Takahiro Sato

Good in Social Design.

About Takahiro Sato

After losing his first company because he collapsed from overwork, he lives separate from his son who has autism and intellectual disability. To create a place where he work with his son, he started KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO. He called himself rookie designer first time at 43 years old. As a designer, his first product is Samurai Mode Series and first fashion brand for him. His brand is also social design considered especially working environment. Because he doesn’t want his son to wear the fashion at the expense of others and also never wanted to archive the employment of people with disabilities by other’s expense. So he designs his brand to make all people who make, buy and design are happy. He challenges to realize the employment of people with disabilities, sustainable and ethical working environment by his social design.

  • Winner of Social Design Award.
  • Specialized in Social Design.
  • Original Design.
  • Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Social
Next Kimono Platform

Next Kimono Platform

Social Design


Good Design Deserves Great Recognition

Discover A' Design Award, World's Largest Design Accolade.

Learn More

Interview with Takahiro Sato

Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I like creating something since I was child. I wanted to go to college to study product design but I started working when I was 19 years old because of family reasons. So I gave up once. I studied the structure and maintenance of car own school of some Japanese automobile manufacturer. Learning structure of car affects on the philosophy of my design. But I drop out it too and when make my living with another dream, musician, I worked at some companies for game and toys. My job title was not designer but designed, did direction, made plans and project. I have been in those entertainment business world. After many experience, now I , 43 years old, overcome my complex , call myself “designer” first time and apply for this A’DESIGN AWARD by my first work as designer.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
Gerbera Design Inc. is the design studio that I, who have experience that shut my business because collapsed from overworking, consult for starting new business project, how to be able to turn the PDCA on both management side and design side without failure. I can do it because I have those experience. As I write on KUDEN project detail, I have strong will to make the place to work with my disabled son so I call myself designer and start KUDEN as a new project by own company. This 2 is characteristic of my company.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
Fashion. Also like to think of strategy as design. I may like the most the design that we can’t see, like strategy and gimmick to make people feeling happy. I’m sure I like what can see, e.g. structure.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
Maybe Samurai Mode Jacket, it’s my first work so have a special attachment. Even now, I wear it, feel good. I love it.
What was the first thing you designed for a company?
The laptop board that I designed with artisan of KUMIKO, it’s a Japanese traditional wood technique that famous for used on Nikko Toshogu shine. Nikko is my born place. It’s still on my desk, my favorite one.
What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
I like what I can touch by my own hand more than digital things. Even I have designed games and apps , I'm sure I think I'm good to design it. Also like to design what people can touch and feel an analog-warmth by their hand.
When do you feel the most creative?
We are limited cost and resource, because it’s a start-up small company. So I make plans and strategy how to make client and customer happy within the limits. Those planning and designing products are very fun time for me.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
I focus on only one thing strongly, that is “this design is as means for who and what.”
What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
First, feel an inferiority complex but keep thinking, and when customer’s smile comes into my head it turns to delight.
What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
Honestly, feel nervous. I think my design becomes to be completed when customers receive by their hand and heart. Because I’m not an artist, I’m a commercial designer.
What makes a design successful?
"I think design is a mean so success or not is decided by heart and actions of people who use and see. "
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
"As I mentioned earlier, I think good design tells us the aim that is for who and what. Just a good looking is not my point for “good design”. "
From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
Not only designer, also I’m a father. The responsibilities of a designer for society and environment is , after all , to be sustainable. I think design has a power to be able to suggest, communicate , call to action by feeling without words. We designer must use this power to make and keep the better society and environment for next generations, our children, not only for consumption and commerce.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
The design by my definition covers a lot of stuff, I think. For this time, I’m so glad that KUDEN is evaluated as social design, not only clothes design but also branding. I think it’s because what we can’t see like strategy and design thinking will be evaluated more and more in the future. So from now on, not a what we can see, thinking that makes positive impact to better sustainable world is becoming “design field”, I think.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
Ha ha ha, I made a debut as designer when I was 43 years old, A’DESIGN AWARD is my first time to apply as “my work” to completion and receive the award. The exhibition, um, I want to do anytime if you offer me.
Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
A half factor is from my inborn character and the other half is from my mother, raise me when I was child. She gave me a deeply positive impact , for Next kimono is also affected by her sense. And how I feed my creativity is that I learnt by myself with working in society because I couldn’t go to study in school. For example, I don’t graduate from design school but some game company in Tokyo recruited me, it was a walk-in visiting company. For that time, I didn’t have Educational background so I entered to lobby of some game company and got free-pamphlet about new game title, took it to game store and toy store, ask them and people about games, made report and turned in it to company. Like this, I , minority and not in privileged family, advanced my career with hungry spirit by design thinking that how to archive my aim and challenge. This may grow my creativity most.
How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
On technical side, I often start my design from design thinking and strategy, it’s conceptual design, consider what and who it needs for and finally reach the visual. On mind side, my favorite Japanese word that express Japanese traditional sense of beauty “粋 (Iki)”. It means familiar, clear, thoughtful but also has appeal and nobility. In my sense, “ Is it a Iki or not?” is important. I want to be Iki-designer.
Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
Of course I live in Japan, based in Tokyo and Nikko. Nikko is my born place and famous for world heritage. For pros, It gives me a positive impact the sense of beauty “Iki” and also Zen, Wabi-sabi. For cons, it’s a still weak for global thinking.
How do you work with companies?
Work with entertainment industry , company who has own brand and so on.
What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
My company consult for new business project and design work. We can create unique world view for all design work, media, product, service, website and any other things according to the company want to do and to who they deliver because designer understand high-level concept that why to do this project, not only design visual. So how to select good designer is to make designer to participate from high-level concept of project, not order just a design after you decide project only in company. I think you’ll take advantage of designer more. If designer can describe their work and understand concept, they may be good designer for my opinion.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
First, make the target and aim clear, consider the condition I should take into account like cost, age, environment and human resource. Within the limit, think what I can do for making the result and customer smile, gather information and make draw rough draft. Then narrow down the options, make sample and do test marketing , get the feed back by them and make design better or narrow down more. After repeat this some times and finish.
Can you describe a day in your life?
For working day, I wake up at 5:00 in morning and take a shower, make coffee and do most important work of the day first, it’s a work as business manager and designer. After that, stretch and training for a hour. At 10:00, begin meeting with staff, it’s mainly for support to staff or work as a team. Cooking lunch by myself for staff and take it together. Take a nap and work afternoon, finish it by 17:00. Every other week, I handle the dinner for staff and enjoy talking and eating together. I sleep by 22:00. For weekend, one day is for rest and the other day is for the day I do what I like.
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
Don’t just stare your laptop, go out and touch, see, feel many things and have a lot of experience. Try first even if you like it or dislike. Don’t lose your curiosity. Don’t stop your growth by yourself with small success, in the field that only you can do. Become sensitized to feeling and niceties of the human spirit. Even though, have a dream you strongly want to actualize. And, keep balance of them.
From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
Everything , experience in your life ,we do like traveling helps develop our designer skill and it's a great things for designer. But also I can say for cons everything we do even traveling connects with works.
What is your "golden rule" in design?
What decides whether design is good or bad is smile of clients and customers.
Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
iPad and pencil, fountain pen and note. My inspiration comes when see artisans work and study them.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
Make a “Not-to-do list”, instead of to-do list and focus on what I should do.
How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
"Input in all time and all day, output is almost seconds and minutes because it’s a when comes up with idea. For me, often my first idea makes use until finish. As I said on above, I brush up again to make it better means for aim. "
What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
When I was 43 years, last year, I called myself designer first time. I receive this award first time as designer so I’m surprised that this interview asks me a lot.
What was your most important job experience?
Because of hardworking, I had to closed my design company and tried my best not to make trouble to staff and clients as much as possible. After that, started my company again, raise myself. This is most impact work for me.
Who are some of your clients?
For new business project, it’s me as KUDEN. For my deeply view, every customer loves products and service by KUDEN is my client.
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
Product design like fashion. I can create what I want but customers gives feedback directly from customers who feel happy by it too, it’s really rewarding.
What are your future plans? What is next for you?
I plan to make Next Kimono up grade and expand many kinds of products and service according to KUDEN’s concept.
Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
I develop my designs myself as lead designer in my company but also work as team with staff, designer and director. For KUDEN project, we do everything by ourselves.
Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
The Samurai Mode Series that receive the award this time will be upgraded like the function that becomes modern kimono if wear all 3 pieces. Also take the function traditional kimono originally has , can adjust for many people all over the world even it's a one-design, makes more easy and comfortable to wear with remaining traditional kimono looks but also add a new function. Kimono has very wide rage as design.
Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
I would like to work with who want to make your new business to global, have interests on Ethical and social issues and also collaborate with who have traditional technique of each country. It’s a happy if work with you as designer.

Extended Interview with Takahiro Sato

Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
I like creating something since I was child. I wanted to go to college to study product design but I started working when I was 19 years old because of family reasons. So I gave up once. I studied the structure and maintenance of car own school of some Japanese automobile manufacturer. Learning structure of car affects on the philosophy of my design. But I drop out it too and when make my living with another dream, musician, I worked at some companies for game and toys. My job title was not designer but designed, did direction, made plans and project. I have been in those entertainment business world. After many experience, now I , 43 years old, overcome my complex , call myself “designer” first time and apply for this A’DESIGN AWARD by my first work as designer.
What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
Why I started KUDEN is making the place to work with my son. I decide to make the brand for all over the world and found her kimono.
Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
I decide to call my self designer for my son so I can say I chose.
What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
I like product design especially Fashion. Also like to think of strategy as design. I may like the most the design that we can’t see, like strategy and gimmick to make people feeling happy. I’m sure I like what can see, e.g. structure.
What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
Don’t just stare your laptop, go out and touch, see, feel many things and have a lot of experience. Try first even if you like it or dislike. Don’t lose your curiosity. Don’t stop your growth by yourself with small success, in the field that only you can do. Become sensitized to feeling and niceties of the human spirit. Even though, have a dream you strongly want to actualize. And, keep balance of them.
What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
I focus on only one thing strongly, that is “this design is as means for who and what.” so great designer can describe those factor, I think.
What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
What decides whether design is really is smile of clients and customers.
What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
Value of good design is what people can feel and understand intuitive regardless of different of language, age and any other border between us. The reason people should invest in good design is, it makes better society and relationships by good design because people understand and expand rules even people has each values in global world.
What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
I want to design what my son want for him and with him. My son draws very well.
What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
Make the salon that communicate with people in the world and they order Samurai Mode Series in Europe and other country. Not only Japanese traditional one, use traditional pattern and fabric in each country. Talk with people by mix each culture. I call it “GOFUKUYA 3.0” .
What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
The most important ingredient for me is thinking to lead feeling and action without words.
What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
A kitchen knife that my master of smith, Mr.Hideo Yuzawa (Horyusai Hidenobu)
What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
Samurai Mode Series, maybe. Because customer, people in sewing factory including ex-partner company now closed their business like this clothes and also support our message that we keep 40-50% cost rate and protect the working environment of sewing factory. So this is not just a product, also put hopes from many people around me in. No such an experience ever, create products and people love it, it’s happy and precious for me.
How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
For example, I don’t graduate from design school but some game company in Tokyo recruited me, it was a walk-in visiting company. For that time, I didn’t have Educational background so I entered to lobby of some game company and got free-pamphlet about new game title, took it to game store and toy store, ask them and people about games, made report and turned in it to company. Like this, I , minority and not in privileged family, advanced my career with hungry spirit by design thinking that how to archive my aim and challenge. This may grow my creativity most.
Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
Asami、Sena、Shinji、Takayuki、Haruka、Irene. Wonderful staff, friends and my son with mental disability. If I lose even one person, I never been here.
What helped you to become a great designer?
Experience that have the project that you’re responsible for the result of your design to the end, even it’s small. For this time, I paid by myself for award and project, regard myself as client. Through those experience, I leant what I don’t in work for client. I’m sure it’s also great experience that design with ample funds by client. But the experience that customer gives feedback about my design directly, design is good or not for them, is unforgiving but also exciting. I think it’s a valuable experience.
What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
When I managed ex-company, I called me producer and CEO myself at that time, I collapsed because of hard work. Then I live apart my dearest son. I started company again to make the place to work with my son with disability. This is my biggest obstacles.
How do you think designers should present their work?
First, think if your design makes your important people smiles. After that, think your strategy to present your work to where there are people you can make them happy, affected place to who like that.
What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
I plan to make Next Kimono up grade and expand many kinds of products and service according to KUDEN’s concept.
What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
Making place to work with my disabled son, it means to actualize employment of disabled. Supporting the life of who get involved with my design, making happy who pick my product and service up, and continue this brand over 100 years. This is my ultimate goal as designer.
What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
Ummm, to be good father, friend, boss and senior. Maybe not special one. I think being good man is one of the conditions to be good designer.
How does design help create a better society?
I think design has a power to be able to suggest, communicate , call to action by feeling without words. We designer must use this power to make and keep the better society and environment for next generations, our children, not only for consumption and commerce. If so, I think design helps create a better society.
What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
The Samurai Mode Series that receive the award this time will be upgraded like the function that becomes modern kimono if wear all 3 pieces. Also take the function traditional kimono originally has , can adjust for people all over the world even it's a one-design, makes more easy and comfortable to wear with remaining traditional kimono looks but also add a new function.
Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
Samurai Mode Series. I wear every day. Some customer has many jacket and some customer come to Japan and wear it while they traveling. There are a lot of those precious customers, they always loves it.
What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
Because of those world situation, not a mass production and mass consumption as before, not too much gorgeously, not a fake design looked better than real, only designer and design has real power remains, I think.
Where do you think the design field is headed next?
The design by my definition covers a lot of stuff, I think. For this time, I’m so glad that KUDEN is evaluated as social design, not only clothes design but also branding. I think it’s because what we can’t see like strategy and design thinking will be evaluated more and more in the future. So from now on, not a what we can see, thinking that makes positive impact to better sustainable world is becoming “design field”, I think.
How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
It’s my first time to make the clothes and called me designer so what I did first was buying a sewing machine and tried to sew shirt, made patterns so I spent 1 year for complete.
When you have a new design project, where do you start?
"First, make the target and aim clear, consider the condition I should take into account like cost, age, environment and human resource. Within the limit, think what I can do for making the result and customer smile, gather information and make draw rough draft. Then narrow down the options, make sample and do test marketing , get the feed back by them and make design better or narrow down more. After repeat this some times and finish."
Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
Depends on ages. When/where economic is good, they have leeway so design may set trend but I think originally role of design is means for some aim. So I don’t think that design becomes a goal is not good things and don’t have interests on. In my opinion, commercial designer like me, it’s power that the art has. So I pick the latter.
What is the role of technology when you design?
Rather than for design product, it’s on branding side. I can make people know and deliver to all over the world by technology. I call it GOFUKUYA3.0, people can order as they like even from far away. People experience the joy of Japanese traditional GOFUKUYA online. It’s very practical.
What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
The interface for people to recognize the design thinking, strategy and concept. The medium, in other words. So we should pick these 3 factor up to be suitable for what and who deliver to.
What do you wish people to ask about your design?
I’m happy if you wear Samurai Mode Series, more than asking me something. I want to see your feelings and face when you wear. After that if you have something to ask, it’s welcome but first of all I want you to experience it.
When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
My thoughts goes to who makes it, their effort, how many people involve in work until release this design to the world.
Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
I believe. I think every works and things are not completed by only one people. Whatever it’s small or big, creating with other people is a real creative, I think.
Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
My mother, raise me when I was child. She gave me a deeply positive impact , for Next kimono is also affected by her sense.
Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
Not directly but when I was child I’m affected by Japanese poetry and tale by Chuya Nakahara and Kenji Miyazawa.
How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
Through my many experience in society. I touched a lot of kinds of business world, people, position so I learnt marketing insight and customer insight by those experience. According to those insight, think about how to tell and catch their heart by design. Still I keep studying, try my best from now on too.
Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
My mother who passed away. She tried her best for me to go to future course I want even she was in poverty. I think she has regret about this so I want to tell her that even it’s not fast and easy way but many people support me and finally “ I made it, receive it.” She may be glad it. She likes kimono so I think she may wear my Samurai Mode Series.
How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
I’m really happy from bottom of my heart and very honored about A’DESIGN AWARD evaluate my work. It’s not because I want to be famous. I think it’s return the favor for everyone who believe me and support, staff, friends, people in factory, customers who spend their precious time and money to us. I want to tell them that “What you support is honest , great designer and creator like win A’DESIGN AWARD and jury of it evaluate. You select and wear such a thing.” I think, it’s a prize for not only me but also everyone support me.
What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
Favorite color is black. Food is Japanese cuisine. Season is summer and place is where full of nature.
Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
When I designed clothes first time , also called myself designer first time, I couldn’t show it readily because I was embarrassed. Then, staff scold me and said “I know you already finish. SHOW US PLEASE.” I unwillingly showed my design, of course. It’s funny memory for me.
What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
Most is my belief that make the place to work with my son. And also I don’t take in extra-things in my daily life. Very simple lifestyle. For designer, it’s a great because we spent our time for thinking more. I like this style.
When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
No, I have a lot of dreams. Through many experience, meet many people and other stuffs, I turned designer before I knew it.
What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
I keep design thinking, strategy and of course design to remain my brand over 100 years after. I’ll do my best for it so you may see KUDEN 100 years after too. In thousand years, as same as now, people do their best, love others, raise their child and there are design in their life. The design is universal factor, don’t you think so?
Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
I design Next Kimono as one of kimono so people especially Japanese often say “it’s just a kimono” when they see photo. It’s honorable thing for me. Because I design Next “Kimono”. For people know kimono, I want them to wear, they may understand the difference. I design like that. And also I would like to work with who want to make your new business to global, have interests on Ethical and social issues and also collaborate with who have traditional technique of each country. It’s a happy if work with you as designer.

By clicking Sign-Up, you are opting to receive promotional emails from A' Design Awards, World Design Rankings, World Design Consortium and Designers.Org You can update your preferences or unsubscribe any time.

You are now at the right step

Join Designers.org & Start Promoting Your Design Worldwide.

Create an Account