Name: Shingo Ohno
Places where you’ve lived and worked: Tokyo Japan, Singapore, London
Your preferred pronouns: He/him
- Creative director, RGA Singapore, 2021- present
- Creative director, Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo, 2018-2020
- Art director, Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo, 2007-2018
- Director, Tyo Inc, Tokyo 1998-2007
1. How did you end up being a creative?
I was born in Tokyo. As a kid, I loved drawing and always did well for art. However, after graduating from high school, I had no job, no future plans. I just kept playing the guitar and StreetFighter 2 almost every day. Sometimes I recorded songs on a multi-track cassette tape recorder, experimenting with mixing various styles—like heavy metal and country. I wanted to be a professional guitarist. But I felt that the music I love is niche, that it won’t be a sustainable choice. After a few months, I was seriously bored and finally began job-hunting. I knew I could draw well so becoming a designer was an option, but no company would hire me. So, I went to art school for a formal education in graphics. After graduation, I became a director at TYO ID Inc, which is a digital production company under the TYO group. Thereafter, I got through Wieden+Kennedy, Tokyo as an art director and went on to become a creative director. Now, I work at RGA Singapore.
2. What’s your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?
It’s undoubtedly the Nike Music Shoe. With this campaign, we wanted to highlight the shoes’ flexibility. Usually, people would not care about a product demo—but for this, we added entertainment to keep people watching. I was an art director of the project—but I also worked with the musician and tech team to perfect the work. I even made a sound file for the shoe. You can see me in the behind-the-scenes video here:
This is an old campaign but still my favourite piece of work: I love music, technology, and it’s a nice mix of funny and cool. I want to do more work like this in the future.
3. What’s your favourite piece of work created by someone else?
An unusual choice: The Fender Stratocaster. This legendary electric guitar has the perfect design. I cannot believe it was invented almost 70 years ago. Imagine any other product from 70 years ago—for example a car, fashion, architecture—everything would look old and dated. But the Stratocaster still looks fresh and remains one of the most popular electric guitars in this era. It also tremendously changed music history. There is nothing like it.
4. Who are your key creative influences?
Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Sly Stone, Frank Zappa, a lot of 70s music, John McEntire, Tom Jenkinson, a lot of post rock and electronica from 90s. D’Angelo, Haruomi Hosono, Cornelius, Jacob Collier, Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Michel Gondry, Paul Rand, Bauhaus, Yusaku Kamekura, Takuya Onuki, Shinro Ohtake, John Maeda, Downtown (Japanese comedian), Gundam, Dr. Slump, and Jimihen (manga)
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
For a performance, I connected my guitar to a tesla coil which could create actual lightning. When I played “Thunderstruck – AC/DC”, it exploded, and an actual fire broke out. Fortunately, the fire was not too big, and there were no real accidents.
What career did you think you’d have when you were a kid?
I considered being a professional guitarist. But I realised the music I love is kind of niche—and if I become a musician, I’d have to do a lot of things that I don’t like for money. So, I decided not to be a professional musician to keep music special for me. And that was probably the best decision of my life.
Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
Before going to art school, I had a job as a telemarketer who tried to convince magazine editors to publish information about a casino discount campaign. I was fired within a month. I appreciate it because if I succeeded then, I wouldn’t have gone to art school and would have a completely different life.
What advice would you give to 10-year-old you, if you could?
Ignore your father when he says: “You don’t need to learn English because you are Japanese.” If you follow his advice, you will regret it.
What really motivates you?
If I will actually live to be 100-years old, I’m not even at the halfway point. I really have to keep learning and changing. It’s more than a motivation for me—it’s like an obsession.
Do you have any secret or odd talents?
I can play the guitar on a RipStik (a two-wheeled skateboard). Check out this video!
What’s your favorite music of the past year, and why?
The album ‘Notes With Attachments’, an instrumental collaboration between bassist Pino Palladino and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Blake Mills is a current favourite. It is subtle despite the pun in its title.
Tell us about an artist (any medium) that we’ve never probably heard of.
Rock, experimental artist Goat from Japan. It is an avant-garde group which leans into typical instruments like the guitar, bass, drums and saxophone, but make it sound like magic. The best way to experience their sound is a live show, but they don’t do it often. You can watch a few videos on YouTube—but please don’t skip any.
Enjoy the build-up.