Designer of Matchbox (Mattel, Inc)
(He’s been in the US since ’97)
Someday I will have a big house with nice garage in the States.
This is the last interview on this journey.
Ryu Asada is a designer of the British toy brand called “Matchbox“. It’s under the Mattel, Inc. and he is in charge of designing Hot Wheels or miniature cars at the world-famous toy company.
He is really talented and energetic. And he really loves his job and enjoys his life in Los Angeles, the center of diversity.
He’s been pursuing his “beautiful picture” since his childhood. He would say it’s his dream and he will complete his rendu soon!
*Interview at Starbucks Coffee (El Segundo, California)
I wanted to make my career in US.
I had the picture of fantasy. “Someday I’m gonna go back to the States and I’m gonna have a big house with nice garage or something. Possibly the house is near the beach. And my job would be something really fun, with no stress and somehow related to cars.” This is a kind of special picture for me, a Japanese kid.
Back in 1986, I moved to US with my family because my dad had to come to the States. That was the State of Maryland, East Coast. One day my parents decided to live in the States. I was shocked because we were going to “live” there for one year. It was like strange feeling, which was mixture of nervous and half-excited.
This was just one year I’ve been there, but I was just a kid and everything was new to me, everything was shocking to me. But we had really good time and good memories so it became my second home over here. That’s why I wanted to come back here.
We all went back to Japan after one year. But I wanted to come back here and make my own career and life here to realize some of my dreams.
I couldn’t see myself in Japan. I was looking for something but I couldn’t find it in Japan. Maybe there was, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought the place where would be related to my dream was the States.
“I want to learn car design.”
I’ve been like a car guy since I was born, so I didn’t pay attention to any other things. Car is difinitely my inspiration in my life. So I wanted to design cars first.
There were a lot of car design studios at that time in mid 90s. I saw a lot of concept cars or show cars. Those were from the US and I was so inspired by those. So US could be the perfect place to do whatever I wanted to do. I had a bright picture.
Also I couldn’t really find design schools in Japan. At that time, I think not so many people had much respect for the designers over in Japan. On the other hand, “designer” sounds really cool here, such as fashion designer or car designer. So I wanted to learn car design.
And I found the right school. One of my friends told me there’s a school in Pasadena which is known as the great art design school. I was looking at the brochure. I decided to go to that school.
It was really hard. I mean that school was known for the top school of transportation design. A lot of famous designers have been from that school. It was really challenging.
I didn’t have any official back ground of art stuff. I just grabbed color pencils and made a really, really bad portfolio. I submitted it to the school and I got accepted by them luckily. So I moved down to California in summer 2000.
Getting a job at Mattel.
In the classroom, all of them were like me. They all liked cars and toys. I suddenly started feeling I was not lonely anymore.
Every semester, we do the exhibition to show our works. When we had our last show, I showed my renderings and sketches and we had exclusive show for only the companies like Nissan, Honda and even Mattel. I met with a Mattel designer and everything went smoothly. I had an interview right away. That’s how I got a job.
You will get chance to design all kinds of vehicles at Mattel even though they have only miniature cars. And I heard a rumor that it might take 10 years or something to design entire cars if you were in car design studios. You would design door handles or something like that for 10 years.
Also at that time, Mattel, Hot Wheels and Matchbox were looking for real car designers for toys so I was the perfect for them.
He designed them!
Diversity of the global company.
My team is really international. We have British, Canadian, Mexican, British, half-Italian, American, American, Canadian, German, me, Malaysian, Thai and Chinese. There’s such diversity and it’s nice to learn other cultures. Los Angeles is the place that has more than 50 countries inside. You can see a lot of people from all over the world. I like this diversity.
I remember that we had to deal with the project with French company. They only accepted the contract document written in French, not in English. But fortunately, one Canadian guy could speak French so he managed the translation and we got that deal. That’s the beauty of diversity.
First time I came here back in ’86, I saw all the cars were parked outside. They were all different, big and old. And all of them were colorful. They were almost screaming at me like, “Hey, why do I have to be in your color? I like different color.” That situation shows diversity of American people. I like that colorfulness.
Coworkers got fired.
In the US, there’s the evaluation system. It means they survey your performances and evaluate your co-workers or sometimes even your boss. I got scared because we do lay-off.
When we did it last time, we cut down 200 people. During lunchtime I was talking to my co-worker. “Hey, you know what? John is gone! Mike is gone, too!” And next day, a guy I was talking to during lunchtime has gone, too. I realized that’s the real business after all. We took it really seriously.
But fortunately, our team wouldn’t lose anybody because we’re so passionate about what we’re doing. We like what we’re doing so we achieve high sales result. Working hard reflects in sales. It’s really good.
I keep saying to myself, “Do what you love, love what you do.” That’s my motto. I’ve never felt my work is actually “work”. I feel it’s like the extention of my hobby. Keep drawing and keep my motto. It’s like what I’m doing at home. Then I get paid.
They respect what I do in the company. One of good things about working in America is that they respect you as an individual. I don’t feel they treat us like robots.
I’m coming to my dream.
I will live here forever. I’m pretty sure. My English is not perfect and I still have to work on greencard or immigration stuff, but I have my fiance.
And thinking my future, my dream’s here in the States. Like I said, I have a picture of dream – having a big house, nice garage, near the beach – That’s my dream and I think I’m coming to it, approaching to it in the States.
I don’t know whether I will stay in Los Angeles or not since my fiance really hates LA right now. There are too many crimes and traffic is horrible here. The place where we would stay should not be LA, but still inside of California. Because I like California. I like the weather here. And California is the capital of the car industries.
This brochure is also his work!!
What is Los Angeles to you?
It’s my new home. It’ll be the place where
I can have the dream.
Mattel, Inc.: http://www.mattel.com
Art Center College of Design: http://www.artcenter.edu/