Exploring Beauty through Five Senses


Global Creators’ Summit (GCS) is an annual creative research program, where designers involved in creative projects of Shiseido gather from around the world. In 2019, GCS was held in Kamakura for two nights and three days under the theme of “Exploring Beauty through Five Senses”, offering participants diverse experiences. As the objective of the program was to inspire senses of creators and to reinforce the sense of unity, let’s hear from some of the participants what they learnt from the trip; Maki Kobayashi, Art Director of Shiseido and Kotoko Koya, Founding Associate of Brody Associates, a creative partner of GCS2019.

“Instead of thinking about future or the digital world too much, focus now to increase ‘fun time’ more.” - Kobayashi

ーー How was GCS in Kamakura?

Koya Actually, I grew up in Yokohama and I’ve travelled Kamakura quite often since childhood so it is a very familiar place for me. It is a very quiet yet fun town, full of great memories.

Kobayashi To me, Kamakura is a tourist spot. It is not so away from the city area so you can casually enjoy the fun of travelling. I always have purple sweet potato ice cream (laughs).

We had a very good view of the ocean from the house of the local partner we stayed during the summit and we could hear the sound of waves quite clearly even from far away. It was a bit weird that we could not hear anything when we were in town. In Kamakura, you can experience the preciousness and wonderfulness of living with the nature.

ーー I understand the check-in place of the program was a studio of Dai Kurihara, Creative Director.

Koya In a good way, it did not feel like Kamakura. I felt like we came to another town. But it was truly amazing. The ceiling was high and spacious. The weather was fine on the day of workshop and it was really nice when the room was filled with the colors of the sunset.

Kobayashi The studio was located on a hill and the view was absolutely fantastic. I felt like I was living with the nature. But I also kind of thought, “how am I going to reach if I become a grandmother!?” (Laughs)

ーー A keynote speech on well-being was made by Yoshiki Ishikawa, a researcher on preventative medicine?

Koya I was impressed when Dr. Ishikawa said there was still no fixed translation for “Wabi” and “Sabi” in English. This is not because there aren’t any words that can be automatically converted in English but because the words have ‘profoundness’ that can change the meaning depending on who you are talking to, the situation or the environment, the time and the dimension. I felt it’s close to Shiseido’s communication which reflects the culture and the sense of beauty of Japan.

Presentation by Dr. Ishikawa

ーー What would you mean?

Koya For example, ‘space’ in visual expression can mean a physical space or a rhythm that expresses speed or a point that connects multiple elements. Definition is not only one.

When translating this into expression, it is structured in a certain framework thus it can be designed to reach the goal to some extent. However, because the definition is not limited to one, expressions can be rich with a certain level of flexibility. I feel that kind of sense, a sense that cannot be described in numbers or words in Shiseido’s communications.

ーー I see. What about you, Ms. Kobayashi?

Kobayashi I remember the talk on, “Beauty Innovations for a Better World”, which is also a corporate mission of Shiseido.

Corporate mission movie

Kobayashi As a researcher, Ishikawa used data to explain a “better world” and he said while technology evolution has made our lives more convenient, “the time people enjoy has become less”.

So, how are we going to measure a “better world”? Because we live in a world where diverse values are recognized, I feel if there is anything that is sacrificed to secure such diversity then that’s the index we are looking for to use as a measurement. For example, beauty can be found in things that look negative at a glance. I hope many people can share such kind of beauty in words or in drawings or in sound without denying diversity of beauty. It is ideal if Shiseido can join such circle of sharing diverse beauty.

I personally thought the reason why there is less time we enjoy is because we are not facing the things right in front of us. Instead of thinking too much about future or digital world, we should be focusing on now to increase “fun time” more.

Kotoko Koya (right)
Participants engaged in discussion

“It was really refreshing to be away from the process where you think and decide with your head but feel and grasp things through five senses instead.” - Koya

ーー Day 2 started with Zen meditation at a Zen temple called Tokeiji.

Kobayashi It was truly amazing! Daiko Inoue, the chief priest of the temple navigated us, so I felt easier to do than my usual meditation practice. Also, stretching before Zen meditation was good since it helped my mind and body come together more smoothly. I asked to strike my back because I heard that it was not painful but it was quite painful, which actually made me happy. (laughs)

Koya It was the second Zen meditation in my life. Immediately after I sat, I became oversensitive and felt very uncomfortable. But once my breathing stabled, I felt the balance between my body and mind then I felt very relaxing and secure.

ーー Then, there was a workshop to “explore Kamakura in teams”, organized by Ms. Natsuki Ishigami, a playwright, which prohibited any use of digital devices and required participants to use their five senses instead. What was your leaning from the experience?

Briefing on the journey by Natsuki Ishigami, a playwright
Participants were divided into groups to visit artists in Kamakura. Kotoko Koya (second from right) and Maki Kobayashi. (Far right)

Koya Because we were disconnected from mobile phones, we could focus on the facial expressions of the members in front of us and the pace of the conversation we were in. I felt we had more detailed communications with each other. Also, maybe because the goals were very clear such as, “you should reach the goal otherwise no dinner for you”, the teamwork became even stronger. (Laughs)

Kobayashi Actually, we didn’t care much about time and spent quite freely. When we realized it was almost dark we were like, “Oh, we’ve got to rush!” (Laughs) We were a team of three including Kotoko and because the personalities of all three of us were so different it was comfortable talking with each other to make decisions.

ーー What was your learning as a creator over the 3 days?

Koya By staying away from the process where you think with your head and make judgments, it was a very new experience to use your five senses to understand things we encountered. There were many new discoveries and I also became aware of the senses that I had forgotten.

As a person engaged in communication design, I felt while it is important to express through shapes, it is also equally important how the messages are communicated. I feel I will be able to think deeper about the communication process itself.

Kobayashi Over the 3 days, through Zen meditation and living a life without mobile phones, I could deeply and solemnly experience in detail the things that happened to me. It made me think once again the importance of experiencing directly and feeling with soul.

Most of the time at work, I sit on a chair and work on the computer. Also, because I work on several projects simultaneously, my thoughts are often split between projects. But through this experience, I felt sometimes you should use your body and focus only on one thing.

While advertising is about communicating to many people, it must be produced from a very personal perspective to touch and move their hearts.

Writing up experiences of the 2 days to share with each other
Group photo of the participants
  • Kotoko Koya | Founding Associate, Brody Associates
    Founding Associate, Brody Associates. After working at a design management firm, an advertising agency and a designing company, Kotoko has been working as a freelance since 2011 in and out of Japan on design management, PR and design education. Regional Manager of Japan and Singapore of a British non-profit association, D&AD.
  • Maki Kobayashi | Art Director
    Born 1989 in Tokyo. Graduate of Musashino Art University, College of Art and Design, Department of Visual Communication Design, in 2012. Joined Shiseido same year.
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