A website serves as a space for communicating with customers｜１
--Mr. Iwaki, I understand that you were the catalyst behind Shiseido's move to incorporate the Internet and digital technology into design in 1995. Could you tell us how these events came about?
IwakiThis history goes rather far back in time. When I was studying design and engineering at the Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Engineering (presently the Department of Design ) of Chiba University, the experience of using the early versions of CAD (a tool for producing drawings and 3D simulation designs on the computer) left a vivid impression on me, and I even wrote my graduation thesis about the use of computers in design work. After graduating, I joined Toyota as a designer, and worked there for about five years. Thereafter, I decided to change jobs for personal reasons, and joined Shiseido. Even then, I continued with my CAD research work, albeit more slowly.
--So you continued with CAD research?
IwakiYes, I did. After joining Shiseido, I was mainly in charge of designing packaging. At one point, I was posted to the United States as an expatriate. Mr. Yoshiharu Fukuhara, who is currently our Honorary Chairman, was the manager of the overseas division at the time, and enjoyed touring art museums. When he visited the United States, it was customary for the expatriates from the Advertising and Design Department to accompany him on these museum tours. When it was my turn to do so, I told him, "In America, commercials produced using CG are beginning to emerge. Shiseido should also produce something like that!" Some time later, I received notification to return to Japan.
--Did digital design begin earnestly with support from Mr. Fukuhara?
IwakiYes. To begin with, Mr. Fukuhara was close to researchers at Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), which is renowned for its strong IT research. He also had a keen interest in the Internet. I also believe that the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck in January 1995 was a major trigger. From the day after the earthquake, staff in Kobe City began photographing scenes of the affected areas using digital cameras and sharing them on the Internet. The possibility that the Internet could become an amazing form of media became a hot topic even among the people around me. Against this backdrop, a group of volunteers came together and launched a bilingual (Japanese and English) website in October 1995, titled "Cyber Island of Shiseido." 1995 was the year when many companies, including Shiseido, began launching their own websites, and in some ways, the year when companies in Japan began to use the Internet actively.
--After setting up the website, what kind of reactions were there within the company?
IwakiAt the time, the company was split between those who were advocates of the Internet, and those who took a prudent approach toward it. Even among the advocates, there were many who perceived the Internet as a new form of advertising medium. Personally, I viewed the Internet not as an advertising medium, but as a way of communicating with users.
NishimuraI think Mr. Iwaki has incredible foresight. In 1995, I had been studying overseas in the United Kingdom, and it was the same year I began using e-mail as a communication tool. I remember feeling a vague sense of excitement that the Internet would transform the ways in which we communicate.
KagayaAfter you set up the website, what were the reactions from the users like? To begin with, it was a time when few people among the general public had actually been using the Internet.
IwakiJust as you said, even when we analyzed the access statistics, we found that the visitors to our website were mostly users from other companies that had launched their websites at the same time, and there were few users from the general public. Nevertheless, that was precisely the reason why the respective companies involved were strongly aware of the moves made by one another. In actual fact, Shiseido was the first among the corporate websites to place a prominent banner on the right hand side of the landing page. We lined up a row of buttons representing each product brand. In the next two months or so, everyone began to imitate us. It was an idyllic and simple time (laughs).
NishimuraNo, the first generation has such a cool aura about them!
Shiseido's corporate website "Cyber Island of Shiseido" (1995)