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alice ishiguro tosey

Hey Alice, how’s things?

Heya. Good thanks, just had a lovely winter break and now ready and excited to be back for the second term of my masters.

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself

I'm a half Japanese, quarter English, quarter Italian creative who has journeyed back and forth between London and Tokyo for personal and professional exploration over the past ten years.

I studied my BA in graphic design at Kingston University and in autumn last year I started a masters at UAL Camberwell that’s in collaboration with Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan. The masters looks at interdisciplinary roles to address social and environmental challenges.

You describe yourself as a creative. What does that mean to you?

I seem to change my job title every now and then as my design practice evolves. It started off as ‘graphic designer’ but as I’ve experimented with different mediums that felt too specific. In short: I make stuff.

If you weren’t a designer what do you think you would be?

I’d probably own a small cafe on the outskirts of london somewhere, serving cakes and japanese tea.

You have worked at many prestigious design agencies. Has there been any projects that stand out to you?

I’ve been very fortunate to work on some great projects but the stand outs are: Williams rebrand at hat-trick design. It was my first big job as a junior designer so I was in awe at every moment. I learnt so much through the process too.

Royal Mail stamps have always been a delight; there’s something so wonderful about working to such a small format.

Whilst at Johnson Banks, we worked on the branding for Oak National Academy during lockdown. It showed just what could be achieved with tight constraints and a new, different working environment.

What was the best bit of advice you had received from your time at those agencies?

It wasn’t from any of the studios specifically but something I’ve taken on is “its only bloody graphic design.” We’re lucky to do a job we love so there’s no point getting stressed out.

I’d love to talk about your connection to Japan. Would you mind going into more detail?

My mother is Japanese and I was raised in London. We’d often visit over the summer holidays but then there was a long gap where I didn’t go. During this time my brother moved there, so I booked a trip to visit him. I spent two weeks in absolute bliss and on my return to London I sent him a text saying I’d be back some day. There were a few short lived stints, then in January 2021 I finally took the leap to live in Tokyo and study Japanese. It was during this time that I truly started to forge a relationship.

What does your Japanese roots mean to you?

It's the majority of my genetic make up yet it's the side that I had less connection to growing up. Japan has been a consistent attraction for me, hence finding myself slightly split between the two locations. I’m sure it will be an ongoing investigation and using creativity helps me navigate the journey in a light hearted way.

You had a career break in Japan in 2021. What was this experience like for you?

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’d made many excuses for why it was never the right time, so naturally mid pandemic was perfect! I was lucky to have my brother there to support but also met so many incredible people who made it such a memorable time. It completely opened up my perspective both creatively and in my personal life. To take a pause from work and learn a new skill that wasn’t directly linked to my practice, allowed more freedom for self initiated projects. This was something I was missing since my university days.

Talk to me about your latest series of works.

I self published a photography book last year, Camouflaged Cars of Tokyo, which is a playful and personal observation of Japan. It was a project I worked on whilst I was living there and then printed it here in London with a launch in both cities last summer.

I continue to look at typography and language. As I started studying Japanese, I enjoyed finding ways for how and where the English and Japanese can connect; to reflect this middle ground I found myself in and my own learning process. As part of Typocircle committee, Jim Sutherland and I ran some typographic workshops using characters from the two alphabets. Removing their meaning and seeing how people interpret and work with the graphic forms was really inspiring.

You’ve been a mentor for institutions like D&AD New Blood and Kerning the Gap. Is mentoring something you’re passionate about?

Absolutely. I had an art teacher who encouraged me to apply for a foundation course, a graphics tutor who inspired me to study design, a super senior designer (at the time) who really nurtured me and a creative director that has guided me throughout my career. I would not be where I am without all of their generous time, encouragement and patience! I’ve witnessed the benefit of having someone there to learn from and ask stupid questions to and I want to be able to pass that on.

Why did you want to do a masters degree?

I actually looked in to it a few years ago, similarly at that time I was wanting to find a sense of personal design practice. What was different this time was that I was at a place in my career where I didn’t see the next steps within the industry being for me. Then there was a bit of a serendipitous moment when I spoke with an old tutor and he mentioned this course. I still can’t quite believe it exists as it keeps me connected to both countries, its within my passion of design and has a positive social drive.

How important was it choosing the right institution?

This course is quite unique so it was the only one I applied to. Where you choose to study is crucial though. Not only due to the time and money that you’re committing to but to find a sense of place. It's important for it to feel like the right fit. Visiting campuses and talking to tutors or current students can really help with this. No where will be perfect so you’ve got to go off your intuition sometimes and find a place that shares similar priorities or principles for what you want to get out of the course.

Who are your standout creatives?

Jessica Sutherland

Jess’ sensibility in her work always brings a smile to my face. She recently did a beautiful typographic project with buttons.

Susanna Fopoli

Susanna has a lovely range of cultural work that is always well crafted.

Lyam Bewry

Lyam has also ventured abroad and continues to create such brilliant work. He has a great personal project on the way too…

For my final question, whats next?

Finish the masters, continue to work between London and Japan (without killing the planet) and create some kind of new venture.

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