Yoshitaka, Hironori, Yuki and Nihito are the people behind the design collective, Studio OOILI, that brings design and entertainment together in an unconventional way. “OOILI” means “full house” or “big money” in Japanese – they say it’s a happy word.
The four Japanese freelancers met in Berlin in spring 2015, and found a strong connection through their unique sense of humour and love for impeccable design. They teamed up for the first Factory Hackathon and became the audience’s absolute favorite – we get why. Now we asked them about hackathons, freelancing, coworking and work culture in Tokyo vs. Berlin.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA OF STUDIO OOILI?
Yuki: All of us have slightly different backgrounds and skill sets – I’m an illustrator, Yoshitaka is a graphic designer, Hironori is a front-end developer and Nihito is a photographer / film editor – so we complement each other perfectly. After tons of individual freelance projects, we felt that we are ready for the next big step and figured that we can make better use our superpowers in art direction and branding as a team.
Hironori: Studio OOILI was born while we were preparing for the Factory Hackathon in July. We were still in the phase of experimenting: we had the name and the logo, but the hackathon was our first real project as a team.
WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF YOUR FIRST HACKATHON?
Yoshitaka: We developed an app, didn’t take the task too serious though. Our main goal was to have fun and entertain the audience. The other participants seemed to have taken the whole thing a lot more serious, they were more practical and focused on the perfection of their prototype.
Nihito: The atmosphere helped us a lot to be creative. It was more festival-like, not really what you would expect at a hackathon, so it was easy to play on the good vibes. Most of the hackers disappeared for the night, but we wanted to do it right, like a real marathon, so we didn’t go home to sleep.
Yuki: To be honest, we’ve seen the other talented teams and didn’t have high hopes for winning. We tried to stand out and do something different, something unique and fun. I think that’s what brought us the audience prize…
AND YOUR PRIZE WAS TO BE AMONG THE FIRST COWORKING MEMBERS AT FACTORY...
Yuki: Yes! It’s a wonderful playground. At first we didn’t have any idea how to use all this creative space, but step by step we realized that there are endless possibilities to get in contact with the other coworkers and meet like-minded people. That helps a lot if you’re working as a freelancer.
DOES COWORKING HAVE A TRADITION IN JAPAN?
Hironori: Not really, Japanese freelancers tend to work from Starbucks. This seems to be changing now, we have new coworking spaces opening up. However, workspaces with their cubicles still resemble karaoke boxes – without much air or space for creativity. Here in Berlin coworking is about the community and the people you meet.
HOW DOES THE WORK CULTURE IN TOKYO DIFFER FROM THE ONE IN BERLIN?
Yoshitaka: Tokyo is too busy, there are no weekends or holidays. Before I came to Berlin I was working at a music production company and was involved in other projects on the side. By the time I left Japan, I barely had any sleep between working hours and often slept at the office. Eventually I left because I was seeking adventure and wanted to get international work experience as a graphic designer. My goal was to make good design without many boundaries and limitations to my creativity. Truth to be told, it’s hard to be innovative in Tokyo.
Yuki: I agree. In Japan when it comes to business, it’s not easy to be causal in any ways: not with your freetime, work, colleagues or outfit. You have to wear a suit the whole day.
Hironori: European people value their freetime and privacy a lot more. You earn more in Japan, but you have practically no time to spend your salary. The whole perception of weekdays and weekends is completely different. In Berlin I feel like I’m supposed to relax on Sundays. This is almost an obligation in the best possible way.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU MISS ABOUT JAPAN?
Nihito: The food, definitely! You can’t really survive on currywurst and schweinebraten. But the German beer compensates for everything!
Yuki: Sometimes we get nostalgic, but there is a rather big Japanese community in Berlin, and its members are really close. Acquaintances become friends very quickly.
WHY IS BERLIN ATTRACTIVE FOR YOUNG JAPANESE ENTREPRENEURS?
Nihito: Europeans often think that Germany is bureaucratic, full of unnecessary rules, but not through the eyes of someone from Japan. Berlin is attractive for us because it offers a lot of freedom, you can actually earn money and get by as an artist.
Hironori: The local people are open to foreigners, they are eager to get to know you and your culture! Not to mention that prices and rents are rather low and it’s easier get a visa here, than in other European countries.
Nihito: German beer is awesome and that alone is a solid reason for me to stay! My parents used to live here 15 years ago, so we always have a lot to share and it’s fun to compare their experience with ours. Berlin is constantly changing, there is always something new to explore.