Hello my name is...

Ken Matsubara

Graphic Designer @ Universal Pictures by day ☀️
Family man, exercise junkie, and food lover by night 🌙

Years of Experience:
Favorite Emoji:
On the Playlist:
Arms and Sleepers, Bonobo, Booka Shade, Christian Löffler, Floating Points, Four Tet, Free the Robots, Hidden Orchestra, Kiasmos, Max Cooper, Portico Quartet, Ross from Friends, UNKLE, Yaeji
Go-to Food:
Sushi 🍣, KBBQ 🥩, Pizza 🍕, Burger 🍔

Hey Ken, tell us a little bit about yourself!

At the core, I’m a simple family man. I love god, my wife and our two daughters. Nothing better than spending time with them. I also love music. The soundtrack to my life is always playing and sometimes I have fun mixing tracks. I am also an exercise junkie - especially running, but since the pandemic, I’ve incorporated workouts that you can do in your living room. Been doing a lot more yoga since I’m getting old and need to focus more on recovery and flexibility. I also love food. So I guess you can say I workout to eat!
But a huge reason why I wanted share here with you guys is because of how much I cherish human connection.

Can you tell us what you do as a Graphic Designer @ Universal Pictures for those who are unfamiliar?

I’m part of tight knit InHouse design team at Universal Pictures in theatrical print. In all seriousness we are the Best Print Team Ever. We made the sweatshirts to prove it. We do everything from large scale stuff like billboards and bus wraps to the smaller stuff like promotional items, in-theater concessions, or web banners. Even digital and social media campaigns. Basically anything under the umbrella of marketing. But I really can’t stress enough how much I appreciate the people I work with. They are big source of the joy I get from going to work everyday.

How did you decide to pursue graphic design?

The year was 1999, I was going to community college and working at Whole Foods. I had no direction or idea of what I wanted to do with my life. A close friend, Jon R. who would play a huge role as mentor and a teacher, had started a design studio and suggested I drop out of school, quit my job, enroll into design school, and intern at his company. That decision would change the course of my life - going on 21 years now. It’s been quite the journey with ups and downs, twists and turns but isn’t that the fun of it all!
Also want to credit my mom and dad. Both sides of my family have either musicians or artists, so it was natural for me to finally follow the creative blood flowing from within me.

What programs & tools do you use everyday for work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?

Another key factor for me to pursue this career path was the technology. Macs were re-establishing themselves as the primary machine to use for design and multimedia. I was in awe, learning everything about the computer and software like Photoshop and Illustrator, along with developing this new designer’s mind. It quickly became clear that this industry would continue to evolve and I would have the opportunity to grow along with it.

Any advice on how to stand out and get into school for those starting off?

In my industry, as a graphic designer, I’d have to say the easiest way to spot someone with talent right off the bat is a strong sense typography in their compositions and layout. Because amateur design has found a niche for itself and can often pass as acceptable, good typography is almost a lost art in my opinion.

What are some must-have resources (books, tools, podcasts, etc.) you would recommend for your industry?

Honestly, anything. Inspiration can come from anywhere. The key is to make a regular habit of seeking. Yes, subscribing to Communication Arts or other similar publications are good to keep close. But more importantly, which ever industry you are pursuing, it is vital to keep a close eye on what people are doing. For example, for me, impawards.com is a good site to keep checking as it is a comprehensive record of all official key art as its released.

What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?

Confidence, Positivity, Endurance.

Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?

Oh easily the most satisfying thing about my job is to see my work out there in the world. In the streets, online, or in broadcasts, it’s always rewarding unrolling a campaign.
Difficult, well that would be the long hours/ time spent away from my family. One of the sure blessings during this time, being able to work from home!

What would you like to say to your younger self?

Everything can be broken down into a process. Watch the content. Start with the brainstorm. Write down keywords. Ask your self, “What is the main sell of this film?” Do the research. Most of your ideas should drive that main concept. Some of them should be safe and some can be crazy, you never know what might work. Trust in the process. Rarely do the ideas spark from the get go. The magic is in the process. Stay away from thinking you need to learn all the technical side using the programs. What is most vital is the concept. How to execute your concept, that, you can figure out as you go. Nothing is more important than your concept. Did I mention concept? LOL

Best advice you've received/heard?

It's easy to get confused with thinking that doing your best work has to be the best work ever. What I mean by that is you're probably not going to knock it out of the park on your first try. You can waste a lot time worrying about striking out, or, you can trust the process and have confidence knowing that as long as you put in the work you can rest well at night. Also, everything has been done under the sun. It’s all brand new until it’s done by you. Meaning don’t be afraid to try anything. You never know what you can create just by adding your flavor.

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