AKQA Tokyo has hired Felipe Galiano as creative director following the departure of Claudia Cristovao for Google. A Brazilian, Galiano was previously associate creative director at SapientRazorfish in Berlin, where he worked with brands including Audi and Hugo Boss.
Cristovao, who was group creative director, left AKQA in February after more than 3.5 years to become Google’s head of Brand Studio for Asia-Pacific.
Yoichiro Basso, managing director of AKQA Tokyo, said the agency had since restructured creative duties, dividing them between two leaders. Galiano is responsible for creative and design work, while Hideyuki Izumi is in charge of technology.
Galiano has not previously worked in Japan, but he worked at AKQA in Amsterdam as creative and art director between 2013 and 2015. He also taught at the Miami Ad School and held senior art director roles at Jung von Matt in Berlin and TBWA in Dubai.
In Tokyo, Galiano will oversee work for clients including Nike, BMW Mini, Amazon and American Express. He said AKQA Tokyo seemed to have “amazing designers” but “I think we need to push more on ideation”. He sees value in taking staff out of the office and brainstorming “without boundaries”.
“A lot of agencies tend to go straight to execution, but we should go one step behind and refine the idea,” he said. “We need to think, is this the best way we can go, and then start to craft it and go to the design side. That’s the way I like to work and that’s what I will implement in the agency.”
He said he was still getting acquainted with Japanese design but sees it as having two extremes—one manic and colourful, the other minimalistic. He added that he had found the island of Naoshima, which is known for its art installations, very inspiring.
Galiano said he expected to undergo “a very hardcore adaptation” in working with clients in Japan but thought AKQA’s “international approach”, which involves dealing with clients in English and working directly with offices in other markets, would make it easier than working at a purely Japanese agency.
Living in Dubai, with its wide range of expatriate workers, helped foster an open mind and the ability to address challenges from different perspectives, Galiano said. In hiring for the role, Basso said it had been important to find someone who fits both AKQA’s culture as a network and the local culture in Japan.
“The challenge was to find a creative leader who can bring an international mindset but is also a sponge open to being shaped by local culture and design influences,” he said. “Bringing those two together is easier said than done. Each personality [in our team] really shapes our culture.”