The Shiseido Global Innovation Center was opened in April 2019 to act as a research facility with the ultimate goal of acting as a comprehensive, experiential beauty facility. The facility itself is referred to as S/PARK and is open to both researchers and the general public. Its name is a portmanteau expressing the hopes that it will both "spark innovation" and act as a "Shiseido park" where people gather. We spoke to Masaki Hanahara, who worked on the facility's design direction and overall design, about what went into creating this public space.
-- What points were you particularly conscious of when directing the design for S/PARK?
Hanahara: As a "global innovation center" I put particular thought into how we should go about creating a facility that anyone from around the world can use in a comfortable manner. This can be seen in both the logo and the shape of the signs used. As well as the spaces within the buildings themselves, everything, including the printed graphics, uses the same fonts and tone.
-- I heard that you worked on the facility's distinctive logo and signs with the Danish design office "Kontrapunkt".
Hanahara: That's right. I started working with them from the end of 2017. It took almost a whole year to produce the original font we used. The font is used in both the S/PARK logo and signage. I think this has helped ensure that the facility's design has a unified balance.
-- The fact that the signs are mostly in English, with almost no Japanese, is particularly distinctive.
Hanahara: We made this decision due to a focus on global standards. However, we made use of simple English so that non-native speakers, including Japanese people, could properly understand the content. And of course, we've also used Japanese where necessary.
-- What was the concept that led you to settle on this shape?
Hanahara: From the start I wanted to create something that inspires visitors. Something that would remain in people's minds and keep them imagining. That was my overall image when creating the design. At the start I thought of reflecting Shiseido's orthodox design philosophy. For example, the Japanese Shiseido typeface has a traditional, hand-written design that has been passed on for almost 100 years, with rules relating to stops, hooks, and sweeping strokes. I wanted to see what would happen if we tried applying these rules to Latin fonts.
-- And how did the completed characters come out?
Hanahara: The design ended up being both elegant and feminine. But it also retained slightly classic characteristics. My mission was to show an entirely new style of Shiseido, so in the end the concept didn't match this. At around the same time the S/PARK naming had begun to be announced, so I decided to start basing my ideas around the word "SPARK". The end result is the logo we have today.
-- What overall image did you use when creating it?
Hanahara: I was inspired by portions of the Japanese character for beauty (美) when designing the first character of "S" in "S/PARK" The concept includes the idea of a place in Japan that gives birth to innovation.
-- As well as the characters and logo, we can also see glimpses of your meticulous design style in the pictograms.
Hanahara: I designed these with Kontrapunkt too. They were based on the same concepts as the font, ensuring simple recognition by anyone around the world without discomfort. Pictograms are important in that they require information to be conveyed in an instant, so we checked multiple times to make sure that they worked as non-linguistic visual communication.
We also explored the issue of representing gender. Recently there have been concerns around male/female iconography. We conducted a thorough search for examples overseas before creating our end designs.
-- One of the characteristics of S/PARK is that it's not just a research facility, it's open to the public.
Hanahara: S/PARK is a café, sports facility, beauty bar, and experiential museum. Menus and other items have also been designed around these four forms of content.
-- It sounds like a unique facility. What kind of place do you hope it becomes?
Hanahara: As far as I'm aware there are no other examples of a research lab that combine a café and sports facility. So, I hope it becomes an active destination where people can build relationships, relax while reading a book in the café, work up a sweat at the sports facility, experience the crafting of an entirely personalized cosmetic at the beauty bar, and discover beautiful items on display at the museum. I'd be happy if visitors gain a new sense of Shiseido through these kinds of activities. The café features a seasonal menu and the museum plans to change exhibits four times a year. I hope that visitors will also purchase the cups available at the café or goods from the museum shop, and gain a greater sense of enjoyment in seeing the detailed designs that have been used.