Ever come across things in Japan that seemed interesting, but had no idea what they were because they were all in Japanese? Well, take a look at “PingMag” and you’ll figure it all out!
“PingMag” is a web magazine that presents design and works from Japan in both Japanese and English. But the articles don’t scream “JAPAN” into your face – it actually barely mentions that they are from Japan, but instead presents them simply as interesting ideas.
How has Mr. Tom Vincent, the head of “PingMag”, managed to make this web magazine so popular abroad? Our editor YOSH interviewed him on his view.
Tom Vincent (PingMag)
Tonoloop Networks, Inc., President
Creative producer, narrator, TV presenter.
Born 1967 in England. Graduate of the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and the University of California. First visited Japan in ’89 and became a permanent resident in ’96. ’97, appointed as Editor in Chief of the inter -national edition of Dai Nippon Printing’s online art magazine, “nmp -international.” Participant of the online project “Sensorium” since ’98. ’99-2006, received multiple advertisement awards while as board member and creative director of web design company IMG SRC inc. ’05-’08, produced bilingual online magazine, “PingMag.” ’09, founded Tonoloop Networks, Inc., a company dedicated to projects that deliver to the world the “best and most intriguing” of Japanese companies, organizations, and personas. Vincent also participates in projects for local revitalization of villages and islands in various regions across Japan. http://www.tonoloop.com
YOSH: Thank you for your time today.
Tom: My pleasure.
YOSH: When we had our English page for greenz.jp a few years ago, we wanted something like “PingMag”.
Tom: Really? I’m happy to hear that.
YOSH: We officially started greenz global in June 2013. I heard that “PingMag” also resumed writing articles from this year. I’d like to hear more about it. What made you go back into business?
Tom: “PingMag” started back in 2005, but in 2008, with the Lehman Crisis, we had to stop publishing. It was a tough time for us. Everyone kept asking me if I was going to start it again. All the past articles were still being read by people. Though I couldn’t do it at the time, I knew by heart that I’d like to do it again someday. Plus, there was nothing like “PingMag” out there.
YOSH: What is unique about “PingMag”?
Tom: Its simplicity. We make whatever that sparks our interest into an article. In fact, Japan is full of things that interest you in everyday life. What’s important is that you make an original article out of them, with passion. We just go with our instinct.
YOSH: And that was the key to making original articles. I’m really inspired by “PingMag” – it’s got beautiful photos, it’s geeky in a good way, and you show us scenes from everyday life in a completely new angle.
Tom: Yes, we’re geeky, but not featuring otaku culture. There’s something interesting wherever you go, whether it be out on the streets or in the bread basket on your table.
YOSH: Anything you pay attention to when you write?
Tom: Nothing, really. All I do is try not to think too hard. As long as the message gets through, and as long as the writer writes with enthusiasm, then that’s already a great article. What’s important is that the readers become just as excited as you, the writer, are.
YOSH: Who do you think reads “PingMag”?
Tom: 70% are from abroad. They come to read more because they are interested in creative ideas, rather than because the ideas are from Japan. Take the article on the stores without staff; that one’s very popular. I think the popular articles are the ones that don’t make readers think “Japan’s amazing!” but rather, “Wow, that’s interesting – there’s something similar in my town too.”
The Stores Without Staff – http://pingmag.jp/2013/08/07/mujin/
YOSH: At greenz, when we introduce ideas from abroad, we also point out that it could be used in Japan. But some people don’t really believe that.
Tom: It’s important to know why they think that. I’ve noticed through doing “PingMag” that everyone sees the world from different standards. Our readers’ standards and our standards can overlap in some areas but not in others. We should try to see things from our readers’ point of view, but we don’t always need to match everything to their standards. That won’t be fun – having a “gap” is also important.
YOSH: What did you think when you heard about “greenz global”?
Tom: I thought it was great, because most of the ideas that greenz share are new to everyone outside Japan. But then again, I don’t think you need to emphasize that those ideas are “from Japan”.
YOSH: What do you mean?
Tom: Most of the ideas we share on “PingMag” are also from Japan. But we never tell our readers that they are “from Japan”. If we do that, then they don’t seem as interesting, don’t you think?
YOSH: True… then our readers might be reading only because they are interested in Japan.
Tom: Exactly. We want readers to be interested in the idea itself, not just because it’s from Japan. Greenz global should choose ideas that are particularly interesting to them, just like how greenz is already doing. It shouldn’t just randomly introduce any idea.
Also, it’s important for these articles to be an interesting read not just for people abroad, but for Japanese readers who understand English as well.
YOSH: We’ll keep that in mind, especially because we don’t want the greenz global articles to just be translating the Japanese version.
I’m just a bit worried that, since I’m not so great at English myself, I can’t judge whether an article is “good” or not if it’s in English.
Tom: You’ll need help from a native English speaker for that. But it’s not just writing good sentences. It’s also about understanding what kind of message greenz wants to send out. That’s something that a native speaker can’t check.
YOSH: We’ll need super professionals to be able to do both! How do you think we can get together such individuals?
Tom: It’ll help if the whole greenz global team has a clear goal – that’s the most important thing to have when working as a team. Maybe that’s something greenz global could work on.
Personally, I’d like to see greenz global turn into a bridge between the various social innovations of East Asia in the future. East Asia is full of vibrant movements in social innovation. I think this region will be a great role model for Europe and America in the near future.
YOSH: That’s interesting! Something like an Asian network of entrepreneurs, perhaps?
Tom: Yep. If greenz global calls out to the people in Asia and gets everyone cooperating, I think it will attract many fans. Maybe you’ll find members among those fans that can become the staff behind greenz global in the future.
YOSH: That would be exciting. I feel like my perspective becomes more global each time I talk to you. Thank you for all the inspiring ideas!
A very important point raised by Mr. Tom Vincent, indeed! These days, it seems like many ideas are said to be interesting because they are “from Japan”, but we need to always keep in mind that ideas are ideas, regardless of where they are from. Maybe we’ll see a network of ideas in East Asia (and all over the world) in the near future!
[English Text: Mai Iida]
[via greenz people mail magazine Vol.10]
We’re very excited to hold green drinks with Mr. Vincent!
I am very happy to have Tom-san at our upcoming green drinks party.
PingMag is an influential bilingual web magazine features various designs. What kind of images do you have, when hear the word ‘design’? PingMag doesn’t focus on specific designs, but they publish many articles of product design, packaging, web, programming, art, traditional crafts… and so many more! So, they think ‘design’ is unlimited!
I really recommend you all to check the wonderful web magazine. Also, please come and join us for our green drinks party in Tokyo!
– Kota Suzuki (chief editor of greenz global)