Rio Nakasone ’17: Beauty by Design


Rio Nakasone in art class

Rio Nakasone ’17 was born and raised in Japan by fashion designers who owned a chain of women’s clothing stores. At CUI, he gained the skills to become a graphic designer for a hot brand back in Tokyo. More important, he learned the art of effective communication.

“Communication skills were really important for me because I was shy and would never talk to people,” Nakasone says. “Everyone at Concordia is so friendly. It was perfect for me. Now I express myself easier, talk to clients, and ask them questions about what they want. Getting deeper into what they’re thinking is really important.”

Those skills were reinforced at his campus coffee shop job, while skateboarding with friends, and in interactions with professor Rachel Soo in class and in office hours. Under her supervision, Rio dived into a design study of Trader Joe’s packages, whose creativity he found eye-catching.

Communication skills were really important for me because I was shy and would never talk to people. Everyone at Concordia is so friendly. It was perfect for me. Now I express myself easier, talk to clients, and ask them questions about what they want. Getting deeper into what they’re thinking is really important.

“I’d never seen such fonts,” he says. “In Japan, the characters of the language have to be simple and readable. But in English, the typography has a lot of freedom to it.”

Soo acted as Nakasone’s client as he made jam and tea packages to her specifications.

“I would make designs, show them to her, and she’d give them back, just like I do as a job now,” he says.

Nakasone also discovered design ideas while driving around Huntington Beach in his VW Beetle (on which he bestowed a Herbie the Love Bug stripe).

“They have a lot of cute cafes and restaurants,” he says. “I’d look at their use of colors, and that influenced me a lot.”

Today, Nakasone designs beautiful pamphlets, catalogues and packaging for a brand that specializes in flowers, jewelry and chocolate. He first learned those skills in a CUI course on digital publishing. His work was even featured as a large projection image on Japan’s most iconic train station.

I didn’t think it was going to be that big. I was at a loss for words when I first saw it. All the people were taking photos and selfies with it.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that big,” he says. “I was at a loss for words when I first saw it. All the people were taking photos and selfies with it.”

On another day, he was strolling through a department store and saw racks of handkerchiefs he had designed — and people buying them.

“That really touched me,” he says. “I love what I’m doing and am getting such good experience from it.”

There’s more ahead, he hopes — including possibly following in his parents’ footsteps.

“I’d like to design a clothing brand someday,” he says.

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