Naoki Sakai

Japanese Consociate


Concept Creation

Creative Direction


I work from the principle that design’s role is to create something nonexistent in the world right now, and that if no one has ever done it, then that very thing is worth doing.


The projects such as Be-1 and O-product [1980’s Nissan retro car and Olympus vintage camera], were things I had never done before, and they fortuitously became big hits. I originally came from the fashion industry and have always strived to look one step ahead of the masses. I may be an amateur in a new field. However, professionals are good at improvements yet they become accustomed to their environment where it becomes difficult to create new concepts. Some revolutions became big because it was started by amateurs.


In the 1980’s, I entered the media, not as a designer or a producer, but as a ‘conceptor’, which was a title that did not exist before. As a conceptor, I use a tool called EP (Emotional Program) to visualize what people desire. Simply put, concepts are like “conspiracies/schemes” to stimulate people’s emotions. Even the most talented designers cannot produce great results without good concepts.


Let’s create a revolution (innovation) together.

Areas of expertise:

- Concept creation

- Textile and fashion design

- Product design

- Branding

- Corporate strategy

- Creative direction

- Research method development

- Liaison



Naoki Sakai was born in 1947, in Kyoto, Japan. He came to the United States when he was 19 years old, while attending the Kyoto University of Art. He established the TATOO COMPANY in San Francisco, where his tattoo t-shirts mixed with contemporary motifs became a fashion trend in the United States.


After he returned to Japan in 1973, he established WATER (which changed to WATER STUDIO, water design scope, and eventually became WATER DESIGN) as a company that can transform fluidly like water. He produced various fashion businesses using ‘design management method’, an unprecedented concept. EP (Emotional Program) was used as a brand development tool at the time and later utilized in product design.


In 1983, the company shifted its main focus from fashion to product design. The biggest shift came when he created the concept for Nissan Be-1, when he did not even have a driver’s license. When Be-1 came out in 1987, they sold out almost completely within a week. Afterwards, Nissan’s “pike cars” such as Pao, Figaro, and Rasheen continued to be a success in the market.


He has been involved in projects with many designers and companies, providing concepts for brands in a variety of realms. The Olympus O-product camera has been added to the permanent collection of MOMA. Sawanotsuru Tamausagi sake and the Cassina Boomerang chairs have become long-time best sellers. The brand analysis tool, “EP-Engine” is now operated by the Macromill Corporation, as Brand Data Bank.


Along with running WATER DESIGN, he has been a professor at Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (2008 - 2013) and a visiting professor at Seikei University (2013 - 2016).