Young Guns 21: Zin Nagao

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 01, 2023

Get to know the phenomenal class of Young Guns 21

After 85 incredible finalists and intense deliberation, the Young Guns jury has narrowed it down to the 29 winners that make up the class of Young Guns 21. An astounding collection of animators, illustrators, film directors, typographers (a few Ascenders 2023 winners as well!), graphic designers, and photographers make up YG21.

Every year we interview the Young Guns winners to get to know them better as artists and people. And as always, we are welcoming another class of outstanding individuals into the highly coveted Young Guns community.

Now that you know the YG21 winners better, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating them in person at NYC’s Sony Hall on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at 6:30 PM. See you in two weeks and get ready to party!



Fukuoka, Japan


Saga, Japan


When did you first learn about Young Guns?

It was only recently that I heard about Young Guns. When my teacher told me about it, I really wanted to give it a try. I am very happy to receive the award because designers I admire have won it in the past.

How did you end up in the creative field anyways?

When I was a student, I was not really interested in becoming a designer, but when I learned about fields such as typography and typefaces, I thought that the skills to create these would be useful in the future and began to study them. That was hard work at first, but it became more and more fun, and I came to love creating typefaces.

Congrats on the win! Why did you decide to enter this year?

From the time I learned about Young Guns, I could only enter about four more times, counting backwards from the number of years! I knew if I did not apply every year, I would regret it. However, I was not used to applying for awards overseas, and Young Gun’s application rules are very difficult, so I was impatient. But I really wanted to be a Young Guns winner, so I decided to give it a try and not give up. Of course, it is important to hone design skills, but I thought it was even more important to have a sense of style and a weird obsession that others don’t have. I want to keep creating things that excite me and everyone else!

You only get to submit six projects that embody you and your talent. The best of the very best. So, how did you decide which pieces were good enough to make the cut?

I selected six of my favorite projects I have worked on. That's really all there is to it. I didn't just anticipate which ones would be chosen by the jury.

In what ways does your hometown inspire your creativity as an artist?

When I was a kid, I used to play retro Japanese video games. Those were the days when I played them with my friends. As I grew up, while I had fewer opportunities to get together with others, I learned the joy of playing alone. I was impressed by the beauty of the graphics on the screens I was playing on at the time. The typography, colors, and layouts were all interesting.

"I was impressed by the beauty of the graphics on the screens I was playing on at the time. The typography, colors, and layouts were all interesting."

Now that you’re a part of the Young Guns community, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

Stefan Sagmeister, (YG1). Like him, I want to be a person who continues to create no matter how old I get.

If you could create a new Young Guns tradition, what would you want it to be?

I would be happy to have support to open a solo exhibition.

Name a creative and professional dream project that you have yet to fulfill — maybe Young Guns will propel you in that direction!

I love music and hope to one day work with some of my favorite artists: Bonobo, Caribou, Four Tet, Max Cooper, and Tennyson. It will probably be difficult, but I dream big!

This is YG21, but what do you imagine you’ll be up to when YG31 rolls around in 2033?

I enjoy collecting art books, and my dream is to open a bookstore. In 10 years I hope to be doing design and running a bookstore at the same time.

Will we see you at the YG21 party in NYC in November?

I can’t go to NY this time because of my budget, but I want to go! On that day, I will be waving from afar! (◉_>◉)ノシ



Come party with us and celebrate all the Young Guns 21 winners on Wednesday, November 15 at Sony Hall! See you at 6:30 PM in NYC!

Get tickets! It's party time!

The class of Young Guns 21



Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Max Amato
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano







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