Interview by Visual Collaborative
September 2020 4 min read
Photo courtesy of Junichi Tsuneoka
Junichi Tsuneoka is an illustrator, Creative Director, and Founder of Studio Sideburn. He has worked for numerous brands such as; Nike, Adidas, Brooks, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. As a feature in our SOURCE interview series, Mr. Tsuneoka talks to us about his creative process, collaborations, and future work in design.
(VC) What music are you streaming or listening to at the moment?
(Junichi) Lofi Hip Hop for relaxation and I like to listen to while I am working.
(VC) Outside of art and the professional design element that surrounds it, who is Juinichi?
(Junichi) I am a nature lover that involves mountain in general, and I like to go hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking and love a little bit of adventure (nothing serious) out there.
(VC) You have created a lot of work and collaborated with numerous individuals prior to Stubborn Sideburn. Did this happen organically or part of a bigger career plan?
(Junichi) I think it’s a little bit of both. A lot of things happened organically but I thought that was good for the career. I learned from the organically happened event and I actively seek similar opportunities too.
(VC) Everyone has a distinctive fingerprint with creation. What are your tools or preparation ritual of choice for what you consider your best work?
(Junichi) As far as the preparation wise, I like to play with words first. I create a word list to generate ideas. I start writing down simple words that can be associated with the subject that I am working on. Then I organize those words, connecting the dots if you will. After I developed a good list of interesting words, these will give me some visuals to start sketching. Something like “monkey business” gives me an initial inspiration. The word doesn’t have to be accurate or directly related to the subject I am working on. I like the word “ritual” because that’s exactly what this is.
Design work of Junichi Tsuneoka
(VC) As a seasoned Creative professional with decades of quality work, what can you candidly tell the aspiring designer, artist, or production crew about success and risk in your field?
(Junichi) I think the risk in the field is that it is so competitive. I think you have to be so passionate that you almost don’t believe there is a risk. Or you may feel very frustrated sometimes because a lot of times, it is hard to see any result based on your effort. If you can have a way not to forget what it’s like when you started your creative career. Because when I was starting my career, it was very exciting. If you forget, it’s easy to get frustrated. If you can remind yourself how you felt, it will become still exciting.
(VC) How has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected your outlook on life as it relates to your creative collaborations and partnerships?
(Junichi) My creative collaborations didn’t change that much thankfully. So for a creative person, this whole situation can be an opportunity to have new creative collaboration opportunities.
(VC) Your design work utilizes stencil patterns and colorful grids across mediums. What inspired this method?
(Junichi) It came from a few different places. I like repetition or stencil patterns as you call it because I like rhythm, and it is more of a design than spontaneous expression. I have a strong design background, so it fits my creative thinking. I also like geometric shapes and a little bit of math behind them. It is almost like a puzzle, but I can create a puzzle for my self. I am not solving the puzzle somebody created for me.
(VC) Some mention different historical times as a period they admire for affluence or culture. If you can time-warp to any era to collaborate with its culture, what period would it be and why?
(Junichi) I want to visit the era of Ukiyo-e, the Japanese woodblock prints. Especially in the late 18th century or early 19th century. I would love to experience the real process in real-time. I am also curious to see the fresh color. That must have been a lot different from what we can see today. I really like the stylization and composition of Ukiyo-e in general. It would be very interesting if I can understand why and how they came up with that along with the process.
Design work of Junichi Tsuneoka
(VC) Thanks very much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to share with our global audience?
(Junichi) Thank you for having me here.