Young Guns 18: Natsuki Isa

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.







When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I knew about Young Guns after I entered the ADC awards and The One Show in 2018. Their news letter reached me and I was very interested. I saw past winner’s work over and over again, and I felt their projects were very crafty! For Young Guns, everyone had to apply with one of their projects, so I could see very clearly how they were confronting creativity and influencing the world!

Congrats on the big W after your first time entering! What made you enter this year?

I initially intended to enter Young Guns previously, but I knew I needed a few more years before I could enter. I knew about Young Guns three years ago, but it wasn't the right timing. Finally, after a period of preparation, I decided to enter this year.

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I chose projects I like personally. The six projects I submitted are all professional projects. The relationship between client and SHA is very important to promote good design. The client entrusted me with their project, and gave me creative freedom.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

As there is a time difference between New York and Tokyo, I usually receive emails at inconvinient times. However, I was very happy to be suddenly awoken by an e-mail notification from the Young Guns organizer. The email was best thing I have ever received in my short working career. I won! Hello world!

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

Uncontrolled Types - both the result and the process, as it was my first attempt at expressing my artwork, professionally. I collaborated with an artist and we made an exhibition. The process took time to make shapes e.g. materials, concept, artist bonding… this is my style.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

Collaboration. Rather than working silently from beginning to end by myself, I like to work with people in various fields who have a different perspective that contrasts mine.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

"Max Huber" was the book my dad bought me as a high school entrance gift. At the time I hadn't decide to be a designer, but I really loved Max Huber. I looked at that book when I had spare time. He inspired me to become a designer. Then, I entered art college and design office. When I saw Stefan Sagmeister I was very shocked. In Japan, people prefer simple and geometrical design, but he designs the exact opposite. I am amazed at how strong and beautiful his work is with so many elements in it - how clean it was, even though it doesn't have the grit.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

Stefan Sagmeister (YG1). At first I didn't know that he had won Young Guns, so when I found out Stefan was the first winner, I was even more eager to win.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

I had to be more patient than ever before. I had to do the work in front of me every day, even though I didn't know what the world would be. However, the uncertainty made me stronger. On a positive note, the ADC 99th awards ceremony had been canceled because of COVID-19 and I had to be interviewed on Instagram Live, which led to the establishment of my company's Instagram page. I think it was a huge positive growth for us to start communicating not only domestically, but also internationally. It was also great to have the opportunity to re-package our company and our past works, and to think about where we want to be in the future.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

A project that expands my potential, including working outside the country. I want to continue to design ‘something that inspires people', regardless of the size of the job, language or culture.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

My thanks to all the judges for selecting me. I will cherish the results of your recognition and continue to progress even further to become a great designer. To everyone who collaborated with me in creating my work, to my boss who has given me many opportunities and who has guided me on the joys of the job, and to my clients who have given me the freedom to create. Many thanks! I am so happy to all of you who are my generation and who are really trying to make a difference artisticly. It would be great to actually get to meet you someday, when this whole mess settles down!


"I could feel a perfect fusion in Natsuki Isa's work which embraces the Eastern implicit expression as well as the Western enthusiasm. That is a fluctuating feeling since they are both restrained emotions and passionate movements, both delicate changes and rich colors."

Guang Yu
Art Director, Co-Founder
A Black Cover Design

"Natsuki's projects display the unexpected. There's the fusion of a traditional background with advanced technologies that speaks a universal language. Congratulations on becoming a Young Guns winner!"

Júlia Esqué
Product Designer

"Natsuki Isa's work masterfully combines science and high-tech with micro-typographical sophistication. Highly aesthetic on the one hand, it preserves the defects and flaws of the tools in use. The resulting moments of tension are so fascinating that we ourselves would like to have a microscope to take a closer look."

Paul Steinmann
Experimental Design, Strategy
Absurd Dialong
Young Guns 10 Winner



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



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