Koji Iyama: An Idea That Sticks

mt expo Taipei shows a familiar object in an unexpected way

You use it to line the ceiling before painting, fix a broken object, and wrap a box. It’s functional for sure, but how do you make masking tape interesting? You give it to Koji Iyama, designer and art director behind iyamadesign inc. and Gold Cube award winner of the ADC 94th Annual Awards for his project mt expo Taipei.

Kamoi Kakoshi is the creator of mt, a masking tape retailer in Japan that develops and sells some of the most beautifully designed masking tape we’ve ever seen. They had only just started producing Washi tapes as a sundry product but were uncertain of how to introduce it. That’s when Koji started thinking. “I proposed Kamoi an ambitious plan” he says, “to hold a promotional exhibition…and express mt’s most outstanding characteristic; that it can be taped and removed easily.”

Aside from showing customers how to use tape for small-scale items and conventional everyday use, Koji thought the retailer needed to introduce the product as something unlike anything else on the market.  By decorating big spaces and objects, he aimed to show customers that mt could be arranged in any way you imagine and in turn, created an imaginary world.

The first exhibition was held in a small gallery in Tokyo, where ‘unexpectedly’ as Koji tells it, many customers came in and the number of visitors increased by the day.

“After the first exhibition, we felt confident about the possibilities of this promotion and we started expanding this project.”

And expand they did. Using 1000 rolls of mt masking tape in Taiwan alone, Koji covered Mini Cooper cars, bicycles, boats, trams, cable cars, tukutukus, balloons, pinwheels and more.  For the Taipei exhibition, local buses were covered in mt and ran through the town, doubling as OOH advertising. They created lanterns, which are used for Taiwanese festival traditionally, made out of mt’s Washi paper.  If you’re in Paris or New York, you may recall seeing mt colorful stripes at flagship Uniqlo shops  and the MoMA Store. “For each exhibition, I created things that are familiar with people in the area and exhibited them so that customers would resonate with mt and remember what they saw long after seeing the objects.”

Imagine walking along, going about your regular routine and finding yourself suddenly in the midst of a Washi wonderland. Like an animated movie brought to life, a little bit surreal and a whole lot of fun. “I cannot say I have never seen any promotional exhibitions like mt expo before, nor have I ever seen massive objects and spaces covered by tape. I think I’ve shown masking tape in a whole new way.”

In addition to enjoying the colorful spaces, customers were invited to use as many sample tapes as they want and create their own original buttons. They were also encouraged to snap and share photos of the event. “Sometimes, they show us a new way of using mt and we can learn from them. I think the project [became] interactive.”

What was the best part of creating a masking taped wonderland? Aside from having a really cool client who gave Koji total creative range, he says: “my favorite part about working on this project is that I can directly see customers’ reactions at the exhibition and experience these joyous moments with my client. When I see Kamoi’s fulfilling smiles, I feel I am doing a job that is truly the quintessential work of an art director.”

Special thanks to Yoshiko Akado Iyama.