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Depicting the ways of working in the future – Creating a highly sociable new project with Okamura

In addition to manufacturing and selling office furniture, Okamura Corporation (subsequently referred to as Okamura) offers consulting and design services to transform a variety of spaces into a comfortable environment. Okamura started a project in 2015 to rethink the ways people will be working in the future based on the vision to “become a company to create the new office culture of Japan.” Loftwork Inc. has been involved in the project since its inception, and continues to support Okamura’s project members create a new asset.

As the first step of the project, online media was created to spread Okamura’s vision and its new offerings to the world. The owned media is entitled, “WORK MILL,” to change the way to look at “work” and extract valuable things. In order to come up with the most appropriate way to work in the present Japanese society, Loftwork Inc. has continued to support planning and operation of “WORK MILL,” from the conceptualization stage to now.

Project overview

Creative/process details

“Why did it become “DRAW YOUR WORK,” and not “make your work” or “create your work”?
In Japanese, “Egaku” is used to convey internal amorphous matters
to others, like dreams, ideals, and pictures.
We believe that the phrase, “DRAW YOUR WORK” was chosen
because it contains the message that “ways to work” is not something given by others.”

At the start, the concept of the project was set with a broader perspective, since the aim of the project was not to create media, but to “draw new ways to work.”

Deciding on the project concept/VI design

Setting the concept/how to manage VI design

We held several discussions/workshops to clarify the overall direction of the project before we started making the platform to disperse information. The entire member shared a sense of purpose “to convey something as Okamura,” and the function and placement of media within the project.

Discussions between the project members from both companies.

Workshops involved a variety of stakeholders.

The direction this project aims to take was carefully put into words.

The design of WORK MILL’s logo, such as its colors, was fine tuned.

The project concept and VI design were directed by a senior director, Shigematsu, and designed by Daisuke Sugawara from Ligh. The VI design was inspired by a picture book by Mitsumasa Anno called “Fushigina E,” and achieved the look befitting the project concept to bring about free ideas outside of the stereotype.

Building the online media

Based on the concept of spreading the future of “work” by curating it from a variety of points of view, it was built with a capacity for the operators to arbitrarily curate, aside from the order of arrival, in order to flatly expose people to the contents, as though they are flipping through a magazine, rather than forcibly pushing information in the form of a ranking. With the bluish gray background of VI design, the worldview of the logo is emphasized.

Deciding on editorial policy/Operation

With Hara at the center, the editorial policy and the process of executing the plan were organized. During the decision phase of the editorial policy, Junya Mori with inquire Inc. was brought in as an external advisor to thoroughly set WORK MILL’s message and target, and the worldview created by the media.

As the leader of the editorial team, Hara made a variety of plans to continuously grow WORK MILL including a planning sheet used to document newly created contents, a communication tool for the editorial team, designing an editorial meeting committee, and a monthly strategy for the contents.

The article presents the concept of “DRAW YOUR WORK” in a variety of people and themes. The editorial team from both Okamura and Loftwork Inc. bring news-worthy materials and ideas for the themes, and select those befitting WORK MILL to steadily grow its contents.

The direction and management of the articles are supervised by Sekiguchi and Yoshizawa. By utilizing their networks, they are collaborating with various writers and photographers to work on their creations. Toshiki Nonaka offers the illustrations to more easily convey the points of the article.

Creator’s comments

Daisuke Sugawara


Regardless of the service or product, the employees of the company are the ones that actually come up with the ideas and make them. If a company is a person, its products that reach the consumers are like a body that connects it to the world, and its employees and the working environment are like its soul.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that WORK MILL is thinking about a company’s soul. There should be many types of people, companies, and working environments.

I hope people freely find, from unpredictable angles, a variety of ways to work, like this 3-dimensional logo that is unbound by gravity like “Fushigina E.”

Junya Mori

inquire Inc.

When operating media, the important thing is for all affiliated persons to share the goals and intentions. Through multiple discussions and workshops, I was able to see that the affiliated members had a solid understanding of the project. The only thing that remains is to actually put it into shape as media. My role was to provide support to do this.

When the worldview and the concept are mostly set, the editorial policy and the contents are determined through prototyping. The ideas for the contents are formulated based on the editorial policy, and the specific ideas are viewed against the editorial policy. I helped polish each side through these exchanges. “Ways to work” is an important theme for me as well. I would be happy to see more Japanese people, who can envision new ways to work through WORK MILL.

Toshiki Nonaka

WORK MILL’s articles are mostly interviews on people who are taking on challenges characterized by the keyword, “work.” I always enjoy reading the manuscript featuring unique ideas and experiences of the interviewees.

Since WORK MILL’s articles are on new topics and don’t fit the existing patterns, it is not easy to visualize them with illustrations. It is possible to draw pictures only after overcoming a variety of obstacles including having a full understanding the article, then deciding which phrases should be expressed graphically, which keywords should be emphasized, and what kind of metaphors should be used.

Loftwork Inc. and Okamura’s editorial team help me better understand the article and complete the job. I would be happy if the illustrations for WORK MILL help the articles make a greater impression, and help bring better understanding of the articles.

Discussions with project members

“DRAWING YOUR WORK” – the idea behind the project concept was deeplu rooted in what Osonoi, a project leader for Okamura, has always felt as topic-worthy in his long career. What were Okamura’s and Osonoi’s ideas behind the WORL MILL project? How were they being materialized with Loftwork? The members of the project, Osonoi, Yamada, Taniguchi, and Yanagikawa and Hara from Loftwork Inc. review the project.

Text: Takeshi Nishiyama
Images: Ryosuke Iwamoto

“Ideas behind “WORK MILL,” a desire to change how people work in Japan.”

Okamura Corporation, Marketing Main Office, Solutions Team, Future planning room, Hiroshi Osonoi (in center)

Yanagawa (Loftwork Inc.): I knew you from before this project, and I remember that you were studying “ways to work” since then. Why are you working on new ways to work at Okamura Corportaion?

Osonoi (Okamura): In my previous work, I was at the forefront of Japanese manufacturing for over 10 years. The technology was truly amazing, but I frequently wondered, “why this kind of antiquated, inefficient method was chosen?”, when I was the ways people were working at the company. Culmination of these questions led me to go to graduate school to study “better ways to work” in the summer of 2011. I wanted to systematically organize my experiences and questions.

Yanagawa: Did you change jobs from the electronics manufacturer to a software company around this time?

Osono: Yes. Around this time, I mainly worked as a business consultant, specializing in IT. As a pat of this job, I had the opportunity to visit the offices of various companies. After visiting a variety of “wore working space,” and seeing people with different specialty areas gathered in a refined space to create new jobs, I felt confident that “if we change the place to work, we should be able to update the current ways people work in Japan,” and thus chose to study “core working space” for my thesis.

Yanagawa: You visited our “KOIL (Kashiwa no Ha Open Innovation Laboratory)” for these reasons?

Osonoi: KOIL opened when I joined Okamura. As a resident of Kashiwa, and as someone studying core working, I had to visit. I met people at Loftwork Inc. for the first time at this visit. Members had unique characteristics and their undertakings were all interesting. I wished to work together with them in the future.

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“Aiming for a fundamental solution to the problem, where making media is not the goal.”

Yanagawa: When you joined Okamura, the preliminary form of “WORK MILL” was already in play there, right?

Osonoi: At that time, they had started working to “strengthen the ways to disseminate information to the world.”In order to create a fan-community that goes beyond the framework of “clients” vs “companies,”outward-looking communication is necessary. In January, 2015, this work took shape, and became a new project. At kick-off, the president proclaimed, “let’s become the company that creates new Japanese office culture!”. Based on his words, the business statement became: “DRAW YOUR WORK.”

Yanagawa: We joined the project around the time this business statement was set. I remember you telling me that you “want to create a platform to spread information.”

Yamada (Okamura): At the time, the only opportunity our company had to voluntarily spread information was at exhibits, thus, we that we first need a place where we can express our ideas and claims. Vaguely, we knew “it would be nice to have online media.” We consulted Loftwork Inc. with this proposal, and was a bit surprised to get a response asking, “is online media really what you want?”

Yanagawa:: We often receive requests to “create online media/owned media.” After a careful discussion, we learn that in many cases, “making media” has become the goal. Media is a “method” to convey something. If the purpose of the media is not clear, even a great-looking media is wasted. Therefore, quickly accepting a job to “make media” does not lead to solving client’s fundamental issues.

Osonoi: That is why we organized the purpose of the project with Loftwork Inc. As a result, we decided to create an online platform to spread our message. I believe it was able to expand into the current “WORK MILL” because we had the time to go back to start at that time. The name “WORK MILL” came about during these discussions.

Yanagawa : The members of the project were able to clearly understand that “it is not a ‘job to make media,’ but a ‘job to create a prokect to change the ways people work’” called “WORK MILL.” Online media was merely one of the steps in “WORK MILL” project, and we were thinking of creating a more 3-dimensional project from it.

Hara (Loftwork Inc.) : I was not initially assigned “to make media,” but called to “grow the project.” Media is just one of the tasks in running in parallel. I was able to clearly have the vision to present new ways people work by resonating “Sea”*, an offline place, and “WORK MILL,” an online place.

* A work space operated by Okamura as a part of the “WORK MILL” project. Events to search for a better “work” in the future are periodically held here.

“Operating media focused on ‘whom to create with’ rather than ‘what to create.”

Yanagawa:The online media, “WORK MILL,” was released in December, 2015. There were some complications up to this point, like setting up the concept, but as a project, the true test was after it was released.

Osonoi:Since Okamura had no prior experience with managing media, everything was done blindly at first such as, “what should be presented?” and “how should the standards for evaluation and target values be set?”. We got a lot of help from Loftwork Inc. in this regard.

Hara:The flow of content creation was brushed up to this point through repeated trial and error. We were flexible in changing the tools we use, based on the need.

Yamada:After we started it, we realized how naïve we were about “making media.”

Osonoi:Even if the “box” is impressive, as long as the “contents”are not well thought out, our messages will not be understood. We talked about how to improve the quality of the contents during every meeting.

Hara:For this, we tried to “see things in the same way as people from Okamura” and made improvements. We did not hesitate to spend time to communicate with each other to achieve this. Even now, we have a monthly face-to-face meeting, and we hold a thorough wrap-up meeting before and after the interviews.

Okamura Corporation, Marketing Main Office, Office Research Laboratory: Mikoto Taniguchi

Taniguchi (Okamura): Yes. I felt that the process to try to make improvements is different from other companies. They carefully listened to our thoughts and made proposals based on our needs. For a while after the release of the media, we failed to achieve desired results. I believe we were able to overcome this difficult time together because Loftwork Inc. was sensitive to our needs.

Yanagawa:What we, on the creative side, have to consider carefully is “whom to create with” rather than “what to create.” Even if we create what we consider to be the best, if it is not “the best” for Okamura, it is completely meaningless. We extracted information from Osonoi’s regular comments, and repeatedly confirmed their intensions by asking, “does that mean you find these things problematic?”or “that’s why it would be better to correct these things, right?”. As a result, we were able to grow “WORK MILL” without significant rift.

“Open collaboration brings about creative ideas.”

Osonoi: In actually managing media, I am grateful for the depth of Loftwork Inc.’s network. It has some sort of connections with everyone we have been interested in featuring on our media, which frequently makes negotiating for an interview easier.

Taniguchi: We were able to do interviews with the author of “Ashita no Koukoku,” Naoyuki Sato, and the founder of “CRAZY WEDDING,” Saki Yamakawa, because of Loftwork Inc.’s network.

Osonoi: I feel that Loftwork Inc. is very good at connecting “client network” and “creative network.” Rather than ending on a 1-on-1 relationship, they think, “it would be interesting for these people to work together,” and connect people outside of their own interest. I think they are offering unique values through this kind of involvement through “curiosity.”

Hara: That’s true, we have a lot of people who are dedicated to novel and interesting things.

Okamura Corporation, Marketing Main Office, Office Research Laboratory: Yusuke Yamada

Yamada: Loftwork Inc. maintains an environment that allows “open collaboration” at a high level. For example, let’s say that us, Yanagawa, and Hara become stuck during a “WORK MILL” project. In this kind of situation, the problem is shared within Loftwork Inc., and ideas are gathered from the members of other projects to come up with some kind of an input. I feel that being able to constantly collaborate with people outside of departmental boundaries is an extremely logical and creative organizational structure.

Osonoi: Loftwork Inc. seems like the company itself is a “core working space. There is diversity within the company, and each employee is connected to one another. Through these relationships, new jobs are spontaneously and sequentially born. Perhaps Loftwork Inc.’s company system will become the milestone for the way people work in Japan going forward. I am truly grateful for being able to create media, based on the concept of “changing the ways people work,” together with a company that makes me feel this way.

Yanagawa: I am happy to hear you say that. It is fun for us to think about the future of “WORK MILL.” I hope we can continue to work like this.