Perfect Timing

Our annual Japan trip with Evolve collab coincided with Kyoto Design Week this year.

It was perfect timing as Evolve Collab has been working with two of our Japanese clients from Osaka and Kyoto.

We also brought another guest speaker, Jason Sturgill from Portland, to Design Week Kyoto.

He has been involved in the design scene in Portland for the last quarter of a century and has become a big influencer of Design Week Portland.  Jason, Mr. Isao Kitabayashi (the founder of Cos Kyoto), and Design Week Kyoto have collaborated on various design projects since they first met five years ago. To this day they continue to exchange knowledge and ideas about Design Week.

We flew into Narita a night before the opening reception of Design Week Kyoto, and after a bullet train ride over to Kyoto the same evening, we arrived at our destination near midnight.

Early the next day we started to prepare our presentation as well as plan a workshop for Design Week.

Over a few years of traveling to Kyoto with Portland creatives, we have started to create a great connection/bond with people in Kyoto; from the City Council to educators, entrepreneurs and craftsmen. It was nice to see many of them at the opening reception.

Creative Workshop

On our second day, we were invited to visit a few open studios. After touring the studios we started preparing Jason Sturgill’s talk for Design Week Kyoto. He would be participating in a presentation alongside two other speakers who would speak on the subject: The differences between Japanese and American graphic design. The talk was well-received by audiences in Kyoto.

That night, the Kyoto Shinkin Bank invited everyone to a large dinner. We had a creative workshop in Portland with Kyoto Shinkin Bank last Summer, and all of the participants from that workshop were there at the table. Over the meal, we were able to talk about the changes they made after coming back to Japan from the Portland workshop. It was great to hear about how they were able to incorporate the different approaches to design presented at the workshop!  

On our third day, we prepared for the main project of this trip: a creative workshop in Kyoto arranged by Evolve Collab. This was the first workshop Evolve Collab has ever put on in Japan. We had all three co-founders: Paul Backett, Christian Freissler, and Chris Butler, as well as the senior designer Wesley Hare, fly out to Japan for this workshop.  Our workshop was fully packed. The focus was on creating a new Mobile App and was done as a Design Sprint workshop. We had a variety of participants ranging from Nintendo’s lead designer, to a Japanese Indigo dye craftsman. All the participants worked their hardest for a solid 3 hours.

It was tough, but everyone seemed to be having fun, and gained a lot of knowledge throughout the workshop.


On the fourth day, we visited our client Talex, in Osaka.

Evolve Collab has been working on this amazing polarised lens/sunglasses brand the last few months, and most of the meeting was done in Portland, but online. It was so nice to visit an actual factory of this 80-year-old brand who actually kickstarted the polarized lens technology.

We have been working with Mr. Shinzo Tamura, the grandson of the founder. He studied in the US, and is now a CEO of Talex’s new sunglass brand “Oznis” as well as a leading power of new business at Talex.

It was a great experience to see their craftsmanship in the manufacturing stage despite this very sensitive process of making high quality polarized lenses at their HQ. We are very excited to see the future product we worked on together. (Sorry we can not show what we worked on yet!)

Final Days in Japan

The final few days were spent in Tokyo.

We visited Kotobuki where we had great news for them as the bench we designed together last year just won the award at IF Design (the prestigious international design award).

It was nice to see the team of designers who worked on this bench project and celebrate together in the same room, as we have been working remotely in 2 different countries.

It was an intense, jam-packed trip time, but all missions were accomplished.

I am looking forward to going back to Japan with them again next year.

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