Lindgren & Smith

Interview with Coco Masuda

What's not to love about Coco Masuda? Originally from Tokyo, Coco moved to New York and blazed a trail as a successful graphic designer and illustrator. Over the course of her varied career, her technique and style changed and evolved into the highly graphic style seen today. She has created many memorable images for international businesses, publications and organizations such as United Nations, Estée Lauder, Starbucks, United Airline and The New York Times. In 2009, she launched her career in fine art with a solo show in Tokyo, “Very Personal New York”, specializing in portraits and New York cityscapes. Read on for a little more insight into Coco Masuda's world and view more of her work here.

Coco's workspace - one kid friendly so she can spend time with her daughter, and the other for painting.
Let’s begin with the really important stuff. How do you start your day? A jolt of coffee? A soothing cup of tea? Or a mad dash to that can of soda?
A glass of water, then a strong cup of coffee.

Speaking of starting your day, describe what your typical day looks like?
Splitting my time between New York and Tokyo, a typical day includes a 6:30am wake up call. I prepare breakfast for my daughter, feed my dog, send my daughter out to school, then check emails, and work with my company (I have a totally different second career) or my clients in Japan for few hours. I take my dog out for walk around 11:30am, come back and eat lunch, then paint or illustrate until dinner time. I have dinner with my daughter, perhaps watch a half an hour of TV with her, then back to work until midnight, if I am lucky, or later if I’m on deadline. I go to karate practice twice a week, work out at the gym in my building twice a week either during lunch time or before the dinner. I squeeze in house chores, too. I always read for a while in bed before I sleep. I totally look forward to Sunday when I can sleep late and try to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Can you describe for our readers where you get your creative inspiration?
Being with my teenage daughter, looking out the window (we have a fabulous view), reading the New York Times, going to museums, and surfing the net.

Do you have a favorite project and why?
My favorite project was a series of in-store signage I did for Dayton Hudson in the year 2000. I was trying to depart from using airbrush at the time, and the art director, Justine Tacker, who has amazing taste, gave me total freedom to experiment. Most of the images from this campaign ended up getting into The Society of Illustrators show, which I had hard time getting into until then. On top of it, it was a well paid job, so it was indeed a dream job!
What’s your preference? Traditional media or digital?
My illustrations are all digital now, but I paint portrait with acrylic on panels. They are completely different in styles.

If you have an entire day of free time, what would we catch you doing?
I would go to karate, then museums, and have lunch or dinner with friends.

Book or nook?
Definitely book.

Rock or Opera?

Okay, so neither rock or opera? What makes you get up and dance?
I actually like Hiphop and dance music, and some J-Rock. The music preference of my generation mostly stopped when they are young, but mine keeps changing. I am currently listening to Pitbull, Pharrell Williams, Eminem and the like, with easy listening Michael Bublé, Colbie Caillat, etc. mixed in. I do like some rock and opera, too, but I couldn't say I like either as a category. As versatile as my style of art is, my taste in music has a wide range as well.

In a parallel universe, what would you be doing instead of illustrating?
Definitely a business person. I already am. I am the president of a shipping and remittance company in Tokyo. I wear business suits and high-heels when I am there.

Proudest moment?
Getting the Kyokushin Karate black belt at the age 54.

Anyone you would like to give a shout out to who has had an impact on where you are either personally or professionally?
David Curry, a graphic designer, and Hashi, a photographer, who taught me so much.

And lastly, what is the one single best piece of advice you can give for an up and coming illustrator or designer?
Make sure to get a teaching job as soon as you can. I didn't.

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