When Gabriel Fonseca Shiguemoto graduated design school in 2004, things were changing quickly. Technology was beginning what would become an immense step forward in regards to illustrating, visual mediums (such CGI and digital “film”), and the omnipresence of web based material. Gabriel had a pretty good portfolio amassed from his freelance work but he wanted to dive deep into an overwhelming challenge; one that would test his talent and allow him to evaluate how quickly he could change with the community in which he trained to participate. He was quickly contacted and offered a position at Birdman in Japan. Being of Japanese descent made it easier for Shiguemoto to move to Japan. Although he didn’t speak the language at the time, he was determined to pursue his dream there. Gabriel worked for a local magazine publisher before being offered the position at Birdman. The company received an exemplary and committed employee and Gabriel received every bit of the challenge he longed for, along with many awards and achievements as proof of his incredible work. That’s not to say that he was focused on accolades. Shiguemoto is most proud of living his life as an artist and being able to support himself in the vocation he has always dreamed of doing. When you are working fourteen hour days you have to love the work rather than the adulation of others, primarily because there is not time for enjoying much except the work. Shiguemoto’s determination is proven by his mastery of the Japanese language and his ascent in his career. When he is not working, Gabriel travels quite a bit. Now, Birdman wants him to travel to New York City to become the Art Director at a new Birdman NYC location. A study of his illustrious career and ingenuity reveals the reasons for this faith that the highly successful Japanese company has placed in Shiguemoto.

Gabriel was involved in many award-winning and highly motivational campaigns while at Birdman. He doesn’t think of himself as a true businessman or completely as an artist, yet he agrees that the role he has filled comprises aspects of each. While the US seems to focus on product awareness, Japanese company Birdman emphasizes brand awareness. Explaining how his specific skill set has worked so successfully for him, Gabriel notes, “My focus was always the ‘cover’ of things, the visuals, including the way people interact with the digital media, what we call user experience and user interaction. For example, to make the most of an app, one must have a basic understanding of how the technologies behind how it works. It requires constant learning. Being a designer during so many technological revolutions gave me a broad understanding of how things change and what we need to do to keep up with the evolution of marketing and design.” Junya Hoshikiwa (Art Director / Designer) worked alongside Shiguemoto at Birdman and comments, “Working in a Japanese production house can be very demanding. Often times we would spend fourteen hours per day in the office. Gabriel was very versatile and was able to produce concepts for web design, including; illustrations, animations, and even help with the more technical aspect of the projects. When we worked on Nissan’s web campaign “Juke by You”, Gabriel was involved from the beginning; giving ideas, researching references, and participating in meetings with the client. Gabriel’s work with Nissan helped render the company a great deal of thanks from the marketing department of Nissan’s HQ. “Juke by You” was an overwhelming success in Japan and received many praises and awards.

The Nissan “Juke by You” idea of making the promotional site a customizable car game came from Gabriel’s experience with video games. As the lead designer, he was involved early on in the project participating on several brainstorming sessions, and he eventually came up with many concepts for the site, such as: gallery, usability, and choice of options for customization. The minimalistic clean UI was done in order to focus the attention on the design assets available to customize the car. Shiguemoto designed the prototype, main UI/UX elements, in addition to the site’s structure and functionality. “Juke by You” was awarded the FWA SITE OF THE DAY 2014, and was a CODE AWARDS FINALIST 2015 ( Shiguemoto recalls, “Juke by You took about two months. In the beginning, all we knew was the information that Nissan had a way to customize their cars and they wanted to promote it. It was up to us to find a unique and effective way to communicate that. That was the most challenging part of it because there were so many things we could do. After many brainstorming sessions, we decided to go with browser-rendered 3D. I was responsible to make it as easy as possible for people to use. It takes a lot of work to make something easy. It needs to be intuitive. ‘Juke by You’ was a fun project and everyone enjoyed the final result.”

One of the most well-known and highly respected campaigns during Gabriel’s time at Birdman was the Ebara “FUNFAIR IN YOUR MOUTH.” The idea is simple but achieving the goal was extremely challenging. Children don’t like to eat vegetable and parents have been tasked with enticing them to consume these healthy foods for eons. Ebara wanted Birdman to find a way to make children like the idea of eating vegetables. This project which Gabriel spearheaded was ingenious and effective, so much that it received a deluge of awards including recognition by: NEW YORK FESTIVALS 2014, THE WEBBY AWARDS 2014, DENTSU ADVERTISING AWARDS 2014, ONE SHOW INTERACTIVE 2014, MOST CONTAGIOUS 2013 REPORT, DIGITAL ASIA FESTIVAL 2013, CODE AWARD 2013, The FAB Awards 2013, & the JAPAN MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL 2013. “FUNFAIR IN YOUR MOUTH” is online video game uses a computer webcam to allow participants to “eat” vegetables and win points. This is also merged with social media allowing the participants, family members, and the public to view these young gamers “eating” the virtual vegetables; thereby producing positive feedback to the participants. The game becomes a type of online classical conditioning to train children to associate eating vegetable with playing games, having fun, and positive feelings. Gabriel notes, “The project was heavy on illustrations since it was designed for children. The concept was a park where the attractions were made of vegetables. I created 2D illustrations and 3D environments to populate the games’ world. I was using illustrator to base the design and importing the assets in Photoshop, where I would give them an 3D treatment, which was a new feature at the time. It worked very well.”

KIRIN is a Japanese company which produces many different beverages. They offer so many different ones that they needed something to inform consumers about the large variety and they wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t heavy handed in its approach. The “KIRIN DREAM RACE” became a major event and came about as a result of massive amounts of work on Gabriel’s part. He recalls, “I did the concepts. It really sounded crazy at first. My job was to make it look like something feasible. The first view of the world; the bottle race cars and the racers, were first designed by me. I used a combination of several software programs to create different scenarios for the race. The art director created the interface that would go over my images. Once approved, those images served as reference for different teams to create their own segment of the work. There was a 3D artist who designed a physics based track, the electronic team built the sensors that would go inside the bottles, somebody had to build the racing cars, etc. I was then assigned to design the racer’s jumpsuit based on each beverage they would race on. Then, I had to hand paint each one of those designs on 3D printed models, twice. After that, I helped paint the diorama behind the tracks: mountains, trees, clouds etc. I also hand painted the iconic whale over the finish line. There were also numerous adjustments made to the tracks and race cars. After everything was done I took a shift at the live broadcast on a Sunday, since the tracks and racers had to be reset after every race, which lasted about 8 minutes. Lots of work! Rumor has it that at least 3 people quit after it was done.”(

Far from being a quitter, Gabriel Fonseca Shiguemoto is excited to take on more and head the Art Department at Birdman’s NYC branch. When questioned if this is a dream job for him he states, “I have more of a dream lifestyle than a dream job. My dream consists of having a good personal life/work balance, eating healthy food, socializing, and having time for travelling. These things are only possible by having a good job. Now that I think about it, art director in NYC, is pretty much a dream job already.”