This month's cover design was produced by interactive designer Hisashi Tohsaki. He works at the web production group 'IMG SRC, Inc.' for client-based work. At the same time, he creates many examples of experimental and interactive programming. His own web site 'Tokyoace4', has lots of experimental projects. He is a spirited 23-year-old creator.
First of all, please tell us who you are.
Hisayoshi Tohsaki, 23 years old. I'm working at the web production group IMG SRC, Inc. in Tokyo. I studied computer science at SFC of Keio University, and started working in this industry when I was a junior at university.
Please tell us about the company IMG SRC, Inc..
IMG SRC, Inc. is a web production group established by Koji Itoh, ex-producer of Kinotrope, in the summer of 1998. I was the fourth member then, and now we have 15 members and a great deal of personality.
At present, sales mainly come from constructing web sites. We've built some corporate web sites for large companies such as Sony, NTT East and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and web sites for Tokyo Motor Show by BMW Japan and the art project called Earth From Above supported by Fuji Film.
I mainly do interactive programming using Java/DHTML/Lingo. I do graphic design and creative direction for some projects. I'm also part of the management.
What kind of projects are you doing with TokyoAce4?
TokyoAce4 is an index of my private projects. It originally started as an experimental project on communication between visitors and navigation that leads to information on the web site, but the project came to an end and the archive can be seen on lab001.tokyoace4.com. It has only links right now (I believe that this is a neutral design on the web), but I think I'll develop a new interface sometime in the near future.
The name 'TokyoAce4' originated in baseball, half as a joke. I'm not sure about the today's children, but an ace pitcher/fourth banner always looks cool to me. That's all.
Please explain the cover for this month's Shift.
This cover uses the engine that I developed for the screen saver 'Rewob'. This screen saver traces links on the web site, analyzes HTML tags, collects and remixes image files and creates motion graphics. Once it's translated into action, it creates graphics that symbolize the web site.
This shockwave version specially developed for Shift crawls inside the Shift web site and collects images.
There are some other web pages that show the page as if it's broken using images on a specific page, but this 'Rewob' was developed with a different concept (maybe) than them. Though the web is a huge database, ordinary users have to use a web browser like Internet Explore or Netscape to access the page. It's a bit strange isn't it? I believe the data should be used more freely by everyone and everyone should access to the data in the way they want. For me, 'Rewob' is one way to access the web.
'Rewob' is still a beta version. The proper version is now under development and it aims to realize a communication system that allows users to send the same images they're watching on their machines to other people.
Cursor Monitor has both private and commercial concepts at the same time. This system needs an exclusive server using DHTML and Java applets. It traces the mouse actions of visitors who access a specific web page and at the same time, it shows those actions to other visitors on the page. I wanted to represent communication that makes one's presence felt by other people like 'footsteps of someone walking upstairs'. It's different from other relatively direct communication tools like chat or Net Rezonator by Koji Itoh.
The commercial concept (this is thought highly than private concept though) means that it can be used as a tool to verify web page usability. It is possible to acquire the mouse actions of actual end users through the Internet, so it's very effective verifying a web site design.
With i Respect, I developed a Java applet. It was a project to represent the relationship of 'respect' between creators, but unfortunately, it's stopped for about one year.
The Synapse project was developed two years ago. I designed a system that allows more than one person to enjoy a word association game in realtime through the net. When I thought about myself, I came up with the idea that there was something as 'oneself' between a word associated with another word. For example, when you hear a word 'Mac', it might remind you of 'Macintosh', or other people might be reminded of 'McDonalds'. I think the results of a word association game between a male and a female group shows the difference by gender. Also, the results between a doctors and a lawyers group shows the difference by job. When you compare those results with your word association game, it should show yourself by a relative relationship. The web site is made with such a concept. Unfortunately, the system doesn't work now because I've left the site at university, but I would like to remake the project in the future.
Though these projects are interactive pieces, it doesn't mean that users and the computer interact with each other, but it has an interaction between users, or a user and I. I'm not always conscious of it, but I think it's one of the common themes in most of my works.
How did you start working on web design?
When I majored in business administration at university, UNIX was a compulsory subject. I learned the Internet at university as a part of the networking function of UNIX. The web was no more than a way of networking. In my early days at university, I devoted myself to using Mosaic. Yahoo Japan was not available and there was little content written in Japanese. Then I started to make some images using Photoshop version 2, write a diary and setup a counter like other students, but I was not totally absorbed in it. SFC has a program called 'STE' which allows us to search who was logging in which terminal from which room, and it was interesting to play with a program that can send an ornate initial to my friend's terminal. When I was a freshman at university, Netscape 2 was released and animated GIF and Java applets began to move. Using a Java applet, we became able to develop an interactive/graphical interface and write concrete poetry using the FONT tag. Then the web gradually began getting interesting for me.
Is there anyone who has an influence on you?
Concerning the web, I like Soulbath.com made by the 'Hi, Res!' people in the UK. They've made an excellent interface using Flash. Their 'Click Here!' project which many designers participate in is very interesting. The Spanish web production called Doubleyou.com is also great. And the interaction of Audi TT on the Audi Spain web site gave me a strong inspiration. Also, I'm really interested in Skim.com. I hope they have a shop around Japan.
In Japan, I like the graphics of Delaware, 198yen and Smokymonkeys. I've got strong inspiration from Sensorium projects that one of my fellow at IMG SRC participates in. I think I was influenced by the art project of Prof. Fujihata who was a teacher at SFC. I've never had him as a teacher though. I've been influenced immensely by other web sites.
What do you think about the web scene (bussiness) in Japan?
I'm not interested in so-called internet business in Japan. It's no more than a boom. Almost all of the business models are uncreative, they're just imports of pirated editions. Some of them might be original though.
There are lots of web sites that provide various services, but the interface designs are terrible and I don't feel like using them. For example, shopping sites have the same navigation with a shopping basket. I think it's good that there's a unified interface, but if it's on a low level, it's not totally good. In that sense, the DiscoverToys site by Macromedia demos is a good example, but there's still no shopping site with an excellent interface like this.
The web scene in Japan is going forward to the right direction as a whole, but the web service cannot be an essential thing for people yet and there's not many things required for design. There's not many managers nor businessmen who are willing to spend enough time and money in the interface design, although they're aware of its importance. (or they might not be able to persuade investors even if they're aware of it.)
Concerning the web design business, there are so many bigger production companies than our company in Japan, but most of them are not professional. If anything, some commercial sites are made by an excellent independent designer or small designer group with 4 or 5 members are better. That's the current situation of the web design business in Japan. Today it's hard to find a prominent production company in such a situation, but I'm sure that 3 or 4 production companies will be outstanding in both its quality and scale this year or next year.
Is there any other countries where you would like to live or you're interested in?
Basically I love Japan, so it's hard for me to think of living in other countries, but I would like to visit Argentina, Mexico, Cuba or Morocco in my next vacation. I just went to Vietnam this past February.
The last question. Do you have any plans for the near future? And is there anything you would like to do in the future?
I'm now developing a USB music box. It's converted from a hand-wound music box with a motor. It revolves and makes sounds when it's connected to a USB terminal. Electric current is sent from the USB terminal and applies the electricity to the motor. I like it as it is, but what I'm thinking now is to make a system that can work another person's music box through the net. It'll take a lot of time to realize it because it's not easy to make USB hardware, but if there's some engineers who can help me in developing the hardware, it would be helpful.
I'll keep working on the web and at the same time, I'll concentrate more on the physical media. I mean I'll do some installations. I have some ideas that cannot be represented only on the computer monitor, but there are too many problems to start working on those ideas.
Hisayoshi Tohsaki: TokyoAce4
IMG SRC, Inc.
Address: #101 5-2 Shinsen-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan