Mobile Design
UI is not UX

Honda, Kirin Beer, Microsoft, Docomo, Xbox 360, 7-Eleven, Rakuten, Uniqlo… the list goes on for these famous brands in which Kashiwa Sato has touched, brand-wise to entice the millions upon millions of consumers. He is one if not, the best and most successful leading creative director in the world.

I have personally met him on a project in 2015 and you can feel the power of his presence, dark yet intensely fills the room where we await his decision on one design from 20 similarly prospective design ideas. Though our design team worked weeks upon months of design iterations, they did not even grasp his decision.  It wasn’t until the 3rd try that he was half satisfied with one.  With hesitation, we presented the 20 alternate designs while explaining how we came up with the mockups. Kashiwa Sato thumbed around on his smartphone with a steady expression. We concluded our pitch until he looked up from his phone, used his lesser powerful hand and extended his index finger and tapped violently onto the design he half-felt was good enough for the project. Not a word or reason. He just asks “why” and “how”. he mumbles a “ummm…hmmmm”. The decision has been made.

Our teams’ turn was up and we headed out with confidence to move forward with the design for our project. I first thought “what the hell just happened…?” but after hearing about this famous man from the team, i depended upon his reputation that his choice was final. i didnt really know how famous he was until i did a little research on him and saw the hundreds of designs he created for branding huge projects for companies around the world. “wow”, i thought. Quite impressive. What else has he done?

Again, after further research, i saw some images of a nice, minimalistic coffee maker which is widely used by 7-eleven stores. Very popular and delicious cold and hot coffee maker. But there were some small signs practically next to all of the buttons making the design looks like complete shit. A big insult to the master of design and a ruin to his portfolio. Why? His UX was under-par and inexperienced. Though the over-confidence of anyone could get the best of of us, it could also be embarrassing if it touches millions of fingers and un-nurtured brains of humans who are adapted to be told what to do.

From my experience, there are rare unicorns out there in the world that can do both UX and UI/graphics (UI meaning User Interface, not User Interaction for this article). but some just flat-out suck. Honestly for myself, i fucking suck at graphic design. with a capital “F”. I could actually qualify as color-blind, lol!  In Japan, companies try to integrate skills into a single perfect human regardless of the workers passion. A lot… and i mean a lot of companies do not utilize copywriters (see here for what i mean: Some designers cannot communicate to UX and vise-versa. in these cases, graphic designers will just create UX and screw the whole experience completely. And there are some great UX works with horrible colors (shall i apologize? lol!)

For Kashiwa Sato’s Coffee machine, this is an obvious failure of UX. He did not recognize the users as the large majority do not read/speak English (they are Japanese). He failed to learn that users cannot recognize what is a button and what is a symbol. And as a a typical Japanese culture where people need to be told how to do something, he failed to remember that not all users are coffee-machine savvy. And in a country where “gray” doesn’t really work culturally, the word “regular” was used in place of “small”.

As i wait for Kashiwa Sato to send me an email and say “dude, what the fuck…”, ill continue working on my graphic skills which will never reach his expert level of brand design. I have and always will let others do what they do best skill-wise, talent-wise and passion-wise. Everyone has an expert level of something. Branding design is not mine and UX is not Kashiwa Sato’s either.

The lesson here is to listen to your teammates and utilize their skills and passion at their best. Recognize your own and others strengths. By doing these, you can enhance communication, dependencies and an overall good teamwork environment to create a beautiful product. Otherwise, you can embarrass yourself for quite some time.