meals were intended to immerse the participants completely so they could really understand the culture.

The most productive workshop that has ever been done by Evolve Collab

On the final day of the workshop, we rented the rooftop of the Society Hotel and had a celebration party. We all had an incredible and memorable time.

Although all the kotobuki participants were non-English speakers, we had our team members Midori Karasawa and Mina LaFountain help our workshop run smoothly. They are both professionally trained translators who have been in the design industry for a long time.

The end result of this workshop was amazing and Founder of Evolve Collab, Christian … told us that this workshop was the most productive workshop that has ever been done by Evolve Collab.

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