When Hideo Sasaki first opened his office sixty-some years ago, the suggestion that the fledgling firm ought to brand itself would have been incomprehensible, something to dismiss with a shrug.
For most of Sasaki’s history, we didn’t fuss over branding. We didn’t hire publicists to prune our image. We didn’t treat our reputation as something at a distance from ourselves, as if it were a balloon tethered overhead that only occasionally required infusions of hot air. No indeed: we were busy building a new model practice that combined, in one messy, clamorous studio, professionals of every stripe. We were busy creating some of the world’s most recognized and best-loved campus quads, parks, and headquarters. We were busy anticipating the needs of our clients, burying ourselves in minute detail of their business models and missions. We were busy experimenting with ways to understand a changing world, and, in the process, reinventing entire sectors and territories. We were busy evolving, growing, planning, engineering, designing, endlessly debating—defining ourselves and the world around us. So why worry about a brand now? What’s changed?
In a way, nothing: we are as driven by our passion and absorbed in our work as we were all those years ago. In another way, everything. Six decades in the making, a new Sasaki is radiating heat. Its blue-chip credentials belie a kind of startup energy, sustained by broader ambitions of a changing leadership. Our new brand is a bolt of that energy. The brand doesn’t attempt to contain it. On the contrary, it offers a way of sharing our creative drive with others: a way to articulate it in words and images, to spread it through publishing and teaching, to live it with pride, and, most importantly, to manifest it in the places we make.
A year ago, we started on a process without knowing where it would take us. We trusted in each other, in our collective intelligence and shared values, knowing that no matter where we ended up, the important thing would be to end up together.
We committed to a critical perspective, a position from which to see ourselves with clarity and candor. In a characteristically Sasakian way, we blew the process wide open, with all 270 of us chiming in with insights, sketches, revisions, opinions. Through long conversations among ourselves—and longer ones with a community of clients, peers, partners, and friends—we learned to speak about Sasaki anew. As we iterated visual concepts, we discovered how to express both the multitude of perspectives and a common purpose; the variegation of our new logo alludes to this duality. We worked on revealing the more playful, more provocative notes in our range, extending and amplifying our voice. It was a long, strange, and beautiful process. At its conclusion, we are happy to report that our studio is no less messy, no less clamorous than it was at the start.
The Sasaki archives, for all their vastness, do not contain a single drawing by our founder. That’s because Hideo Sasaki wished to be known not for the fineness of his linework, but for the light of his ideas. Today, as a new energy fills our halls, a generation of Sasakians draws and dabbles, creates and disrupts, erects towers and tears down boundaries. Beneath everything is still this: the immutable belief in the power of ideas to define place. And in the power of place to define us.
PS: we also got new business cards.