How to Design for and Do Business With Japanese Clients
Sometimes, we do business with Japanese clients and I am SLAYED BY MY PARTIAL KNOWLEDGE OF JAPANESE BUSINESS CUSTOMS. - Makoto
- •Gifts are MANDATORYDon't even think about meeting your client without a gift in hand. This gift also has to be thoughtful, artisanal, and represent the fine points of your hometown or home country. Must be made in the region where you reside. Can't be too cheap but DEFINITELY can't be more expensive than the gift they will give you. This will be the greatest of all shames. Side note: psychic abilities to predict what they will give you is mandatory. So yea. No pressure.
- •Japanese design is just designRemember when Muji came to the States and everyone freaked out? Well, that's like the equivalent of Yankee Candle and tube socks taking Tokyo by storm. Japanese modern design as we know it is sort of the norm to Japanese people (go figure). So if you want to make all your furniture with birch plywood and cardboard tubes, expect to have a subtly disappointed look from your client, who probably hired you to do something cool and different. Be forewarned: they will still say they like it.
- •No means YesThe most painful of customs, in which my mind always wanders to how fucked up rape prosecution must be in Japan.
- •Business cards are a big dealFirst things first. Always give and accept business cards with two hands. Like they do with your credit card at Uniqlo. At my last meeting with some Japanese clients, we both brought out our business cards AT THE SAME TIME. Clearly, this was my fault though because I'm sure there's some unwritten etiquette about who gives their card out first. And NEVER put your card in your pocket or jacket. SO RUDE. But don't ask me where they're supposed to go because I have no idea.
- •Embrace the fact that you're an indentured servantYou will need to go above and beyond the scope of work to make your project succeed. This is pretty much true for all design projects, but know that it's totally customary for your Japanese client to ask you to take care of shit like helping hook up cable tv or select a few additional pieces. Saying no is offensive. In fact, you should feel honored that they asked. Know this ahead of time and fold these hours into your bid or contract, so at least you'll be a well paid indentured servant.
- •You can design amazing things for clients that appreciate quality, craft, and the importance of artifacts in space....regardless of whether you understand or follow any of these unwritten business customs. And regardless of whether or not your clients are Japanese.