MASATO & KAREN TO NAKADA
WNW Members #2386 Masato Nakada and #2766 Karen To Nakada run a studio together, focused on a range of design, from typography, to branding to motion graphics. They aren't afraid to boast their romantic status, proudly declaring it front and center on their website. Masato and Karen believe that there's "some kind of magical trust" gained with clients when they see how much they enjoy their work (and that they're probably talking about the job over dinner!)
That being said, Karen and Masato concede that independence and time alone is critical for creative success. Their advice for other creative couples that can really apply to anyone, "Don’t forget to hang your own “do not disturb” sign. Masato calls it the “CAVE TIME”! We can’t stress enough about the cave time, or the solo time. Everyone needs a piece of alone time so he/she can just get lost and relax. It helps us maintain our work and relationship to go a long way."
Hi guys! Tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from and what you're currently loving:
Hello there! This is Karen and Masato from the Happening Studio out in sunny Los Angeles. Our background ranges from typography, branding, motion graphic, web to print design and we don’t like to limit ourselves from gaining new skills. We just wrapped up a couple fun motion projects for NatGeo Wild and Chobani and we currently are tackling two new exciting brand development for a start-up furniture designer and a watchmaker. After a long day of hard work, we are quite the passive Netflix junkies. (Shamelessly) watching Friends with wine or beer is actually a fun and relaxing way to end our day.
What do you admire about Karen?
I admire Karen’s criticality and grace. She has a way of assessing a situation and finds multiple ways to progress and make things better. Every time she does this, I am like, “That’s a no-brainer. Why did I not think of that!” And she does all this with a sassy grace. What can I say, my wife is sassy.
Through working together, I have discovered...
...that she loves to learn new things, from tedious technical program scripts to learning new words from TV shows.
What do you admire about Masato?
He is hopelessly happy, positive, and relaxed. When I am all stressed, tensed and/or angry, he is still a calm body of water which often help us out in tough situations.
Through working together, I have discovered...
..that he has a hard time saying no to a client (or anyone who is in need of help)!
KAREN & MASATO
What came first, romance or work?
It’s actually neither! Design school came first then followed by coupling then finally working together. We went to CalArts at the same time to study graphic design. Masato was an MFA candidate while Karen was in the BFA program. According to Karen: "Masato was acting helpless with After Effects so he tricked me into helping him out." According to Masato, "Karen was just too charming, she had to talk to me." We never get to settle the truth.
How did you start working together? What was that transition like?
After graduating in the same year, we pursued different design fields for the first couple of years, which helped us gain skills and knowledge as a designer and as a business owner. We got to know many great people and shook many hands. As time went by, we started to accumulate projects that required both of our skills. It made perfect sense for us to finally join forces together and create our own studio.
Had you dated anyone in the creative field before?
Sadly no for Karen and yes for Masato.
Do you have work/personal boundaries? If so, how do you draw that line?
We have very blurry boundaries between work and personal but in a productive way. Sometimes a good idea strikes us during after hours or over a weekend. If you enjoy what you do, your work easily becomes a part of your life without sacrificing your personal time. Each year, we try to take a month off to unplug and travel together. We recharge our energy as a couple and as designers.
Ideal Coupling: Not Coupling ratio
When we are both mouse-clicking and racing against time, it’s not that romantic.
Then we are a couple again afterwards. Pretty systemic now.
Do you find that it helps to promote the fact that you’re married? Ever hide it?
We are never shy about telling people that we are married and work together! There’s some kind of magical trust we gain from our clients when they see us enjoying our work and knowing that we are probably talking about their job over our dinner table.
Favorite thing about working together. Hardest thing.
Our favorite thing about working together has to be the honest factor. During our design process, we can say things as it is, instead of spending time to sugarcoat or guess each other’s thoughts. The hardest thing is that everything is doubled. If shit hits the fan, we get double the mess. That’s why we are constantly learning on the go and trying to avoid messy situations.
As a couple: how have you seen your work evolve? As a professional, how has your relationship evolved?
Work wise: we are able to do things that neither of us can do alone, in terms of style, technical executions and on a conceptual level. As a couple, we benefit from growing our relationship and business at the same time, double happiness!
Are you friends with other creative couples? Why do you think people date each other in this field?
Yes, we know many creative couples from work and from school. It’s mostly because design is such an essential part of our lives; it is a big plus to have your special someone understand that language and lifestyle.
Advice for other creative couples?
Don’t forget to hang your own “do not disturb” sign. Masato calls it the “CAVE TIME”! We can’t stress enough about the cave time, or the solo time. Everyone needs a piece of alone time so he/she can just get lost and relax. It helps us maintain our work and relationship to go a long way.