Connecting Big-Giant and Kotobuki

In 2018 we connected a 100-year-old Japanese public furniture company called Kotobuki with leading Portland creative agency, Big-Giant. Together, these two companies worked to build a brand and create an experience around Kotobuki’s new business venture of the world’s first interactive indoor playground in the heart of Tokyo.

This project turned out to be the most challenging and exciting project we worked on in 2018.

When the CEO of Kotobuki, Kow Fukazawa, asked Uplift to find the right creative agency to work on this project, I knew that Big-Giant would be the perfect fit. Big-Giant has been one of the leading creative agencies in Portland for over 20 years and has partnered with various world-renowned brands such as Nike, Converse, The North Face, Fitbit, and Starbucks, to name a few.

They have a talented multidisciplinary team with the ability to focus on each of the specific creative needs for complex and multifaceted projects including brand strategy, branding, interior, and exterior environmental design, experiential, motion graphics and animation. Through these specialized creative teams, Big-Giant develops cohesive brand experiences that tell stories through identity, physical space, and digital touchpoints.

Having a Global Perspective

The Kotobuki team was faced with the challenge of making the new playground space inviting, approachable and acceptable to the international community living and working in the Yurakucho-area located in the heart of Tokyo.. Previous to working with Big-Giant, the Kobotuki team worked with various Japanese creative agencies to build concepts for this project, but each time, the concepts tended to be a little too cute/ character driven. Kow wanted to come up with a branding scheme that was more sophisticated and from a global perspective—something that could be easily understood on an international level.  

As the completion of the new building was coming closer, the Kotobuki team needed a creative partner who understood their needs, work collaboratively and could develop and execute a brand vision in a timely manner.  So when introductions were made and our philosophies, goals, and objectives aligned, we immediately started to work together to make this project a success.

First, we worked on a brand strategy to create full alignment and ultimately inform all creative decisions. Our goals were to develop a creative vision and mission to ensure that the company’s objectives could be realized while simultaneously meeting all of the consumer’s experiential needs to ensure the best brand experience possible. After fully aligning on all of the objectives and goals, we crafted the main theme of “Garden of Imagination” as the foundation for the naming of the brand and the visualization of how the experience would be brought to life. Under this theme, the playground quickly transformed into a world inspired by nature where kids would be encouraged to grow, become part of a larger ecosystem and ideally use their imagination to cultivate their own version of play. The interior design juxtaposed the city like structures with the impression of being in a stylized outdoor environment with clouds, water flowing throughout and fanciful gardens to explore. The brand would be named KoKo, inspired by Kotobuki’s own brand history and as a play on a repetition of the Japanese word for child supporting the brand’s goal of bringing kids and families together.

Big-Giant’s team leveraged the architectural team’s drawings to develop 3D models and ultimately renderings of the space concepts to help bring the environment to life for the entire team. The entire interior would be engaged to tell the story through a highly stylized aesthetic. From the floor pattern, wall murals, and ceiling sculptures, as well as the fixtures and shelves were designed by Big Giant’s team to unify all elements that anyone visiting the space would come in contact with. The design language uses geometric patterns which take direct inspiration from patterns found in nature but are abstracted enough to allow and encourage kids to interpret their meaning as they play within the spaces. Imagery using animals and specific characters, depictions that usually appear in kids’ playgrounds, were intentionally removed from this project to avoid over influencing where the imagination could take kids. The Big-Giant team also employed this aesthetic and philosophy to created the brand’s collateral, business cards, play report documents, posters, web direction, and advertisements.

Efficient and Inclusive

All of this extensive creative work was done in the span of 5 months and delivered right on time for the fabrication of the building and launch of the brand. All of our meetings were done online, a fact that really proves that we can collaboratively work between two different continents and still achieve an extremely high level of creative work together despite time differences and language barriers.

Big-Giant’s Principle and Creative Director, Jason Bacon, had the great opportunity of visiting Tokyo in February 2019 to finally meet the Kotobuki team in person, and see the completed Koko Playground. We had a great Q and A session at the KoKo Facility with Jason and Kow Fukazawa (CEO of Kotobuki) and enjoyed a party on the rooftop that night to celebrate our collective achievement.

The process was efficient and inclusive throughout which resulted in an amazingly accurate execution of the finished space by the KoKo team that perfectly resembled the 3D renderings provided by Big-Giant at the beginning of this project! A truly seamless and rewarding result of a great project partnership.

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