The Extraordinary Career of Japanese Designer Keisuke Unosawa

  • Do you recognize the name Keisuke Unosawa (鵜野沢啓祐)? If not, you’re about to find out all about this fascinating man. Unosawa is a creative director and designer who was born in Tokyo in 1964. He worked for Katsumi Komagata (駒形克己) before going freelance in 1987. His success was preceded by numerous rejections but, eventually, his talent was recognised when he started his own agency and he hasn’t looked back since. Unosawa has a gift for capturing the extraordinary in everyday life and distilling it into his designs, which creates something that’s hard to take your eyes off.

    The Rejection

    At just 17, Keisuke Unosawa dropped out of school and left his family home in order to pursue his career. He had visions of becoming an actor or musician but ended up landing odd jobs carrying luggage and washing up at the Takeshiba (竹芝) Ferry Terminal in Hamamatsucho (浜松町).

    Along the way, Unosawa started drawing sketches. He even drew sketches of the plates that he washed at the ferry terminal, as well as surrounding landscapes and people he met. This was his everyday life until he created a portfolio of his works, all of which were inspired by his ordinary life. Now that he had something to show for his talent, he decided to submit his drawings to several publications to see whether anything would come of it. He was rejected by every publication but his ambitious nature pushed him to keep trying, so he continued to send his portfolio to as many companies as possible.

    The Recognition

    Unosawa never gave up sending his portfolio. Finally, the day came that his work was recognized; not because it was good, but because it was terrible. The editor of Marie Claire Japan contacted Unosawa saying that there was potential in his work if some changes were made.

    He was advised to start with graphic design which landed him his first job in the industry. He worked for Dentsu (電通) Corporation, a Japanese international and public relations company that was previously the world’s largest public advertising agency. Unosawa worked closely with the director in making advertisements for big companies such as Japan Railways. Later on, he was sent to California to talk to the former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs. As this was the days before the creation of Apple, the two discussed this new concept and Jobs’ revolutionary ideas.

    At the age of 20, Unosawa took another design job with American television network CBS. This position allowed him to hone his skills, paving the way towards the founding of his own agency at the tender age of 23. Unosawa’s principle that he lived by was making people happy through his designs, as he believes that happiness is the real purpose of living.

    If Unosawa was asked what designs he appreciates the most, he would say traditional, timeless and positively simple. These simple but creative designs can be found in the form of crafts at Noren Store, a retail space selling traditional souvenirs. He also produces Christmas cards which are on sale both in Japan and overseas. He is also involved in various product developments including Christmas displays, product designs and limited edition wristwatches. A truly respectable designer, Unosawa’s works can be found all over, so don’t miss the chance to discover exactly what he has to offer.

    Keisuke Unosawa Official Website

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