Self-Expression Rather Than Perfect Beauty. The Secret Behind the Success of SHISEIDO PICO.


"Wouldn't it be wonderful to have something like this?" PICO, an original creation by millennial designers.

--In February 2018, SHISEIDO launched the "PICO" lipstick and nail polish products, which allow consumers to enjoy a rich variation of colors and textures in compact sizes. This is a limited-edition brand targeted at younger consumers. Its designs were produced by designers Mr. Katayama, Ms. Kurotani, and Ms. Nagatake, all of whom are also millennials just like the target audience.

Kurotani:Shiseido organizes an irregular internal exhibition, led by the Creative Division, titled "From Designer" (FD Exhibition). It offers designers a space to unveil their ideas to all the members of the company. At the FD Exhibition based on the theme of "Gifts," we worked together as a team to present our "PICO" design. That was how it all started.

Katayama:The FD Exhibition also gives designers the opportunity to think about what truly good design is, without limitations such as budget and technology. Unlike the typical marketing-driven process where ideas are translated into physical form so as to create products that are marketable, we began with design-oriented ideas such as the question of "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have something like this?"

The work we presented in the exhibition was also well-received by employees outside of the Creative Division, and an official decision was made to commercialize it. After its launch, the gift box sold out completely in the morning of the day it was put on sale on Shiseido's e-commerce site, "watashi+." We had a really wonderful response from consumers.

Kurotani:As the younger generation moves away from purchasing cosmetics at department stores in recent years, I believe PICO became one of the touchpoints that can help us win more consumers over. It was an invaluable opportunity to realize how designs originally created by millennial designers can contribute to the business.

--Since the three of you are from the same generation, were you able to stimulate one another mutually during this project?

Katayama:We are usually responsible for different areas of work, and do not work together even if we are in charge of the same brands. This time, however, we transcended our respective boundaries to produce PICO. Partly because we joined the company at approximately the same period, we were able to interact and exchange opinions with each other in a more carefree and frank way, and made various new discoveries. In this way, it was a very interesting experience.

Kurotani:Yes, there was indeed an atmosphere of easy communication. As we shared our ideas that were not fixed or settled yet, we were able to work closely together to tie up all the fine details. Hence, I feel that we were able to create a unified worldview of PICO that transcends the respective areas of our work, including the storefront display, product packaging, and gift box.

Rouge Rouge PICO
Nail Enamel PICO

The millennial generation that seeks out "stories." The Japanese culture is also one of these "stories."

--I understand PICO was inspired by the colorful Japanese confectionery that we enjoy in different seasons. How did you incorporate the colors and names, which are drawn from the image of Japanese confectionery, into your designs?

Nagatake:The original gift packaging for PICO was designed based on the theme of "origata," which is one of the forms of traditional Japanese etiquette. In origata, rolling bills or sweets in Japanese washi paper and handing them to someone is not merely the simple act of wrapping something up; rather, it represents our spirit of hospitality, in which we put effort into folding the paper beautifully and accurately, with thoughts and care for the recipient. We felt that this "thought and care for the recipient" that is incorporated into the art of origata makes it the perfect theme for a gift.

Katayama:A thin Japanese washi paper known as "kaishi" (a type of Japanese tissue) is often used in origata. We designed the giftbox based on an image of this kaishi folded in multiple layers, and presented it in delicate colors.

Nagatake:For another variation of gift packaging that I was in charge of, I made each item of cosmetics look like Japanese confectionery. The relationship between the cosmetic products and the gift-wrap was precisely like the relationship between the elegant Japanese confectionery found in tea ceremony and the kaishi used to wrap it with.

Apart from its use as a "wrapper," kaishi has also traditionally been used for various purposes including writing and wiping things with. Hence, the wide range of applications of Japanese washi paper is one of its key differences from paper manufactured in the Western way. Taking this idea, I created the gift-wrap that would be something in between a shopping bag and a box. I added strings to the box so that people could carry it around in the same way as a pouch.

--At first glance, the culture of kaishi and origata seems remote for the younger generation. What are your thoughts on the relationship between Japanese culture and millennials?

Kurotani:I think the millennial generation desire things that give them a sense of narrative. Rather than simply getting their hands on something material, they seek out new experiences that give them a sense of the "story" behind the product. I believe traditional Japanese culture is also one of these "stories."

Nagatake:During my stay overseas as a student, every time I was asked something about Japan, it made me realize how little I know of Japanese culture and society, and I found that embarrassing. That experience triggered my interest in traditional culture, and I came to understand its appeal. I believe Ms. Kurotani has also had the experience of studying abroad.

Kurotani:That's right. I, too, gained a renewed realization of how delicate traditional Japanese culture is during my time abroad. The Japanese people have the ability to convey the beauty of the four seasons through our artisanal production and polite, careful behavior, precisely because we have such a delicate spirit.

This is something that I place great value on in my design work. I think that one of the greatest appeals of Japanese culture is how we sense and treasure the intangible and invisible things. An example of this is how we subtly differentiate between various forms of behavior and speech, such as the use of formal language, so as to avoid offending others.

Nagatake:PICO is characterized by its compact size that resembles Japanese confectionery, and I think this "compactness" is important in presenting this sense of delicacy.

Katayama:Globalization may seem like a trend of making everything fit into international standards; however, I think that we are able to communicate based on a sense of who we are only when we look carefully at the local identity of Japan. Even in carrying out work for Global SHISEIDO, I feel that globalization should be based on the premise of first taking a proper look at the things that are close to us, at our own "Japanese-ness."

Gift box designed by Mr. Katayama. Presents delicate colors when the kaishi is folded and layered.
Gift packaging designed by Ms. Nagatake. Suitable for carrying around on its own, and can be flattened once the contents are taken out.

Providing a space for free creativity rather than pursuing perfect beauty

--The theme for the storefront display (VMD) is "Japanese Afternoon Tea," and the fixtures that resemble the three-tiered dish used for afternoon teas are really adorable.

Kurotani:We paid attention to the modern perspective by incorporating Western elements. We actually went out for an afternoon tea at a hotel and studied products in Japanese confectionery stores to carefully balance these Japanese and Western elements.

--From the packaging to the VMD, the frequent use of the "Hanatsubaki" logo leaves a deep impression.

Nagatake:The "Hanatsubaki" logo is actually very popular among our generation and even those who are a little younger than us. Some people use the camellia-shaped containers that hold sweets from the Shiseido Parlour as accessory cases, for example. That is why we definitely wanted to use the logo in the PICO packaging. However, using it in its original form would make it the same as the usual elegant SHISEIDO. Hence, we put special effort into making it more playful, such as a slight slant, and using only the silhouette.

Katayama:The "Hanatasubaki" logo is like a family crest, and is the public face of Shiseido. Hence, there are actually very strict guidelines for the use of this logo. It was an enjoyable challenge to consider how we can strike a balance between playfulness and class, while staying within the requirements.

Kurotani:On social media, we saw comments from people who wanted the PICO products because the "Hanatsubaki" logo was incorporated (into the PICO packaging). There were also users who uploaded photos of VMD. To begin with, it is very unusual to see photos of VMD put up on social media, so I was very happy to see such posts.

--I also saw many posts about the pop-up store organized in collaboration with Toraya, a Japanese confectionery maker, titled "PICO HANAMI" (held in Tokyo and Osaka in March 2018). It was a store offering a wide variety of services in addition to the display and sale of the products, including original Japanese confectionery and "Japanese confectionery-inspired makeup" by Shiseido's beauty consultants.

Kurotani:Various people posted photographs of the event, but the photos were completely different depending on the individual. There were pictures of people putting on rouge, people taking pictures of the products, and people photographed in the entire space including the decorative cherry blossoms. The venue was photographed from various directions. We had designed it as a space where people could play, and which would satisfy the millennials' "desire for expression," but even for us, there were many new discoveries.

Nagatake:The millennial generation enjoys putting up unique and original posts. I think that this is due to their desire for "customization" in addition to a sense of narrative. PICO proposes the combination of various colors in small quantities as a gift, which is precisely a form of "customization." Imagine the recipient, her thoughts and preferences, and select the products to present as a gift to that person. I feel that this, in itself, is an act of design.

Kurotani:Everyone has wonderful customization and expressive abilities. That is why we feel that instead of providing the "perfect beauty," it is more important for us to provide the recipients with a space that allows them to create freely.

Katayama:When it comes to customization, Nagatake has said she also does not like packaging design that goes in only one direction, and does not want to make a design that has a "front."

Nagatake:That's right. My goal was to create a design that looks pretty from all views, where the graphics is visible from all perspectives, or which shows a completely different expression depending on the angle. This is because I want the consumer to enjoy it from an angle that he or she prefers, rather than to propose a one-sided way of viewing the design.

Katayama:Thanks to social media today, the response is communicated to us visually and immediately. It is similar to doing a live show (laughs). Although we have much more to think about than before, it is also interesting.

Kurotani:When we consider the question of "what are the things that can make people resonate with us?" the boundaries of design, such as graphics and space, disappear in our minds. Designers have to think about the respective elements multilaterally, but at the same time, raise the level of our expertise. I think that we are entering a difficult yet interesting era.

Storefront display designed by Ms. Kurotani, based on the theme "Japanese Afternoon Tea."
Limited-time event, "PICO HANAMI" held in March 2018

Limited-time event, "PICO HANAMI" held in March 2018

Shiseido Creative Division
Noriko Matsubara
Shohei Katayama
Yumi Kurotani
Misaki Nagatake
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