Good design can make any subject understandable, fun, and relatable. That's especially important when your subject is "Exploring Arithmetic". Obata's illustrations for this 1957 textbook showed students how to design a mid-century modern home, how to budget for $77 per month rent, purchase a car with stylish tail fins, buy car insurance for $46 per year, and calculate your favorite player's batting average.
For more than 70 years, Obata has been simplifying complex communications to maximize understanding and inspire meaningful audience-driven action.
With over 70 years of experience creating award-winning designs for global brands, Obata proudly wears the title of Saint Louis' longest-running creative agency like a badge of honor. We've learned what it takes to adapt and evolve, keeping our eyes on future trends while respecting the insight of the past.
To learn more about our history, visit: obata.com/obata-history
The 1959 Emerson-Imperial Lighting catalog is a classic of mid-century design featuring iconic mass-market lighting designs from the height of the MCM era. Working with industrial designers at Emerson, Obata staged photo shoots of fixtures in ultra-modern interiors with contemporary furnishings. The award-winning design of the catalogs Obata created included bold typography, bright colors and full page photography that defined mid-century style for homeowners.
Heading for the mountains of Busch? Obata made those mountains. Few brands survive for over 70 years relatively unchanged, but the mountains remain. In the mid-1950s, Obata's co-founders created the original "Mountains of Busch" for Busch Bavarian beer. The watercolor illustration blended the landscape painting traditions of the Kimio Obata family with the Bavarian heritage of Alice Hausner's ancestors. Today, the snow-covered German village is gone but the stylized peaks of the iconic Busch mountains still reflect creative decisions made by Obata over seven decades ago.
Today's post features an unexpected gift. The Missouri Historical Society contacted us recently about a painting they had in their collection that was attributed to Chiura Obata, father of our founder Kimio Obata. They suspected it was painted by a different member of the Obata family because it did not match the style or signature found in other examples of Chiura Obata's work. The painting is very likely by Kimio. It looks like the work of a commercial illustrator, and the signature matches signatures and logos used by Kimio Obata.
We don't know the history of the painting, titled "Starry Night Winter", but it is a beautiful, peaceful scene and perfect for the holiday season.
Welcome to the early days of the internet. Obata's first website was built in-house using HTML 1.0 way back in 1996. It was cutting-edge for it's time, but a pretty simple affair. Our second website, built in 1999, was the one that really pushed the envelope for its time, featuring innovative design, an animated gif of the Obata letterforms and a custom client portal for file sharing.
Obata has a long tradition of adopting leading-edge technology to serve customer needs. We were among the first creative agencies to enter the digital age, purchasing Apple Mac computers in 1984 to test the concept of "computer-aided design" and eventually adding digital photography, photo imaging, video production and in-house web development.
Rich Murphy joined Obata as a photographer in 1991 after stints with Busch Creative Services and Design Network. As computers entered the design field, Rich drove Obata's entry into multiple new business opportunities, starting with digital imaging and prepress proofing, and followed soon after by full in-house web development capabilities. Increased use of computers required building internal networks and backup systems. Rich figured out what was needed and built Obata's network from the ground up. After a devastating building fire in 2001, Obata's computer backup allowed the company to get up and running from remote locations within three days.
Once Rich earned his BSBA, he turned his attention to rebuilding our accounting system. He also found time for his real job at Obata, traveling around the world shooting corporate photography for clients such as Emerson, Gardner Denver, MEMC and others.
Obata has always been a leader in corporate photography and video, and Rich led the way in the company's early adoption of digital photo and video capabilities. Thanks to his "we can do this" attitude, the company added video editing, motion graphics, 3D modeling, drone photography and audio recording services to our in-house capabilities.
For over two decades, Obata had a sister company based in Tokyo. In 1963, Kimio Obata established the Obata Corporation and by 1966 Kimio had moved to Japan permanently. The two companies shared the Emerson account, with Kimio acting as a consultant for both Emerson and the Japanese advertising giant, Dentsu.
Obata Corporation clients included Seiko, Nikon, Fuji and Toyota Motors. Kimio also served as the first President and Chairman of Emerson Japan.
Over the years, several St. Louis employees spent from six months to two years working in the Tokyo office where "gaijin" designers were treated like gods. One St. Louisan, George Wagner, was interviewed and hired by co-founder Alice Hausner specifically for the Tokyo office, where he worked for two years. He said that he and his family loved living in Tokyo. In fact, George never worked a day for the Obata office in St. Louis.
When your client is one of the largest containerboard and corrugated packaging firms in the world, it just makes sense to create the company's new corporate lobby display out of corrugated fiberboard.
In 1987, Jefferson Smurfit Corporation moved its headquarters from Alton, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri. Obata designed and produced a world map for the reception area created with alternating layers of single- and double-faced corrugated fiberboard. In front of the corrugated map was an edge-lit acrylic panel with color-coded dots representing Smurfit's global locations. The lobby installation also included floor-to-ceiling photographs of the company's tree farms and paper mills.
Obata understands the power that environmental design can play in driving awareness and reinforcing a brand. Our environmental design experience ranges from trade show exhibits, bus wraps, corporate displays, to signage and wayfinding systems. Learn more about Obata's environmental design at obata.com/expertise/marketing-communications-services/
Emerson's 100th anniversary book, "A Century of Manufacturing", is a comprehensive corporate history designed and produced by Obata. The 260-page history book was a multi-year effort. Our team worked closely with Emerson archivists as well as researchers and writers from the Winthrop Group to create this record of Emerson's 100-year history.
Thanks to our long association with Emerson, Obata made multiple appearances in the company history. The book covers Emerson's first international joint venture in Japan in the early 1960s and the critical contributions made by our founder, Kimio Obata as a key consultant on the effort. It also covers several examples of Obata's branding, marketing and corporate communications work for Emerson over the years.
Businesses seek Obata branding services when they invest in a new brand, rebrand an existing company or celebrate a major milestone. Learn more about Obata’s branding services at: obata.com
From low-alcohol beers, no-alcohol beers, wine coolers, and seltzer sodas to popcorn, nuts and premium snacks, Obata has created the branding for decades of new product innovations from Anheuser-Busch. Baybry's Champagne Cooler, introduced in 1985, was following a hot trend in the beverage marketplace...in this case, the booming mid-1980s demand for wine coolers. Obata created the elegant labeling and packaging for the upscale champagne cooler, and to complete the look, we also designed Baybry's unique "champagne-style" bottle with a foil-wrapped twist-off cap.
Baybry's sister beverage in the wine cooler market was Dewey Stevens -- another brand designed by Obata -- which Anheuser-Busch positioned as a more affordable "light" wine cooler. The wine cooler market topped a billion dollars in 1987, and accounted for 20 percent of all wine consumed in the US, but the trend faded fast and the end of the decade brought the end of the wine cooler craze.
Learn more about Obata and the surprising history behind the brands we've created at obata.com
At least the illustrations were fun. Obata's work with Webster Publishing included school textbooks such as this 1957 edition of "Exploring Arithmetic". Illustration credits went to Obata & Associates and Aline Cunningham, a well-known St. Louis-based freelance artist. Obata designed and illustrated several editions of "Exploring Arithmetic" in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Obata's work on childrens books and textbooks fits right in with our mission of simplifying complex communication to maximize audience understanding. Learn more at: obata.com
John Vandover's energy, irreverence and larger-than-life personality drove Obata for over 35 years. John joined the company in 1970 after attending the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) and the University of Utah, then teaching for a year at the University of Cincinnati. His leadership and creativity were core to Obata's early success in corporate communications and branding. Named Obata's third president in 1993, John led the company into the computer age, through a devastating fire and into the 21st century.
John was a character who kept us all on our toes and reveled in the many jokes and cartoons made at his expense. Life with John was never boring. And clients loved him.