tech + culture + design

TOKYO + KYOTO : ありがとう!


From the back alleys of Golden Gai, Shinjuku Tokyo to the pristine, breath-taking nature in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan’s thoughtful and contradictory culture extends from its food to its urban design. Powerful tradition combined with rebellious modernization create micro-worlds within Japan. 

Fortunate enough to spend 10 days in Japan, I was able to explore both Tokyo and Kyoto, leaving enough of each unvisited to justify another trip back soon (as if one ever has to justify a trip to Japan?). 

Here are some highlights, by city.


There are so many pockets of Tokyo to explore! Places I visited: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Akihabara, Roppongi, and Ginza. 



At the edge of Meji Jingu lies Harajuku. After walking through the beautiful garden and visiting the shrine, wander into the busy crowded streets of Harajuku shopping and eating. The cosplay is jaw-dropping and crepe shops are delicious.


Omotesando Hills, Jingumae, Shibuya

A shopping district filled with beautiful architecture, high-end stores, and delicious stops, Shibuya contains gems like the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House (a must go), amongst many other stops, such as the Shibuya Crossing and incredible shopping. In Shibuya is also Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya for delicious noodles and seating in small booths!



A well-known, bustling “electronic” district, Akihabara is a flurry of bright lights, loud music, and gamers. The tech hub of Japan has a mind-blowingly large stores that have every gadget imaginable, on top of excessive varieties of pens, face masks, and other knick-knacks. Otaku holds mini-stores of anime-lovers’ dreams, with floor after floor of collectibles. 


As fascinating as Tokyo was, Kyoto was by far my favorite part of Japan. The stunning architecture, beautifully preserved history, and slower pace stole my heart. Places to visit: Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Temple), Arashiyama (bamboo forests and tea houses), Gion (Geisha district), Kiyomizu-dera (shrine), Yasaka (shrine), Nishiki market.




Mochi & green tea in tea-house on a mountain


Streets near Karasuma in Kyoto


Breathtaking bamboo forests of Arashiyama


In Arashiyama bamboo forests 


Streets near Higashi-ji on the way to Kodai-ji

More photos can be found on my Instagram here.

Invest In Design

The bottom line is that companies that use design strategically grow faster and have higher margins than their competitors. High growth rates and margins make these companies very attractive to shareholders, increasing competition for ownership. This ultimately pushes their stock prices higher than their industry peers.”

MIT Sloan Study Tour: Global Branding In A Dynamic Marketplace


In an interconnected world where boundaries between cultures and countries erode with each Tweet and international AirBnB traveler, brands are faced with a tension: how can you create a brand that appeals to people globally while preserving the flavor of each local community? In our MIT Global Branding Study Tour, we set out to visit some of the world’s most successful global brands to learn about how each has been able to craft an identity simultaneously unique and universal. 

From Old Town in Stockholm, Sweden to the mountaintops of Orense, Spain, we visited companies that were in the early stages of global growth as well as those who have already established global recognition, in industries from technology to luxury fashion. The branding challenges that both growing and mature brands face reveal fascinating trends that demonstrate the often-elusive capability of finding, understanding, and evolving with dynamic customer segments in a world of ever-changing technology. What all of these brands had in common was their mastery of connecting emotionally with their core customers by communicating the brand essence through a carefully created combination of service, product, marketing, and browsing experience.

Data-Driven Brand Development

In visiting Spotify, Nickelodeon, Zara, and Carolina Herrera, the role of data in defining the entire brand experience, from messaging to product to service was essential, and part of the core competency that has made these companies exceptionally successful in their global expansion. From quantitative analytics to qualitative observations, these brands had mastered the integration and interpretation of data to be able to take action on a day-to-day basis in a way that made a direct impact on the bottom line of their business to fuel global growth.

A clear example of brand evolution includes Spotify, which started in Sweden and has had to adjust both its product user experience and marketing based on insights from data to sustain growth globally.



Brands Grown From The Soul

On the flip side, Acne and Dominio Do Bibei have successfully become well-loved, high-growth brands by neglecting the traditional creation of brand identity that usually finds its genesis in research. Instead, these brands have been founder and mission-driven, with originality unique to each founder’s passion, yielding consequently niche products that magnetically attract diehard fans. 

Acne Jeans began as a fashion, technology, and art collective, driven to define the avant-garde. Since then, it has developed unique and highly successful luxury fashion collections that have propelled the brand into global recognition. The essence of the brand, artistic, futuristic, and luxurious, is imbued in every aspect of the company, from the CEO to its retail stores.  With growth, Acne has to learn how to maintain the uniqueness of the brand while creating enough definition to be globally recognizable. 


Seeing the headquarters of these brands firsthand and meeting many of the founders and leaders of these companies has demonstrated the importance of managing the tensions between focusing on core brand values and dynamically evolving to create and sustain global growth.

More in-depth articles about Zara, Spotify, Carolina Herrera, and Acne Jeans to come!

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Stockholm, The Capital of __________

  1. Fashion: Sloanies visit two of Sweden’s most successful and upstart fashion houses, H&M and Acne Studios
  2. Style: Acne Studios displays its latest styles in their Old Town showroom
  3. Art: Andy Warhol creates iconic artwork for an iconic Swedish brand
  4. Culture: Old Town in Stockholm has been a seat of commerce and trade since the 13th century
  5. Science: the eponymous Nobel Prize, after the famed Stockholm Native, is handed out each year for contributions to the advancement of arts, sciences, and humanity
  6. Tradition: a Constitutional Monarchy, the Royal Place of the Sveriges Kungahus is home to Sweden’s royal family, once rulers of the three crowns - Sweden, Norway, Scania
  7. Cool: the trendy Nespresso shop in downtown Stockholm showcases its wares in bright colors and offers visitors a unique brand experience

The statement is indeed bold, but Stockholm has surely earned the title “Capital of Scandinavia” by personifying the heart of what that appellation means: being all at once modern, traditional, courageous, and unique. In short, being quintessentially Stockholm

Stockholm possesses several city icons that help establish the brand identity and act as visual markers for the city, one of which is the Operahouse on the water. With colorful flags and a grandiose exterior, it is a symbol of the beauty and culture of the city. #mitbranding #mitsloanstudytour #travel #branding (at Operakällaren)

Visited Acne Studios HQ today in Stockholm - beautiful creative space in an old bank in Old Town. The brand has grown tremendously since it was founded in 2003, developing a following of trendsetting fashionistas both in Stockholm and all around the world. #mitbranding #style #mitsloanstudytour #acnejeans #luxury (at Acne Studios)

The culture of Berlin is rooted deep in the country’s social and political history, which is in turn reflected in the often darker pieces of art. Brands reflect the raw, grungy, tough culture of Berlin in their messaging and visual imagery as well. The importance of truly understanding a culture and its history to discover what resonates most is key. #mitbranding (at Berliner Mauer | Berlin Wall)