When Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton founded Kaiju Studios in 2001, they were looking for diversity, the freedom to design, "anything we wanted, from products to graphics to websites," says Takase.
And so far, with clients ranging from Samsonite to Lincoln Center, that's exactly what they've done.
Indeed, it was their own diversity in backgrounds that first drew these two together at Rhode Island School of Design, where both majored in Industrial Design. Takase is Japanese and spent most of her childhood in a coastal town near Tokyo. Hutton, on the other hand, grew up in a traditional American family.
Both say they've learned a lot from each other's culture and background. "Coming to the U.S. opened my eyes to an abundance of opportunities and gave me the freedom to explore," says Takase. Hutton says, "Ayako's strong work ethic taught me how to take my work seriously."
In the blending of their two worlds, they've developed a satisfying give-and-take collaborative work style. "We spend a lot of time researching problems together to figure out the best solutions," says Hutton. "For example, when we were working on the Kotatsu Work Table, we started out with a more complicated design. But by experimenting and talking it through, we realized that keeping it simple would actually work much better."
"When I'm designing, I always think about the people who will be using the products," adds Takase. "I feel a responsibility to give them what they want and need, not necessarily what they expect."
"It's that human interaction at the other end that appeals to me," she continues, "not just creating for the sake of creating." In fact, she says she finds design to be a lot like cooking. "There's a lot of care and love that goes into it," she explains.
Takase, who once worked with Resolve designer Ayse Birsel, says she's always used her art to communicate with people, especially when she moved to the States as a teenager. "I couldn't speak English very well, so I expressed myself through ceramics and sculpture."
Today she has many outlets for expressing herself. And while Hutton says that working on a variety of projects keeps their outlooks fresh and fun, "It also keeps us up late at night," he laughs. "As designers, we can't just shut off the work at five o'clock, so the dialogue never ends."
As for the future, they want to continue the path they're on. "We're very fortunate to be working on such a diverse range of design," says Hutton. "I think it parallels our own diversity," adds Takase, "and it all works together to help us solve problems for people in creative ways."