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The Design Associates

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GIRVIN | Strategic Branding & Design | Seattle

GIRVIN | Strategic Branding & Design | New York

The Design Associates | Tokyo

My Experience With Yakuza:
the story of Miss Ko,
Paris &
Brand story in
Restaurant Design
[GBH]

Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
[Imagery, below, from Ko]
Brand, patterning, statement, interiors —
the graphical interplay of message, story and imagery.

One trip to Japan, I was in Kyoto, and late night, I got the information from a hotel about a men’s ofuro, a bathhouse — took a cab there; and the driver got lost, we kept driving out and out, farther and farther away from town center —
out into what appeared to be a kind of darkened, industrial area.

Finally, the driver opened the door, in the manner of the driver-controlled doors of Japanese taxis.
He pointed to a non-descript industrial building –
“aré, doozo.”

And “there, please,”
I went.

The entry area was full of shoes — left by guests.
This was relatively early in my efforts in Japan — I was still touring, meeting with possible clients, showing my work, and practicing my early Japanese presentations.
The owners, or gatekeepers of the communal ofuro, seemed shocked that I was there, coming down the entry hallway, I could see them talking to each other;
being gaijin, this was familiar,
I thought, “this is a family ofuro!”
Now that would be terrifying.
A tall white American.

Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]

Now, as I went in, I realized the reason for their surprise. Walking into the bathhouse, the locker area, I realized that I’d entered a Yakuza bathhouse – a male, gangster gathering place.
I was astonished by the beauty and brilliant colour of the tattoos — the place was ablaze with
striking designs, a kind of monstrous beauty, misted with steam.

Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]

YA KU ZA
All, the trademark of
the distinctive,
yet dreaded
yakuza.

These yakuza men, in the bath house were friendly [except for one old guy, who didn’t like me much], we spoke Japanese together — and they said,
“you look like you are the son of Shane.”

Shane, an immensely popular American Western,
shot in 1953, [the year I was born.]
The “son” of Shane, would be the young boy,
attracted to the guns of the “gunslinger.”

Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]

To that, a note from friends
at Designboom
offered the striking new design of GBH, London,
and a collaboration with Philippe Starck.

Working in Paris, I’d traveled around to his shows, met his wife/partner, studied Starck-designed restaurants, and, in Tokyo — his buildings, stories, places.
While I failed to sync with Philippe & co., in Paris, it was
at TED and later in NYC, that I reconnected.
The man has an astonishingly vivid imagination
and he carries on a kind of mythically broad design practice.

There’s not much
that he hasn’t touched,
as a designer.

GBH did the branding for Ko, Starck — designed the interiors.

Brand voice states:

“Located in the heart of paris, miss kō is not just a restaurant;
it’s a crazy place where street food, cocktails, art, and music meet to create
a unique culinary experience. inside miss kō it’s the future; a place where cultures collide,
fantasy rules and nothing is what it seems.
it’s like blade runner – only happy.”

Visual storytelling:

Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]
Yakuza, Miss Ko, Paris & restaurant design [GBH]

Tim | Girvin Decatur Island Studios

The Strategy of Holism | Restaurant Experience Design
TouchPoints, Storytelling and Guest Engagement