Welcome to HI(NY)LIFE [hi-new-york-life]. My name is Hitomi Watanabe Deluca. A Japanese native, I grew up in a little known prefecture called Ehime and moved to NYC in 2001. I haven’t looked back since.
After earning a BFA in graphic design from the School of Visual Arts, I was thrilled to continue my creative development by working for MTV for several years. I had an opportunity that most debut designers could only dream of: to be consistently creating designs that were guaranteed exposure. It felt like a dream. But when I realized that my creations weren’t solving problems through design, the most important takeaway from my time at SVA, I knew it was time to move on.
My new desk was at The Seventh Art, a branding agency specializing in luxury real estate and lifestyle. There, I learned exactly what I was hoping to learn: how to use design as a business tool. Design was solving the client’s problems. Design was telling the story on behalf of the client. Design wasn’t just backing the business strategy. Design WAS the business strategy.
Throughout those years at SVA, MTV and The Seventh Art, synchronicitously, Iku was always right next to me. Iku Oyamada was the first Japanese person I met in NYC and we just happened to be studying and working at the same time at the same place. We were designing together so much that it felt unnatural not to open a studio together. This is how HI(NY) was formed.
That was 2008. Yes, that 2008. Was it wise to start your own business in the middle of one of the worst financial crises? Probably not. But we were optimistic to think it was actually a good time to start at the bottom of the economy as it cannot go any worse (yes, it easily could). We won’t lie… there were highs and lows. So low, in fact, that we hit bottom again despite the economic recovery.
We survived. In 2016 we opened a new office in Kyoto, in order to enhance our services to existing and prospective clients in Japan and other Asian Pacific countries. We are now a team of 12 between New York and Kyoto, and working hard to help create brands that foster loyalty and generate sustainable positive impact.
I started this blog for many reasons but most importantly I wanted to share with people in Japan what I have learned as a designer, a creative director as well as a design business owner in NYC. Working with clients from various countries, it was alarmingly clear that although the word ‘branding’ was ubiquitous in Asia, the true meaning of it was hardly understood. They have such a high standard for design in many ways, however it was not used as a business tool.
A few years later, this blog led to publishing a book “New York Design Strategies for Japanese Business: Winning in the Global Market” in 2019,  co-authored by Iku. Written in Japanese, it is a step-by-step guide for business leaders and entrepreneurs in Japan on how to solve problems creatively and how to take charge of their own brand identities. It breaks down the meaning and the mechanism of branding and tells why it is so important for all successful businesses. Our book is to be translated into Chinese.
I have been writing this blog and have written the book only in Japanese, for Japanese audiences, but I started to wonder if my knowledge may be helpful to others and that’s when I started having it translated and republished, one at a time.
You might have noticed that I write about other stuff too, from parenting to traveling, but predominantly, cooking and baking. My husband, Giorgio is a founder of Dean&Deluca, the iconic global chain of upscale grocery stores, and what I have learnt from him is too good not to be shared!
No matter what I do–branding, running a business, parenting, cooking, or making a home–I do with care, and I do as creatively as possible. If I could be an inspiration for someone in some way that would be a greatest joy.
Hitomi Watanabe-Deluca