-- One of the novelty goods that Shiseido produces every year is a calendar designed through the creative efforts of its in-house designers. What are the objectives behind the production of this calendar?
Marubashi: Shiseido produces this calendar for distribution to our business partners and consumers at our chain stores nationwide as a show of appreciation and a token of greetings. I served as Art Director for the 2017 annual calendar, while Ms. Takaiso created the illustrations, and we chose the theme "IRO DORU GIRL" for this year's calendar.
We publish two versions of the calendar every year. One of the versions for this year uses photographs of models and actresses including Kiko Mizuhara, Fumi Nikaido, and Jun Hasegawa. The other version, as I have just mentioned, is the calendar with the "IRO DORU GIRL" design, with a large space for each date to facilitate ease of writing, as well as strong graphical elements. Each version is available as both wall and desktop calendars.
-- What is the "IRO DORU GIRL?" Could you tell us what inspired the idea for this design?
Marubashi: The elements that we place much importance on for Shiseido's calendars every year are "glamour" and "a sense of the seasons." With these in mind, we have expanded on the idea of how colors change with the four seasons, such as cherry blossoms in full bloom and falling snow, to come up with the idea of the "IRO DORU GIRL" (irodoru in Japanese means "to color" or "to paint"). There is also a tiny element of wordplay here (laughs).
-- I understand that you, Ms. Takaiso, were in charge of the illustrations for the calendar as Art Director. How did you get involved in the project?
Marubashi: We came up with the concept of a girl in monochrome who would take on different colors each season. When she was a student, Keiko had drawn pictures of girls in monochromatic tones, so I felt that she would be perfect for the job and approached her to participate in the production of this calendar.
Takaiso: I am usually engaged in providing artistic direction, and rarely have the opportunity to draw illustrations in my job. Thus, I was surprised when Mr. Marubashi contacted me out of the blue, and I was happy that he had remembered my past illustration works.
-- The "IRO DORU GIRL" is made in the style of pencil drawings, and the illustrations exude warmth. Have you been drawing such pictures from before?
Takaiso: Even when I was a student, my works were basically created using pencils and the collage format. However, those works were mainly illustrations in monochrome with very little use of color. Hence, for this calendar, I went through various trial-and-error processes repeatedly to use color to effectively bring out the atmosphere of the seasons and express the sense of excitement for each month.
-- This was a challenging project for you, wasn't it?
Takaiso: It was indeed. I had intended to focus all my effort into creating something pop, but I was asked if I could make it "just a little more glamorous." My response was "I'll try my best!" (laughs). I re-selected colors over and over again based on such exchanges and communication with others.
-- What were your sources of inspiration or reference in choosing the colors for each month?
Takaiso: I was inspired by elements of nature, such as cherry blossoms, spring greenery, the sea, rain, and ginkgo trees. I feel that the colors of the atmosphere of each of the four seasons are expressed through nature.
-- A range of girls appear in the calendar with a different girl featured each month, such as a dancing girl or a girl dressed fashionably. Are these based on any models?
Takaiso: Till now, I have always drawn illustrations based on photographs. For this project, I took reference from photographs taken overseas, as well as photographs taken with the help of friends or colleagues where I asked them to strike certain poses, and combined these materials with apparel and situations to match the season. After sketching the girls, an image of the settings surrounding each girl would emerge in my mind.
-- The logo for "IRO DORU GIRL" on the cover for the calendar, written in a uniquely characteristic version of the "Shiseido typeface," leaves a deep impression.
Marubashi: The font for the logo was actually written by hand. We inserted color between the rims of the characters written in pencil, in order to bring out the nuance of adding color to a monochromatic world. Rather than making everything colorful from the logo to the illustration, I think that an important point in the design was to use colors as an accent.
-- This project gave Ms. Takaiso an opportunity, outside of her regular job, to demonstrate the creative flair that she had nurtured since her school days, didn't it?
Marubashi: The production of Shiseido's calendar offers a lot of flexibility, and provides a space for designers to take up the challenges of coming up with new ideas and possibilities. As they are able to demonstrate their creative ability outside the scope of product creation, it may be one of the projects that young designers in particular find especially motivating to tackle.
Takaiso: In truth, I also took charge of the calendar production once several years ago, and I remember it to be a very enjoyable experience. I was able to realize my own ideas freely in a way that suited the project I had been assigned to, which is a precious experience for a creative .
-- How are the staff selected each year for the calendar production?
Marubashi: They are chosen either through a contest or nomination. The selection for the 2017 calendar took place through a contest. Several staff members in the Advertising and Design Department were nominated, and each nominee delivered a presentation.
-- What are your thoughts on the Shiseido calendar, which has continued to be produced over a span of several decades?
Marubashi: Firstly, I think that it is interesting that a single company has continued to hold onto a graphic media created freely by designers for such a long time. There are pocket diaries and smartphones in the market today, and the wider trend in society has been to move away from using wall calendars and desktop calendars. However, I hope that the calendar culture will continue to live on, fulfilling its role as a part of interior décor for calendar users, and as a space where Shiseido designers can express themselves freely through graphics.
Takaiso: We can present, personally and directly, our appreciation and greetings to consumers through the calendars. Although we are now in the digital age, I hope that we can continue to cherish the sentiments behind this "personal delivery" going forward.