Creatives in Japan: Turning to Technology in the Face of Change

New research insights highlight the world’s fascination with Japan’s impact on global design trends and the creative economy.

When I think of Japan – one of the most creative countries in the world – uber modern approach, constant experimentation and boundary pushing styles come to mind across illustration, animation, modern art and fashion. Japanese design and creativity is having a huge impact on how the rest of the world creates and innovates.

That is why I found the results of our recent creativity research intriguing. Drawing data points and findings from the Creatives in Japan* research, along with public projects of nearly five million creatives on Behance**, we searched for a closer lens on what are Japanese creatives thinking, working on, aspiring to. How they are navigating the pace of change and new technology shifts, such as mobile and social media, in this this trending and dynamic country? The results didn’t match my experience when I look at creatives across Japan on Behance and in my interaction with them.

While the research found that there is a rebirth of both mobile and design currently taking place in Japan, we were surprised to see that the Japanese community is modest and even skeptical of creativity in their country, their work and hold unique views on the pace of change. This could not be more contrary – the world is fascinated with Japanese design and views the country at the forefront of creativity.

So it is our hope these research findings might remind Japanese creatives how much the world truly adores their work and to inspire them to take more advantage of their extraordinary talent and influence. Where to start? Perhaps by engaging more and sharing those stunning creations with the global community. We also think it is clear that by continuing to embrace and integrate mobile more into everyday creative workflows, and by leveraging the impact of social media, the next generation of Japanese creatives could go really far. We can’t wait to see what they make next.

A few top takeaways from those we surveyed:

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Creativity is Surging and Shifting towards Mobile
With all age groups are ideating, creating and sharing more work over the past year than ever, Japan is experiencing a marked surge of creativity. Sixty-six percent of creatives in Japan say creativity and design thinking are becoming more important to business. However, it’s the youngest age group of creatives who have grown most (18-22 year olds), with an impressive 205% year-over-year increase in social sharing communities like Behance with new signups. The younger demographic’s willingness to experiment with new mediums, and to share their work via mobile and social platforms, has no doubt been a catalyst for this impressive swell in creative membership. Given the strong growth from this group, we looked into their core competencies and found that illustration, drawing and graphic design were the three main areas that this demographic has hedged their bets on.

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That said, it isn’t just the youngest generation taking advantage or acknowledging the growing influence mobile is having on the design industry; in total, there was a 65% increase in mobile activity amongst Japanese Behance creatives last year. This drastic increase reiterates the need for a connected mobile workflow has never been greater – deadlines are tighter, resources are scarcer and workflows are increasingly more constricted – creativity on-the-go is at a premium. Not surprisingly, our research found that more than half of Japanese creatives believe mobile is transforming the face of creativity, with 74% noting that there is an increasing demand for efficient creativity. We also found Japanese creatives are experiencing a lot of pressure to learn new tools and processes, which confirms that the time to begin experimentation with a mobilized workflow is now.

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Tokyo Takes the Lead in Creativity
While Japan as a whole is producing consistently excellent work with an increasingly changing workflow, one constant is that Tokyo has remained the epicenter of creativity in the region—with nearly 12x more creatives than any other city in Japan. Being the hub for major Japanese art schools, and with so many creatives across a breadth of specialties, it is no surprise that Tokyo’s influence continues to grow – but what about the designers? What inspires them to ideate, iterate and produce new work? Well, we found that creatives are most motivated by seeing their ideas brought to life and the overriding sentiment of creating great work.

For background on where this exemplary work is happening in Japan, we created a heat map of the ideation capitals of the country. While Tokyo does have the largest presence, it is worth noting that some of the smaller cities (from a population perspective) are creating more work than the larger cities in the region – with Kyoto and Osaka making the top five list and beating out larger cities like Yokohoma and Sapporo:

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Illustration Has Largest Creative Impact
When people think of Japanese creative design, they immediately think of incredible Manga, animation and artwork – so it was no surprise to us that illustration is the most appreciated creative field for Japan on Behance. In fact, illustration has more than double the appreciations of the second most recognized creative field, graphic design, which substantiates Japanese illustration’s huge influence on the global creative community.

What is inspiring this profoundly innovative illustration? We found that new creatives are still consuming artistic content from reading books, newspapers or magazines, which could help account for the breadth/range in the types of illustration that are currently trending and most appreciated, including magazines/print, comics, character design, fine arts, anime and industrial design illustrations, visualized in the image below.

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Trending next …
With 18-22 year olds being so willing to experiment with new mediums, we have great optimism for the future of creativity and illustration in the burgeoning, marquee city of Tokyo. The greater creative community wants to engage with creatives from Japan – we’re intrigued by your work and would be thrilled to get a closer look inside your portfolios through Behance. A cross-pollination of ideas can only further cement Tokyo, and Japan at-large, at the epicenter of creativity, and we are excited to see what’s next.

Where will the Japan’s creativity economy steer us next? If you are in Japan next week, we hope you’ll join us for the live stream of the keynote where we will be launching our 2015 release of Creative Cloud.

*About Creatives In Japan:
The Creatives in Japan: Turning to Technology in the Face of Change report was curated by Edelman Berland based on data collected from 323 Japanese professionals in late April. All people polled worked in a creative industry, were employed or freelanced as a creative and currently reside in Japan.

**About Adobe Digital Index:
This creative focused report from Adobe Digital Index was mined from a data associated with 5 million Behance creatives including roughly 61,000 creatives who are currently members of Behance in Japan. The data includes information on tags, project fields, project topic, engagement activity, location and more. This creative insights data illustrates and predicts creativity trends and the pulse of the creative economy across industries

Scott Belsky

Leading Behance to connect and empower the creative world. VP Products & Community at Adobe. Publisher of 99U. Author of 'Making Ideas Happen'.

Scott Belsky