We write, design, edit and consult for people
all over the world. We live and work in Japan.

Benjamin Hubert founds Layer

» Design


Benjamin Hubert Ltd has expanded into Layer, an experience-driven design agency fuelled by a growing, multi-disciplinary creative team. Layer launched at London Design Festival in September.

The newly founded agency is focused on experiential design for both the physical and digital worlds. Led by Benjamin, Layer creates human-centred design to deliver experiences with meaning.


Colour theory for kids

» Culture, Design, Japan







Colour theory is all about how colours can - some say should - be mixed and how designers in particular use them to convey messages or effects.

A lot of colours and shades are said to be complementary, although I've found that's often a matter of opinion. I think blue and yellow go very well together (Sweden would probably agree) yet think orange and blue look pretty horrible together (Firefox would probably disagree).

Anyway, part of colour theory is how colours are made and how they mix. A new set of paints produced by Kokuyo has been popping up on blogs recently because of the way it presents colours. Rather than using the names of the colours, the tubes show how each colour is created. Called "なまえのないえのぐ" (literally "Nameless Paint"), the idea is to challenge perceptions by removing the "stereotypes" attached to colour, such as "leaves are green", and encourage a more perceptive approach.

Continue reading "Colour theory for kids" »

Autumn smiles and autumn specials

» Design, Editing, Japan, Writing


I love autumn pretty much anywhere in the world, especially here in Japan.

We can say goodbye to the heat, humidity, bugs and mould of the summer and enjoy crisp mornings, warm days and cool evenings. And no bloody mosquitoes. It's a brilliant season to enjoy the outdoors and exercise.

As the weather's changing for the better, I've noticed a load of autumn sales and special offers popping up here and there, and it got me thinking: I've very rarely seen designers, writers or editors offering special offers. They probably do - it's not like I search very hard - but I don't remember seeing it.

So, we've decided to. We usually charge by the hour (more on that in the next post) and until winter starts getting its frosty fingers into us, we're knocking a full 30% off our fees. That means we'll design something for you, write something, edit something or give you some advice for only 70% of what you'll pay when the snow starts falling. (I'm good at maths, me.)

We're keeping the offer opens until the end of November, and even if you ask us to start a project on November 30, you'll still get the 30% off. Send us an email now and let us know how we can help.

Happy autumn!

Feeling stuck?

» Culture, Inspiration, Zen

"You think this is just another day in your life? It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you today. It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well."

- Brother David Steindl-Rast

Tokyo's Hotel Okura closes

» Architecture, Culture, Japan, Tokyo


The five-star Hotel Okura officially closed its doors yesterday in preparation for demolition and a complete rebuild.

Although many people outside Japan have been angered by the closure and proposed demolition, the reaction in Japan has been more muted. A crowd gathered and applauded as the lights went off at midnight, and some shared their memories of either staying at or visiting the hotel. Many, though, understand that times change.

Continue reading "Tokyo's Hotel Okura closes" »

Vibram Furoshiki

» Design, Japan


I'm not really sure what to make of Vibram's Furoshiki shoes. Based on the Japanese wrapping cloths of the same name, the Furoshiki look very fexible and comfortable. They also look a bit odd.

Parents who hit their children and other illustrations

» Culture, Illustration

Smack my kids up?

(Here's a link for those who don't understand the reference)

Continue reading "Parents who hit their children and other illustrations" »

Zaha Hadid's Olympic Stadium for Tokyo scrapped

» Architecture, Japan, Tokyo
Abe boots the bike helmet.

Continue reading "Zaha Hadid's Olympic Stadium for Tokyo scrapped" »

To be happier, seek experiences, not things

» Culture, Happy Monday

"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences."

Science suggests we should be spending our cash on experiences rather that materials goods to become happier. Read more on Fast Company.

Modular design and education

» Branding, Design, Work

Both my bachelors and masters degrees were based on modules, we've got a modular layout in our office, plus we've unconsciously moved towards a modular design approach for client work. Most of all, we're interested not only in how the modules work together, but how they complement each other.

Many modular designs, from furniture and buildings to electronic goods and educational courses are designed to fit together in blocks, with each block slotting together to create a whole. Without enough modules, for example, my degrees would have been incomplete.

That's fine for a lot of things, but it reduces our choices and binds us to a whole that we might not want. Rather than creating systems where the modules are interdependent, we want to create systems that are much more interconnected and - although it's not a real word - intervaluable.

Continue reading "Modular design and education" »

Albert - a clock to make maths fun

» Design, Design for a difference, Featured Works


Albert by Paris-based MNTNT isn't just a lovely looking minimalist clock, but "a digital wall clock that keeps your brain active and helps to improve the mathematical skills of you and your kids in a playful way. Simply by reading the time."

With five levels of difficulty, you have to solve the mathematical problems to tell the time. Brilliant!

Find out more and support the project on the Albert Kickstarter page.

The rainy season in Japan

» Japan, Tokyo

Rainy season in Japan

The rainy season in Japan is known as 梅雨 (tsuyu) - literally 'plum rain'. Being the quick to catch on chap that I am, it's only taken me fifteen years of living here to find out that it's called 'plum rain' because the crappy weather coincides with the plum harvest.

I console myself with the fact that loads of Japanese people don't know that, either. Like the characters used in its name, it comes from China, which I found out while watching the international weather forecast on CNN (it's called baiyu in China, apparently).

The point is, it's the rainy season time in Japan again, and here's what to expect:

1) Rain

No surprise there, but it can be relentless, all day long, miserable, draining rain. It varies between bouncing off the floor downpours to truly aggravating drizzle.

Continue reading "The rainy season in Japan" »

Simple ways to save time and money on editing

» Editing, Writing

If you're thinking of getting something checked by a professional editor (which I recommend), here are a few things you can do to save some time and money.

1) Get somebody you trust to read it through

Ask somebody whose opinion you trust to read what you've written, even if it's just a few paragraphs for a long piece. See if they think it sounds like you, if it makes sense, if it's interesting, if it flows, etc.

This can give you a chance to redo parts of it to save some back and forth between you and your editor.

Continue reading "Simple ways to save time and money on editing" »

Thought for the weekend

» Inspiration

Expecting extraordinary people to take ordinary jobs is a waste of time.

Connected promotional gifts

» Branding, Marketing


Here in Japan you see loads of people handing out pocket tissues and, in summer, plastic fans to advertise their businesses. I used to think it was a great idea because they’re useful and people seem to take them more often than not. I’ll usually take tissues. Fans not so often.

The thing is I’ll almost never look at what they’re advertising. I might notice that they’re advertising houses or a clinic, yet I’ve never checked the name of the company and certainly never acted on the advertisement.

Nothing has ever made me inclined to do so because I very rarely make connections between tissues and things like houses.

Continue reading "Connected promotional gifts" »

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storm from the east / Japan.


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