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Interview with DCA instructor Masaki Koike

We’re delighted that our award-winning instructor, Masaki Koike, sat down with us to share more about his design life. His answers to our questions and a gallery of his work are below, but first, his official bio:

Masaki Koike is the principal of Phyx Design founded in 2007. His work in the music industry has earned him a Grammy Award and multiple Grammy nominations – this year for The Grateful Dead – Get Shown the Light box set! His work has been published in various design books and magazines. Over the last decade Masaki has worked at various companies such as Rhino Records, Smog Design, Nokia Design Center and Saatchi&Saatchi. He is a native to Los Angeles and currently works and lives in the beautiful city of Pasadena. He also teaches at UCLA Extension’s DCA program.

What brought you to the field of design?
As a kid, I enjoyed making things so working in the creative field should’ve been obvious. My focus in college was initially Psychology ’cause it seemed more legitimate as a major. I came to the realization that it wasn’t what I wanted to do so I dropped it with 2 classes left to fulfill my degree. I switched my major to art and never looked back!

Please tell us about an especially rewarding project you have worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.
I think the enjoyment of what I do IS the reward. It sounds idealistic but I hope that everything I work on is rewarding in some way. It can be creatively or financially rewarding and it rarely goes hand in hand!

The Recording Academy has recognized your outstanding work many times. How does a love of music inform your visual designs?
I’m not sure that it does. Of course it helps if I’m familiar with the artist but doing research is always a good starting point weather I know the artist or not. Every project is different in that the information comes from many sources. Sometimes it’s the title or the concept of the album. Sometimes the band wants me to use a piece of artwork or photo. Some artists, especially an established act, have their own brand assets. Sometimes, it’s a culmination of all these things and I just run with it. When the information comes from data and strategic marketing, it can be very unrewarding!

What will students take away from your course, Design Fundamentals?
Since it’s a beginners’ course, I firmly believe in teaching the prose of design. How to best communicate an idea by distilling the information so that it is concise and direct. How to think, analyze, and problem solve. To heighten your visual awareness. Developing good work habits and understanding the importance of trying, failing, and trying again.

Final thoughts?
I’ll leave you with a quote from designer Lou Danziger: “Work. Think. Feel. Work: No matter how brilliant, talented, exceptional, and wonderful the student may be, without work there is nothing but potential and talk. Think: Design is a problem-solving activity. Thinking is the application of intelligence to arrive at the appropriate solution to the problem. Feel: Work without feeling, intuition, and spontaneity is devoid of humanity.”

Thank you, Masaki!

#phyxdesign

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