Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association
（August 2018 – November 2018）
Clarity through distance: Unique focused messaging through pamphlet design.
Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association uses the stars to create community. This is the phrase Hitoshizuku highlighted when designing a pamphlet describing the organization. Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association prioritizes the relationships between people, but as the scope of their activities has expanded, they have encountered challenges in explaining their organization and activities to new people. Co-representatives Mariko Takahashi and Koichi Atobe sat down to discuss their decision to resolve these challenges by enlisting the help of Hitoshizuku to design a new pamphlet.
“We had expanded our activities through connections with other people, and reached a point where it was difficult to explain what we did in a single word or phrase. This was when we encountered Hitoshizuku.”
Rieko Sato, Hitoshizuku (Sato):
You both had met our company’s president before, correct? How did Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association end up deciding to have Hitoshizuku design your pamphlet?
Mariko Takahashi, Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association Co-Representative (Ms. Takahashi):
The first time I met Mr. Kokubo was at a networking event in Kiyosato, Yamanashi prefecture where I was working as part of the event’s executive committee. There were around 150 people active in all sorts of different fields, so it was a very stimulating environment. One of the other committee members had brought Mr. Kokubo along to the event. He made a presentation about supporting people doing work for the social good through public relations and advertising, and I thought, Wow, it would be great if one day we could work together. But at that time we weren’t able to actually speak very much. It was more just a feeling I had.
Koichi Atobe, Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association Co-Representative (Mr. Atobe):
Every time something came up, there was always talk of working with Mr. Kokubo. But for whatever reason we could never make it happen. It was then that we met again at a fundraising study event. We went and got lunch together, and he talked about advertising that doesn’t actually say anything. Ms. Takahashi and I had also talked a lot about how the louder you yell for attention, the more it seems that people run away, so I felt like he understood our perspective. We told him about the challenges our organization was facing, and asked if there was anything he could do to help.
What was the challenge you were facing at the time?
We’ve expanded our activities primarily based on the connections we have with other people. Things kept expanding in this way so it became more difficult to have a single, central point of reference. We talked about this with Mr. Kokubo and showed him our organizational pamphlet as well as another pamphlet that outlined our activities. The design and feel of each one was quite different, which we mentioned as well.
He said he would be happy to take a look at our communication materials for us, without pressuring us to do business with him. He took a look at the pamphlets we were handing out, our website, and gave us a lot of feedback. His conclusion was that people don’t have a clear idea of how to get involved when they look at our PR materials.
This is related to the way that we’ve operated through interpersonal connections, but Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association has two aspects and it’s been hard for us to explain that to other people On the one hand we’re like a volunteer organization where anyone who enjoys stars and outer space can get together, but from that base we’re also a business entity which offers the Hospital Planetarium night sky delivery program. In some ways these are incongruous elements which makes it really difficult to explain to other people. Our own struggle to explain this was reflected in our communication materials, so the result was most people couldn’t understand what our organization actually did.
Personal connections seem to perfectly capture what Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association is all about. I was able to watch the planetarium video today, and it was really moving to see how much passion and feeling goes into your work. At the same time, I can see how basing your organization’s actions in those feelings could make it difficult to take a step back and present a clear picture of your entire organization. This objective viewpoint might be what enabled Hitoshizuku to lend a hand. The relationship you formed with Mr. Kokubo turned out to be a good match, I think!
“Getting confirmation from an outside viewpoint enabled us to say with confidence, ‘That’s right, we are a community.’”
Ultimately you had Hitoshizuku completely redesign your organizational pamphlet, correct?
All the pamphlets that we’d used up until that point were ones that we designed ourselves. We had a professional with a background in graphic facilitation make illustrations for us, so I think overall we were able to explain what we did. But we knew there were issues when it came to the next step of how people could get involved. We would end up giving people our pamphlets while apologizing that they didn’t really explain things clearly.
We’d had a designer create some data for us in the past, but we were the ones who ended up having to decide the placement of everything, so this was our first time being able to entrust everything to an outside party.
We care a lot about what we do and for whom, of course, but we tend to overlook this while worrying about small details like the phrasing of a sentence or the placement of an illustration. From the moment we enlisted Hitoshizuku’s help, they reminded us of what we really care about. It gave us a lot of confidence in their work and enabled things to proceed smoothly.
Everyone at Hitoshizuku spent a lot of time at first discussing Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association and organizing its activities, but we were actually quite nervous when we sent our proposal to you. There’s always a bit of a concern as an outsider coming in and reorganizing things, and how that can feel like we’re overstepping our bounds. Did you notice anything strange or out of place with what we had proposed?
No no, not at all. From the very beginning I knew it was the right decision to come to Hitoshizuku for help.
That’s right, we knew immediately. We talk a lot about people who are in the same orbit as we are, and that’s how we feel about Hitoshizuku. The initial effort you made to get to know our organization brought us closer together and made it easy to trust you.
Your proposal hit a lot of good points, and those points really resonated with us. We never felt like you were overstepping things. There was almost nothing that we felt was off the mark. To use a soccer analogy, it’s like every shot you took went through the goal. This feeling made me so glad that we had chosen Hitoshizuku.
It’s great to hear that. Not to be overly persistent, but was there ever a point where you felt uncomfortable with the process?
No, there wasn’t. Normally having meetings is not something people look forward to, right? You hear about a meeting and then feel depressed or tired, but the meetings we had with Hitoshizuku were actually really enjoyable!
On the contrary, you really noticed a lot of different things. Putting the phrase “Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association is a community” right on the front of the redesigned pamphlet was something we’d always agonized over. We have business-related aspects, but we’re also just a group of people who like the same things… What are we? We would constantly debate this, but once Hitoshizuku told us that we were a community, we realized that was the push we needed to affirm it for ourselves. It gave us confidence, and was a huge relief to have someone point it out to us.
I see, so it was really important to have Hitoshizuku’s outside viewpoint to clarify things.
The phrase you put at the top of the pamphlet about “Valuing stories based in science” was really decisive. It was a really big deal to have something like that put into words for us.
There is of course a difference between what Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association is and isn’t, but we hadn’t been able to verbalize that clearly for ourselves. This phrase summed everything up. It was something you all proposed early on, right?
That’s right, after we had our first consultation three members of our team got together and discussed how we could clearly communicate what Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association was all about. That consultation gave us a sense of your personalities and philosophies, so we wanted to make sure we created something that would highlight your values and avoid using words that felt out of place.
If I remember correctly, during the first consultation you asked us what words and what sort of impression we wanted to avoid. I think that was very useful. It probably helped you understand the outlines of what we do.
All meetings are online. “We were able to communicate effectively, without any problems.”
The three Hitoshizuku members assigned to this project are based in Yokohama, Tokyo, and Wakayama, while the two of you are based in Yamanashi prefecture. This meant all of the meetings were held online. Could you speak a little bit about your impressions regarding this?
Star Spinning Village, a general incorporated association also has members all over the country. But I’d often felt it was difficult to get things to progress with people who were so far away. My opinion had always been that it was better to meet in person. But it was a huge learning experience to see how well we were able to communicate with Hitoshizuku. Mr. Atobe and I talked about how we needed to learn from your example.
In what way did you feel like you were able to communicate?
I felt like everyone at Hitoshizuku had a firm understanding of what our needs were before we had our online meeting – you came into it with a shared awareness and understanding of what we needed to do. It made me realize just how good everyone at Hitoshizuku is at communicating.
I think the three of you made a really good team managing the direction, design, and overall flow. I think everyone’s performance showed their skills and kept things running smoothly. I was particularly impressed with your direction, Ms. Sato. There were clear steps, and even though I know you must have had many clients, you kept us on schedule and always delivered on what you promised.
At first, I was actually worried. Whenever possible, I prefer to meet with people face-to-face. We used Zoom for our online meetings, so part of my hesitation was my resistance to using new technology. But I finally realized that technology isn’t the issue. If the people on the other side understand you, there is absolutely no problem.
I think technology is there to make people happy, but sometimes you end up getting used by it. But if it’s used correctly, it can be a huge plus for us all!
Since we were far away from each other we placed a lot of importance on communication. We’re constantly aware that we have a lot of independence with how we work, which is why we need to be responsible and work hard to increase our understanding.
More than anything, every person we meet is so wonderful, and it genuinely makes me want to tell everyone about who you are and what you do. Being able to speak with you both here today has only increased that feeling. We want to continue supporting the amazing work you both are doing, so I hope, regardless of whether it’s for work or not, that we’ll be able to see each other regularly.
Of course, we’re looking forward to it.
The next time Hitoshizuku holds a staff training event, why not use our online planetarium service? It would be wonderful to continue to build our relationship, professional or otherwise, in lots of different ways from here on out.
Photograph: Chisato Hikita / Editing: Takako Chiba
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