Judging an international design competition is no easy task. It takes a special kind of person that is willing to give their time and experience for the betterment of the industry.

It's time to shine a spotlight on these special individuals and dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick. Therefore, on behalf of the CSSDA founders and crew, please enjoy the following interview with one of our esteemed judging panel members.


Keitaro was born and raised in Tokyo Japan, studied graphic design while also studying economics and management during college. "I am a husband with two children. I've worked in the web industry for 6 years now and currently working as an Art Director/Designer at Shiftbrain Inc, Japan".

Time Warp:

1. When and what was your first ever computer? Can you remember the spec?

I first touched a computer back when I was in elementary school to play floppy games and I think that was an IBM laptop with windows 95 OS but I couldn't remember anymore details about it.

2. When and what was the first website you were involved in designing/developing? Which elements of the project did you do? Can you remember the 'cutting edge' tech used at the time? How did the site turn out and what did this experience teach you?

The first website design/development project I was involved in was for the company of my friend about 8 years ago. At that time, I was still in college and I just graduated from art school. I'd never had prior experience with building a website back then. I used Illustrator 9.0 for design and developed it with Dreamweaver's "table coding". I also used Flash on the top page animation and embedded a video to it. That experience taught me a lot about web development and it made me realize that I should focus more on designing. 4 years later, I redesigned that website with my colleague and implemented parallax.

3. Which project has been most rewarding for you over the course of your career and why?

The most rewarding project for me was "Lamdash DNA", which was launched in Dec 2012. This was my first award-winning project which was recognized via CSSDA and other award sites. Because of that recognition, the project then connected us to other projects.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send a 'temporal text' 5 - 10 years into the past?

I will send myself a message stating "Your doing a great job but you should study programming too" because I realized that it is an important skill to have for digital designers.

5. Better still, if you had your own hot tub time machine, what time period would you travel to and why?

I'd like to travel and see the future 30 years from now like the "Back to the future" movie.

Favourite Things:

1. What are your favourite aspects about working in design?

When I create a concept and design, the most important thing is how people feel an emotion and impression through my design. So I like to create a new emotion and impression based on the concept.

2. What are your favourite design tools, sites, fonts and resources right now?

Paper and pen for brainstorming ideas and for sketching. Specifically, I am using FRIXION pen. I'm also collecting RSS feeds from my favorite websites for inspiration. Regarding Fonts, Japanese designers like to make original typeface combinations of Japanese text and Alphabet text and my favorite combination is Gotham + Koburina Gothic.

3. What are your favorite devices right now from mobile to desktop?

I'm using Macbook Pro Retina13 with thunderbolt display and iPhone 5s. The combination of Macbook and thunderbolt display is the best for me right now.

4. Which 3 cities would be your favorite to open an office in and why?

Knock it off with these awesome questions, I could spend a day thinking about this kind of stuff. Any more questions like this and I'll end up having a "For Sale" sign in my yard.

  • 1) London is the center of design and there are many creative productions and agencies there. I think I could get much inspiration everyday in London.
  • 2) Barcelona has a mild climate and it is located near to the sea. The food is also amazing. I can imagine living a good life in Barcelona.
  • 3) Amsterdam - It's easy for Japanese to get a working visa and to open an office in Amsterdam. Actually I've never visited Amsterdam, but I heard they have a good life/work balance system.

5. What is your favorite activity outside of work?

I play tennis with my colleagues and co-workers once a month and I also started playing golf just recently. Sometimes, I write code and make 3D models for studying.

Life Hacks:

1. How do you stay motivated?

It's always exciting to start a new project. Each project has a different concept and it's great fun to create a new design based on it.

2. Do you have a good life/work balance? Could it be improved? If so how?

I think I have a good life/work balance now. I sometimes work overtime during weekdays, but I also spend time with my family during weekends. Before joining my company right now, I was working during weekdays and weekends, I didn't have any free time.

3. Do you have any career advice for young designers and developers?

I suggest that they should try to see as many great works as possible, and try to familiarize the impression they get when they see those. I think those impressions would help them develop originality in their work.

4. How do you keep up with the latest trends & tech?

I regularly visit CSSDA and other award websites plus other bookmarked sites as well. Also I look for inspiration from my RSS reader which is categorized by graphic design, interactive design, product design and so on.

5. If money was abolished and nobody needed to work anymore, what would you do with your life?

I'd live near the sea. catch, hunt and grow crops. Make a lot of drawings too.

Versus: In your opinion...

1. Are great designers born Vs. made by experience?

Based from my experience, I think it's important for every designer to get as much experience as possible. Experiences create originality. "Designers born" are "Artists", right?

2. Is the best long term goal to be a founder Vs. freelance Vs. full­time job?

I think full-time job is better for me now. I like to focus on a creative project, study and create something. I have to do other things like management if I am a founder or a freelancer.

3. iPhone 6s vs Samsung S6 vs other?

iPhone 5s. It already has enough features for me. Actually I've never used iPhone 6s and Samsung S6 except for debugging.

4. Printed book vs eBook?

Printed book. I think it is fun to read novels like mystery and suspense in printed books because you can determine how many pages left to read.

5. Star Trek vs Star Wars?

Of course, Star Wars! I have a lot of character figures! I can't wait to watch new episodes.

Keitaro is an Art Director/Designer at Shiftbrain Inc, a web production company in Tokyo, Japan.