Interview with Kazunori Shiina from Japan

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Kazunori Shiina

Kazunori Shiina has a fulfilling 20-year career in creating advertising campaigns and building brands in creative agencies at Tokyo and New York and has worked with notable brands like Quebec Maple Syrup, Volvo, KIRIN Beer and more!

Interview with the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards Winner -
Kazunori Shiina

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your creative background.
Hi, I’m Kaz. I have a 20-year career in creating advertising campaigns and building brands at creative agencies in both Tokyo and New York. During this time, I have worked on various brand communications for clients like Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Volvo, KIRIN Beer, Red Bull and Moët & Chandon.
2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?
Great advertising posters in Japan back in the ‘90s and ‘00s in fashion and food. Their artistic approach and visual aesthetic motivated me to pursue this career.
3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
I work for a marketing agency called relativ* based in Tokyo where I solve client problems through design. As an Associate Design Director, I get to work with a talented team each with different superpowers to tackle business challenges for our clients. Depending on what we’re trying to solve, the outcome could vary. Nothing is ever the same. At the end of the day, I think my role is to tell brand stories and create experiences that will really connect with our audiences.
4What does “creativity” mean to you?
To me, creativity is simply a way of solving a problem. That could be anything from our client’s business problems to social problems we have in the world. But it must always solve a problem.
5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?
A "creative" idea to me means that the solution is not just unique or memorable but it solves an actual problem, in the most effective way.
6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.
My design process involves understanding and distilling the information we get from consumer research, considering client needs, current trends and coming up with creative solutions that would address the problems at hand.
7What's your favorite part of the creative process and why?
Developing ideas. Because it's both challenging and energizing - it doesn't matter how beautiful or flashy the execution is if the idea doesn't reach the consumer.
8Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.
I grew up with simplistic nature of Japanese culture, so I personally appreciate minimalism. It’s about avoiding what is unnecessary and relentlessly pursuing simplicity of use and memorable experiences.
9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your creativity process?
Yes – I think the cultural notion of caring deeply about people and consumers has shaped how I see the world and my approach to design.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
Thank you! Winning the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards is a tangible proof of our team's work, as the campaigns we won were achieved through the efforts of all team members.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Our campaign for the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers is personally meaningful to me. We faced a challenge in not just selling maple syrup from Canada but in telling the story of why it is better. Our umbrella campaign - (More than just sweet), encapsulated what Canadian maple syrup has to offer.

From there, we created Maple Monks to bring this experience to life for our audience. I believe we were able to connect with them in a way that is both true to the identity of maple and relatable to our audience’s thinking and rituals. As a team, we are proud of how we were able to tell that story and wanted to share it with a wider audience through the MUSE Design Awards.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
It was in balancing how we creatively tell this story and ensuring that the core message is simple and clear. It’s a universal challenge we all face as designers. This was especially challenging during the pandemic, as we expanded our campaign to include Maple Monks and had to prioritize safety measures. However, we successfully navigated these obstacles and ensured that participants could still enjoy the full campaign experience while staying safe.
13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
Winning an award gives me the motivation to keep designing and developing outcomes that leave an impact on the world around us!
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
Being able to interact with so many smart, passionate people, getting to be creative and responsible for making good work.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?
I think the breadth of both craziness and simplicity make Japan unique in the design industry.
16Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
I see the evolution of the design industry heading towards AI-generated graphics and videos over the next 5-10 years. But at its core, like I said I think design exist to solve a problem and the most effective designs will always be trend-agnostic.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Creative Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
Focus less on winning awards for awards’ sake but be true to the work that you believe in. Use this opportunity with MUSE Creative Awards as a platform to broaden your design career.
18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
Thinking strategically before designing.
19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Often times creativity shines through chaos.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My mom. When I was a kid, I grew up with her showing me a lot of picture books and she is an amazing storyteller.
21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Make sure what you end up reflects the thinking between both strategy and ideas.
22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Thank you, MUSE Creative Awards, for choosing us to win!

Winning Entry

“It’s different, because it’s a 100% Canadian maple.” | 2023

“It’s different, because it’s a 100% Canadian maple.” | MUSE Kazunori Shiina
Our audience already had a strong association of Canada and nature and we built on that for our print ad. We conveyed the complex message about nature ...
(Read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Kazunori Shiina

Kazunori Shiina has a fulfilling 20-year career in creating advertising campaigns and building brands in creative agencies at Tokyo and New York and has worked with notable brands like Quebec Maple Syrup, Volvo, KIRIN Beer and more!

Read more about this interview with Xin Feng from United States, the Gold Winner of the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards.