The things we want to do are evident after “trial and error.”
Shinpei Takagi, Context Designer
“Even though I wasn’t good at studying when I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming prime minister (laughing).”
At 23 years old, Shinpei Takagi left a major Japanese ad agency to go into business for himself as a “context designer,” which has given shape to his personal ideas and his ideas concerning work. So, how did a young boy who was poor at studying make it where he is at now in his career? The turning point lies in club activities he took part in at Waseda University.
Shinpei’s university days where he took on the challenge of craftsmanship with ideas that defied conventional wisdom
When he started attending Waseda University, he wasn’t really passionate about anything at first and spent his days doing nothing particularly exciting. But an encounter with one of the officially recognized clubs, Sen-i (the Textile Research Group), completely changed that.
“Sen-i is a club where much discussion takes place from various perspectives, including historical, ethnological and design and where one can earnestly take on the challenge of making clothes. I had so much fun discussing fashion with my fellow Sen-i friends every day. The experience I gained at the annual fashion show is particularly connected to the wealth I enjoy today.”
The concept he decided on for putting together the fashion show was completely opposite from the normal process. With that aim, first he found models that would wear the clothes in the fashion show from among ordinary people and painstakingly observed their lifestyles. He then made clothes that matched their lifestyles and took another look at the design and how it should be.
“It’s only because we were students who had time on our hands that we could live together with the models that would wear the clothes and could find the role the clothes were to play! However, we valued new ideas that didn’t come from a process which had already been established and thanks to coming up with concepts from scratch and giving form to those concepts our minds were sharpened.”
After graduating from Waseda and even after spending time at Hakuhodo Inc. and then branching out on his own, he routinely blazes trails in new fields and continue planning with ideas that go beyond conventional wisdom.
“Working at an ad agency involved large-scale projects and was fun. However, I felt that there were limitations to such a large organization that was already set in its ways and procedures. I’m the type of person who wants to immediately join in on trends that I find interesting. I think I can do this because of the energy generated from being involved in providing strategic support for Kazuma Ieiri’s candidacy in the 2014 Tokyo gubernatorial election.”
Someday, I want to promote Japan and the Cabinet as a speechwriter
The thing that he is paying attention to with corporate branding, in which real creativity is required, is “ideas and outside,” an approach that he learned at Hakuhodo Inc. “’Outside’ in this case means outside Hakuhodo Inc. (or outside the company). When creating a company, there is a tendency to take the approach of relying on what others have done and trying methods that have already been established. This is going “outside” and adopting what others have done, not generating ‘ideas.’ In this case, the meaning of ideas is looking at things from a new perspective to give shape to your own thoughts. If it is something that moves your heart, it will involve many people and generate enthusiasm that can change existing values.”
Shinpei is also driving local and national government public works projects with his free thinking.
Is there anything you wish to tell Waseda students from your current vantage point?
“Take many ‘credits’ of making mistakes (laughing). I want you to take on outlandish challenges in which the worries that have become entrenched in working adults don’t come up and find joy in making mistakes—in fact, do even more of these things as such activities will nourish you. Once you start working, you can’t really make mistakes. Actually, there’s a universal adage ‘the younger you are, the more you’re allowed to make mistakes’ (laughing). Some of you may feel, ‘There’s nothing I want to do.’ However, it’s okay even if you think, ‘Oh, I like that subject.’ The truth is very few people know what they want to do from the get-go. Furthermore, we’ll find things that we’re good at as we engage in various activities to please others and as others need us. At some point, I think that what we want to do and what we’re required to do will overlap.”
Well, what do you want to do going forward?
“I want to write speeches for the prime minister. I wasn’t able to fulfill my dream of becoming prime minister (laughing); however, I can create an image of my vision and give form to it on a large scale. Someday, as a speechwriter, I will convey messages of an exciting Japan to the world—I’ll work hard to make this a reality within ten years.”
■Shinpei was born in 1987 and joined Hakuhodo Inc. after graduating from the School of Social Sciences at Waseda University in 2010. He left Hakuhodo Inc. after a little over a year to go into business for himself. He has been involved in a variety of activities and groups including the 2014 Tokyo gubernatorial election campaign, One Voice Campaign (a grass-roots movement contributing to the removal of the ban on Internet campaigning), Liverty House, and Tokyo Yoru Hills (a share house in Tokyo). In April 2015, he launched NEWPEACE Inc. and assumed the post of representative.