words Morgan Richards
WOW doesn’t take things too seriously. “If you try too hard you never get a happy ending,” says Kasuke Oho, creative director of the Japanese design studio.
The practice, which specialises in motion graphics, came to attention in Europe last year with the beautiful and seamlessly rolling animation Tenspace, and the beguiling interactive work Tengible, both shown at Tent London. With bases in Tokyo and Sendai, and an office soon to open in London, WOW’s staff of just 30 people produce over 200 commercials a year. But it’s the studio’s startling array of original works rather than its prodigious output that marks it out in an industry usually defined by budget constraints and controlled by other people’s money.
“We spend between 20 to 30 per cent of our time doing original projects,” says Oho. “It’s very important to us as a way of testing our skills and techniques as well as our creativity.”
These works – which range from highly stylised and imaginative technological landscapes, like those seen in the video works :colon (2006) and Poetry of Suburbs (2004), to the grainy mixture of real and super-imposed shadows created for the interactive installation Tenspace (2007) – are not the typical showreel fodder you might expect from a production house keen to expand into Europe. Humour and decidedly low-tech graphics are as likely to feature in WOW’s work as sumptuous and painstakingly crafted 3D motion graphics.
WOW sees this mix of concept-driven high- and low-tech graphics as a vital part of its ethos. “For us, the important thing is the ability to show and express ideas,” says Oho.
WOW’s artworks are evocative of the differing design languages in the creative team, giving the company the air of a collective rather than a multinational business. Its works are inspired by fields as diverse as philosophy, architecture, interior design and ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. For its recent art book WOW 10, ten different “creative units” – drawn from WOW’s staff and a cast of creative individuals from varying visual disciplines – were asked to interpret WOW’s “Next 10 Years”. What emerges is an eclectic array of graphics and ideas – including a plan for a “10-year clock” – which underline the collaborative and often interdisciplinary nature of WOW’s work.
WOW can be seen in the exhibition Tokyo Wonder, together with fellow Tokyo design practices Curiosity and Tonerico, during the Milan furniture fair from 16-21 April.
images Sebastian Mayer/Aeiou
Tenspace animation, 2007
Light Rain interactive projection, 2007
Botanica, 2005, a collaboration with fashion designer Yoshio Kubo
Tengible installation, 2007
Tengible installation, 2007
Poetry of Suburbs video, 2004