BIRDMAN’s Roy Ryo Tsukiji Brings Crazy Ideas to Life Through Digital Design

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Roy Ryo Tsukiji is the Founder, President, and Creative Director of BIRDMAN – a digital design studio based in Tokyo. He spent much of his student life in Singapore and Australia before coming to Japan to work as a graphic designer at an advertising agency. After his encounter with Flash, he began to implement interactivity in his work, which led him to establish his own company in 2004. BIRDMAN has now risen in the ranks to become one of the most highly acclaimed companies in the digital promotion industry, and with the motto, “Crazy ideas, Digital love”, they aim to bring crazy ideas to life using innovative technology. A few of their well-known works are Nike Unlimited Stadium, Is Japan Cool? DOU, and Nissan Intelligent Parking Chair. Having won gold at Cannes Lions, gold at The One Show, Grand Prix at Spikes Asia, and many more, BIRDMAN continues to soar to new heights through their craft.

You have a diverse upbringing, in which you spent a long time in Australia and Singapore as a student, and then came to Japan. Has this had an effect on your work?

It’s had a significant impact. I believe my ability to see things objectively comes from my background. Being able to speak English has been a very large advantage for my current job as well. Japan is a very isolated country in comparison to the rest of the world; a successful advertisement overseas will almost never succeed in Japan. It’s not just the fact that English won’t be understood – the way the Japanese think and the way you captivate them is completely different. The ability to see these aspects from an objective standpoint has been highly beneficial for me.

What do you believe is unique about Japanese creative work?

The uniqueness behind Japanese creative work lies within the details. It’s the reason why Japanese creative work wins many awards in design categories for award shows, such as Cannes Lions. The Japanese are very skilled at detailed craftsmanship.

What do you believe makes your specific work special and unique in the digital interactive space?

When creating work, I make sure to have the mindset of, “Will this be fun even for my own child?” So, I think what’s special and unique about my work is UX design that anyone can enjoy and doesn’t require any explanation.

How do you get inspired when you run out of ideas?

I’ll stop thinking about it for the time being and do other work. Or take a bath or go to the gym. Oftentimes, ideas come to me while taking a shower. And maybe while on the toilet too :)

Do you think artificial intelligence would replace human creatives in the future?

Yes, I do. To be more accurate, the process has already begun in certain areas. Especially for online advertising, targeting data and artificial intelligence now work together to generate a unique, individualized webpage for each person.

For instance, even if you and I were to look at the exact same car website with identical URLs, depending on our age, gender, marital status, and whether we have children or not, a completely different website will be displayed for each of us. Copy and text will probably be automatically generated by artificial intelligence as well.

What is something you wish you had done differently in your career?

There isn’t anything in particular. But that won’t be of much advice, so I’ll say that I set very short-term goals and dreams for myself and then work to achieve them. Some examples are wanting to be featured on lots of magazines this year or to receive many awards.

What is one piece of advice that you would like to tell students wishing to pursue advertising or a career as a creative?

Apart from the highly affluent, in general, most people must work to live. To acquire a creative career out of the infinite kinds of jobs out there is a very lucky and fortunate thing, and I believe it’s important to recognize that. Instead of living a life in which you constantly think, “I wish work would end sooner” every single day, being able to create something and actually feel like you don’t have enough time in the day is a far more meaningful life. You’ve chosen this amazing career of creating, so be sure to enjoy it to the fullest. Enjoy the challenge!

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Maya Iwata is a third-year Japanese-American advertising student in the Texas Creative sequence at The University of Texas at Austin. She interned at BIRDMAN Tokyo in the summer of 2018 after being highly captivated by their work.