Window to the Licensing World
A Japanese design institute uses Hong Kong to showcase its students’ work overseas.
07 January 2016
Beaming bunnies huddle under a bright-pink cherry blossom tree, their heads poking from behind brightly-coloured Easter eggs. Happy squirrels, birds and mice with huge grins all added to the festive vibe at the Popcorn shopping mall in Tseung Kwan O in 2014. The fantasy art was created by Japanese illustrator SANA, whose talent was spotted by mall operator, the MTR at the 2014 Hong Kong International Licensing Show.
The young artist graduated from the Toyo Institute of Art and Design, which featured her works along with several other up-and-coming talents from Japan to help students and graduates gain global exposure. “She (SANA) is very driven,” said Daisuke Nakagome, Vice Director of Toyo Institute, “She ran the drawing business all by herself.”
Impressed by SANA’s unique style, the MTR commissioned her to design three-dimensional installations for the Easter event.
“SANA’s case shows there is demand for good designs from overseas,” said Mr Nakagome. “The world is not out of reach. To experience that, it is necessary for students to go and see.”
Competitive Domestic Market
The project was also validation of the institute’s role in helping nurture creative professionals who can compete on the global stage. Finding new markets is especially important for Japanese illustrators, who face a highly competitive domestic market.
“As a school, our main goal is educating people, but a challenge that we face is employment,” said Mr Nakagome. “It can be difficult for fresh graduates to compete in Japan. Unlike other students, our graduates have to put in extra effort to connect with companies.”
The design institute encourages students to explore opportunities abroad through trade events, such as the Hong Kong International Licensing Show, where the Toyo Institute has been exhibiting since 2014.
The programme is funded by the Japanese government’s “Cool Japan” initiative, which promotes the country’s pop culture including J-pop, manga, fashion and film. “We wanted to establish links with overseas companies by displaying the work of our graduates,” Mr Nakagome said.
Its participation at the Licensing Show also strengthens the institute’s knowledge on handling IP, said Mr Nakagome. “The Hong Kong International Licensing Show is the easiest place to understand what’s happening, since it brings together exhibitors and buyers from Europe, America and Asia.”
SANA has created about 100 animal characters since the age of 17, including Sananomori, a series of 21 lovable characters with their own individual personalities: Branch the squirrel is always curious; Margaret the rabbit loves flowers and has one pinned to her ear.
With a growing portfolio, the illustration also participated in 20 showcases in Japan, including the highly regarded Nikaten art exhibition. During her studies at Toyo Institute of Art and Design, she was named Best Illustrator by Tokyo’s Inokashira Park for four consecutive years, for her drawings’ popularity at the venue.
Toyo Institute will continue taking part in the Licensing Show in the next three years, according to Mr Nakagome. “Long-term, we would like to establish a school in Hong Kong. We are now looking to find a partner and will continue building our network at the upcoming Hong Kong International Licensing Show.”
- Design Services
- Hong Kong