Imbuing the “GSIX” Logotype with Ginza’s Poise

Kenya Hara

Ginza Stories

A Logotype Fit for Ginza

If you ask me, Ginza is a shopping district that has poise. Look at other bustling areas here in Tokyo: Roppongi can be indecisive and even insecure, and you could even say that its very charm lies in it being a hodgepodge of ambivalent ideas. Then there's Shinjuku, which is brimming with energy and is the epitome of chaos-in a good way. So when word came to me that a large shopping mall called GINZA SIX was being built with many high-end brands among its tenants, I knew that the logotype and the entire visual identity around it had to have the kind of solid backbone that can stand the test of time.
At the same time you have Yoshio Taniguchi, whose architecture is not the kind that wows you with showy technology or excessive design-rather, it is extremely static and minimal. When you think about how closely the logo will be associated with the building itself, and vice-versa, a logo that disregards the overall aesthetic and is too refined or too festive may unintentionally subvert the power of the architecture. If the architecture and the visual identity were both going for simplicity, it had to be within a unified aesthetic-otherwise, there would be a disconnect.
Consequently, the final logo for GINZA SIX ended up being surprisingly simple. But it's that simplicity that gives it almost universal applicability, whether it's luxury, fashion, traditional culture, cutting-edge technology, contemporary name it.
Incidentally, the main logo is comprised of the letters "GSIX", but initially I was asked to use the full name "GINZA SIX". But as someone who has been working in Ginza for 33 years since I first joined the Nippon Design Center in 1983, I had seen so many buildings and shops with "Ginza" in the name that it had become cliché…(laughs). So I proposed an abbreviated form: "GSIX".
As for the color, only the "G" is gold. In my mind, if Ginza was a color, it would be gold. You were probably expecting me to say "silver" [Ginza means "silver mint"], but for me, gold captures its poise.

The Relationship Between Facade and Sign

Plans for the sign on the facade usually come after the building has been completed; often the logo is simply attached to the front of the building and backlit to give it a three-dimensional appearance. But with GINZA SIX, the GSIX s"ign is embedded in the architecture and illuminated at night from within the building-giving it a distinctive white glow. For this to happen, the building letters had to be designed together with the architecture. So I'm confident that this facade will be able to hold its own along the stretch of facades on Ginza main street [Ginza's main shopping thoroughfare, Chuo-dori]. My hope is that it leaves a singular, lasting impression on customers and passersby alike.
And of course, the GSIX logo has to be able to stand above the logos of the high-end brands that will occupy the ground floor of GINZA SIX. But at the same time it has to be able to give them the space to shine. That's where, I think, the logo's solid backbone will do the heavy lifting.
Someone once told me that the majority of the buildings on Ginza main street were built to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Perhaps the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be an opportunity for Ginza to undergo a renaissance. In the coming years I am sure all of the architects and designers involved in local projects will be inspired to design the Tokyo of tomorrow, rather than rehash stereotypical Japanese designs, such as Edo Period family crests and mizuhiki knots [a traditional decoration made from a cord of tightly wound and starched rice paper, often used to adorn gifts and cards]. Ginza has long been and will continue to be a growth point through which Japan strives to reach new heights.
In that sense the GINZA SIX logo embodies wa [a cultural concept roughly translated as "harmony" or "peace", in addition to being an ancient name for Japan itself], and throughout the development process I was constantly asking myself how it would welcome and receive our guests.

High Hopes for GINZA SIX

In Japan we have a unique way of expressing aesthetic value. When I try to explain this concept to foreigners, I use the word "emptiness". Instead of overwhelming the observer with ideas, you make every effort to impose nothing. It's about leaving room to receive the observer's worldview, interpretation, emotions, ideas, etc.
The gorgeous and ostentatious TopkapıPalace in Turkey puts all of its jewels on display, and that is one way to attract interest-and certainly, one type of beauty. It is People would have the freedom to conjure up their own ideas and impressions-and the space would be all the richer for it. But what if instead of packing a space with every idea you've got, you left it as "empty" as possible For me, that is the way to invoke a new vision of luxury that this country alone can put forth.
It's essentially the concept behind the tokonoma [an alcove in a Japanese-style reception room for displaying a flower arrangement or other piece of art]. The space exists to inspire you-maybe to display a single-flower arrangement, or to hang a picture scroll. Japanese culture can often come across as impenetrable, but if we can convey a sense of "this is open to interpretation", I think people would be much more interested in seeing what Japan has to offer.
So we should give foreign visitors a taste of Japanese-style luxury as a way of speaking to their inner desires. We should possess a true understanding and appreciation of our own cultural background and focus on how to present a vision that will inspire people to come all the way to Japan to experience it firsthand-to buy and take home. And that may be different from the conventional image of luxury put forth by high-end brands up until now. But I believe it is the path to realizing the New Luxury envisioned by GINZA SIX.
My wish is for GINZA SIX to become the heart and soul at Ginza's center, a wellspring of new ideas, beauty, and value.


Kenya Hara

Born in Okayama Prefecture in 1958, Kenya Hara is President of Nippon Design Center and a professor at Tokyo's Musashino Art University. Much of his work is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, including the programs for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games (1998) and the official poster for Expo 2005 held in Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. He is a renowned designer of things as well as experiences. In addition to GINZA SIX' s overall visual identity, he has developed the visual identity for its TSUTAYA store.

(September, 2016 interview)
Interview and Text by Yuka Okada / Photographs by Satoko Imazu