When you put art director Yuni Yoshida in the world of Hello Kitty, you get this: “HELLO KITTY GIVES YOU SMILES” written in letters handcrafted with apples, milk bottles, cookies, and soft serve.
“I like seeing how much I can get away with.”
You’re walking around town when an ad catches your eye because something is not quite right, despite the model’s perfect hair, perfect heels, and perfect makeup. So you stand there studying the ad, trying to figure it out. That’s the impact that Yuni Yoshida’s work has—it arouses your curiosity and makes you uncomfortable, in a good way. For our collection of Hello Kitty T-shirts, Yoshida created some inspired designs out of ordinary objects, such as fruit, flowers, and soft serve.
“I use fruit and flowers a lot,” she says. “They’re still, but they’re full of life—they glisten.” One design contains a message written with handcrafted letters. For the letter S, Yoshida peeled numerous apples until she achieved the perfect shape. She says she’s been a stickler for detail since she was a child.
“When I was a girl, I spent all my time with arts and crafts,” she says. “My parents didn’t allow video games, so I made a video game system from Styrofoam. It was pretty realistic! I even blew into the cartridge slot, like all the kids used to do if a game wasn’t working. Maybe that’s all I wanted to do! (Laughs.) I loved making sure all the details were right.”
Even as a child, Yoshida wanted to be a designer. She only had a vague idea at the time of what that meant, but she enrolled in a middle school affiliated with Joshibi University of Art and Design after hearing about it from her mother. Yoshida attended the same university and studied advertising, which is where she picked up her love of ad design.
“People tend to think my works are full of random elements, but I actually prefer working within limits,” she says. “I like seeing how much I can get away with when the boundaries are
Yoshida’s works are also products of inspiration and perspiration. How else would you describe a Hello Kitty created with nothing more than a blue vase containing a flower arrangement and a loaf of bread?
After graduating from university, she joined Ohnuki Design. Then, at Uchu Country—a group of creatives led by the late Nagi Noda—she earned her first big break. The project featured girls lying on the floor in their rooms—but shown from below, as if the floor was transparent. “It was my first solo art direction project,” she recalls. “Noda loved it so much she began to cry and told me she wished she’d given me more to do in the past. That’s probably why I remember it so well.”
Since opening her own office, Yoshida has worked alone. She draws her designs through the night to the sound of the radio, listening to talk shows—including one she has enjoyed for twenty years. She later adds details onsite. For her UT contributions, Yoshida crafted every letter of the alphabet, even those that weren’t used in the final designs. If her designs feel larger than life, it’s because she takes the time to create an entire universe from which the works emerge. That’s why we stop in our tracks when we see one of her ads—we know how she did it; we just don’t know where the idea came from.
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Yuni Yoshida｜Born in 1980 in Tokyo, Yoshida began her career at Ohnuki Design. Following a stint at Uchu Country, she established her own office in 2007. She has produced artwork for Laforet Harajuku and LUMINE department stores, as well as for numerous pop stars.