#Asia #Japan 107: Why Japanese Design Is So Different & What You Should Learn from It


There are a lot of passionate opinions about Japanese design. From the beauty and subtlety of the best Japanese anime to the design horrors of most corporate Powerpoint presentations, Japanese design covers a huge range.

Things are changing though, and today we sit down and talk with Naofumi Tsuchiya, the founder and CEO of Goodpatch, one of Japan’s leading, and most richly valued, UI/UX design startups. We talk about how Japanese design is evolving and why we might be seeing (for better or worse) a more global design standard and sensibility.

Goodpatch is one of the new breed of Japanese design firms, and they’ve been able to raise substantial venture funding. Nao and I also talk about how that venture money has forced his startup to move in very specific strategic directions.

It’s a fascinating discussion, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes

How you can choose your customers in Japan, and why most startups think you cannot
How a life-threatening illness actually turned Nao’s life around
What makes a product meaningful
How to discover passionate teams hiding inside large enterprises
Why it’s hard for a startup to move from services to products
Why design in Japan is so different today
How to improve user acquisition by over 50% (at least in Japan)
How we should be raising the next generation of designers

Links from the Founder

Learn more about Goodpatch on their homepage
Check out Nao’s blog
Follow him on Twitter @tsuchinao83
Check out the Goodpatch blog

In English
In Japanese

Listen to the Goodpatch podcast (sorry, Japanese only)

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Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Today, we’re going to be talking about design in Japan and it’s going to be good. Because Japanese design is a topic that people have a lot of strong opinions about. From the subtlety and nuance you see in the very best of Japanese anime to the visual horrors of Japanese corporate PowerPoint presentations. The topic covers both the wonderful and the terrible.

And so, to dance us through this minefield is Nao Tsuchiya of Goodpatch.

Now, Goodpatch is one of Japan’s fastest growing and most highly valued design startups. We’ll talk about Japanese design not only as it exist today but why we might see a global convergence of design, style, and UI sensibilities in the coming decades. Even if it’s inevitable, it’ll be sad to see the current global diversity disappear.

And though we don’t talk about it during the interview, I first ran across now a while back when I recommended Goodpatch to one of my larger consulting clients. Before providing an estimate or drilling down into the requirements, Goodpatch sent back a detailed questionnaire, asking this enterprise about their dreams for the project and who their ideal users were, and how they normally communicated with them.

Now, these are great, in fact, even common sense questions for designing a user experience. They show that the designers really do care about what they’re building over at Goodpatch. But the enterprise employees running this project simply did not know how to deal with it. And rather than trying to answer the questions and challenge their own assumptions about the project, they went with a more traditional and more obedient vendor. The final product was definitely the last because of that decision.

I’ve been a fan of Goodpatch from the day I saw that corporate client questionnaire. But you know, Nao tells the story much better than I can. So let’s hear from our sponsor and get right to the interview.


Tim: So I’m sitting here with Nao Tsuchiya of Goodpatch, one of Japan’s fastest-growing digital design firms.

Nao: Thank you.

Tim: Now, normally, I avoid service companies because the demand for web and mobile app design,

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