We had the good fortune of connecting with Dean Ichiriu and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dean, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
By chemical makeup, I’m a person who puts my head down to grind – believing that quantity yields quality. Of course, in some cases it does. I would spend hours trying to force out answers or ideas, but I might not have truly believe in what I was working on. Even then, I had worked so hard that my ideas were precious to me, and I’d be torn if they didn’t make the cut. Needless to say, I was only working. I didn’t have a life outside of design. As I continued to work, I grew tired and uninspired.

I started connecting with friends again to have dinner. I set time on the weekends to play basketball, golf, and go hiking. I revisit art exhibits that I loved growing up. I took a break from the over-stressing and under-eating sleepless nights. My main focus is simply to play.

Focusing on life outside design helped me relieve the tension built within myself from tirelessly working. This carefree youthfulness I have now adopted started making ideas and decisions more organic. My workflow continues to evolve as I expose myself to colors beyond the confides of my room. There’s something about moving around and connecting with things – not design related – that is uplifting.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’d like to say that my journey to today was a straight shot. It wasn’t. I didn’t know the world of design or that it was a reachable goal to be a professional artist. I grew up hooping and playing golf in Monterey Park. I had overlooked that it was someone’s job to design everything I was using to perform. My shoes, shorts, golf clubs, socks!

On the other hand I did know I could draw, but it wasn’t something I was serious about. It was just something I knew I was a little bit better than others at. But as I grew as an artist, I began understanding how to look at details more and more.

The one pair of shoes whose details I remember vividly is the Jordan 13. The whisker stitching on the lateral and medial, the paw inspired traction pattern, the illuminating eye reflecting between the Jumpman logo and 23. I searched for why the shoe looked the way it did. It turns out that Michael Jordan is nicknamed the “Black Cat” amongst his friends. This is what I wanted to do. Tell stories through product for people around the world.

Although I did know about ArtCenter (the school I would eventually attend), I didn’t know how to design shoes or even what a design process was. I spent a few years trying to put together a portfolio and sent it in – a bunch of shoe renders I had done. A few weeks later ArtCenter responded – “Please resubmit with a process of your decision making.” But I still didn’t know what that meant.

I researched how to follow a design process with crisp notes on what my decisions had been. Shipped. Received. Responded. Accepted, barely. Although I barely made it, I made it. If knew nothing else about design, this was going to be my thing. My relentless effort to continually learn and push beyond my capabilities was going to be my thing.

This ethos has been with me throughout my journey as a designer. I have gone through many changes on how I approach design and my workflows, but constant curiosity has always been key to my success.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a tough one.

We’d definitely have to take a trip up and down Melrose, Fairfax, and La Brea. It’s always an exciting day out there with many personalities and cultures. There’s so much to take in, but it’ll sadly leave a good size dent in your wallet.

Little Tokyo in LA is also a must. The community and stores have changed a bit, but there’s no shortage of good food and a great time. They have a nice bookstore there called Kinokuniya thats always fun to walk around and buy Totoro merch.

If we still have money leftover after Melrose, I’d try to get in a Disney day. No matter what time of the year it is, it’s always pure joy. Nothing beats releasing your inner child to consume corndogs and churros all day.

One of my favorite places around is in Sawtelle. Aside from food, they have two of the best stores: Giant Robot and Giant Robot 2. My pops use to take me there as a kid, and it’s filled with wonderful artists and unique toys you might not need. Such a cool spot.

We’d definitely need a chill day after all that excitement. There’s a small spot in K-Town called the Kimbap that we’d take out to eat on the Rose Bowl lawn. Eat, play games, relax.

Then we’d cry during our goodbyes.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to begin by thanking my parents, Alan and Patricia. I can’t imagine the struggles of being a couple of kids making the jump from Hawaii to California in search for new. Thank you for your sacrifices, lessons, and encouragement throughout my journey. I wouldn’t have made it anywhere without your love and support.

Linda Sans – Thank you for keeping being an anchor and guiding light for our family.

Charlotte Kaneshiro – Thank you for pushing me towards a higher education and your trust.

Bobby Hundreds – Thank you for showing me how to keep a dream alive even when the odds are heavily against you.

Kevin Beard – Thank you for believing in me even when I don’t myself.

Website: https://www.deanichiriu.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/monsieurshiro/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deanichiriu/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dean.ichiriu

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