[From April Issue 2010]

Mobile Designer School

Creating “decorations” (a.k.a “deco”) for personal belongings such as cell phones, digital cameras, and more recently ballpoint pens, watches, hair dryers and sunglasses, is very popular, especially among young Japanese women.

“Decorations” can be almost any personal design made of tiny sparkling crystals or shiny materials called stones. The excitement of being able to transform plain appliances, or your favorite small articles, into original, one-of-a-kind pieces of art, seems to be THE reason for this being much more than just a passing fad. Another reason could also be the number of TV personalities who have their own, branded accessories.

In 2002 The Japan Decorator Association NPO (non-profit-organization) was launched to support professional decoration designers and creators. A year later new decoration design schools started opening, with enrollment increasing on a yearly basis. At the Mobile Designer School (MDS president: IIO Hitomi), lovingly referred to as “the Tokyo University of the decoration industry,” students from teenagers to seniors attend, with the large majority being females.

MDS offers a wide range of classes, from single-day beginner lessons, to full-time courses where students can hone their skills in earnest over about a year. Recently there have also been cases where parents actively encourage their children to enroll in the school, supporting the idea of their becoming professional decorators. Many MDS graduates eventually go on to work at Glam Baby, a retail chain that sells both pre-designed items and custom-made orders.

Some decorations are quite reasonable, costing only several hundred yen, but recently, luxurious designs with intricate detail have become increasingly popular. Having your cell phone decorated by a pro can cost between 20,000 and 60,000 yen per surface side (of the phone). While it is not cheap, orders for such services keep rolling in. Even quite a few foreign tourists have had their cell phones decorated as a souvenir of their trip to Japan.

To be successful, decorators require strong design skills, speed and dead-accuracy. In addition to listening, understanding and interpreting the client’s ideas, they also need the ability to finish in two hours, rather than the customary five. Furthermore, attention to detail in arranging and placing the stones, so as to balance the overall design, is also a prerequisite.

WATANABE Tetsuo, president of Glam Baby, says the future looks promising. “There’s a fair chance that we will open stores in Europe, America and Southeast Asia in the future. Decorations are especially popular in China and South Korea, so these countries have good potential markets.”

Mobile Designer School


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