Creative Direction Product Research Strategy Content Development Material Collection Editorial Design
Bespoke objects establish a rare connectivity between client and maker, yet communicating expectations can be difficult when each piece is individual. The continuation of long-lasting family businesses can also pose specific challenges in establishing a uniquely generational voice. George Nakashima Woodworkers utilizes tried-and-true creative processes in its authentic and contemporary furniture pieces, each one singular and made-to-order. The company’s ethos is split equally between the twin poles of namesake and tradition, all built on a sturdy foundation of homespun legacy and heirloom skill transfer. Guided by the steadfast hand of the late George’s daughter Mira since the early 1990s, Nakashima Woodworkers required an updated approach as hand-made as their unmistakable pieces. Working together our approach focused on patience and precision – much like the creation of a Nakashima original.
While respectfully maintaining her father’s visions and processes for the company, Mira Nakashima has created her own distinct collection of furniture pieces following his teachings since taking the reins nearly 30 years ago. Operating from behind his signature, however, creates the need for a re-established character that both tips its hat towards heritage while simultaneously repositioning Mira as the brand’s torch bearer.
Throughout the company’s history, George shared his wealth of designs via catalog, yet each finished piece’s variations caused consternation and confusion from clients when compared with the initial photographs. The catalog format also caused issues when it came to timeline assumptions, as the firm’s original “slow cook” methods weren’t communicated via printed materials that presented only finished pieces. Clearly, another catalog was a no-go.
In forgoing the traditional catalog model, we opted instead for a process book focusing purely on philosophy and craftsmanship. Through welcoming clients so thoroughly into the process at first contact, the individual relationship established between artisan and audience is set alight, encouraging a shared leap of faith. The book reorients clientele expectations and acts as a useful engagement tool for studio staff in fielding customer inquiries – just as every finished piece is different, so is the journey from conceptualization to finished product.
George Nakashima believed in the spiritual connection between people and wood, that timber could communicate to those seeking the perfect piece of furniture for their homes. A blend of George and Mira’s original drawings were used rather than photographs, marketing an ideology and aesthetic over impossible-to-recreate samples. To synchronously link this proud familial pedigree, we also introduced Mira’s reflective writings throughout the book, interspersed with findings from the Nakashima Archives housed at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA.
Despite these new gestures, however, the book’s construction was also assembled in direct tribute to the catalogs created by George Nakashima starting in the 1960s. With an unfoldable cover poster and exposed spine, the book invites both touch and further interaction.
The results of shifting the focus from product to process in their printed materials has been transformative for Nakashima Woodworkers, who’ve experienced marked improvement in sales and communication. More than a mere business card, together we created an objet d’art suitable for tabletop display – most likely found atop a Nakashima original.
Woong Chul An
Contitipo Color, Florence