PROJ: Tengu Natural Foods
Tengu Natural Foods is the retail arm of Alishan Organics, the company where i controlled
the creative direction for 3 years in Tokyo. Although related, it has a completely
different relationship with its customers. It is very hands on interacting on a one to one
basis with the customers and directly connects to the customers with its online presence,
and retail online food store.
THE WEB STORE
Running on a modified Zen Cart system, with Japanese and international credit card
facilities, as well as a COD payment system, it really hides its deep functionality behind a
simple smiling interface. Japan is mainly a cash based society, and there is almost zero
PayPal usage, so these functions are extremely important.
My job was to slide an interface into this space without breaking the system. As with
Alishan, I made a major visual upgrade from the outset, but retained certain visual elements from the previous site so it did not completely confuse the existing customers. It can be hard in situations like this as to find a good balance between an upgrade of facilities and keeping it obvious. We pushed it as far as we though we could, as it had many new features. Using obvious visual clues, and an easy to read guide , plus a video tutorial, I made sure people had an opportunity to get up to speed in the new site. This may seem like overkill, but is an important step, and the fact that their customer base is not overly tech savvy and often in the older social groups meant that we wanted to cover all bases. The website was a total revolution in style and consistency of quality, which we have managed to maintain over the past few years. You can see how it changed without becoming confusing in the example pic.
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This website is by far the largest online shop i have worked on. Its functionality is extremely large as it has to accommodate English and Japanese languages as well as diverse paying methods with options to pay on delivery as well as international credit cards. My job was mainly focussed on the design areas, as well as conceptualizing the overall usability and functionality requirements.
Basically, to put it simple, I just made it look pretty and made it obvious for the users to find what they were looking for.
This is an ongoing project of ours. I have inserted areas which import data from other sources so I can easily change the header banner, front page information and other small changes without opening any of the php code pages. The idea behind this is that if I ever have to pass on this job to another, they can take over without putting the website in jeopardy, and also without risking our SSL functionality.
Over time, as with the Alishan logo, I upgraded the logo, taking it from black and white to a
full explosion of color including a large flower and some well known products. My aim
being to make the mood surrounding the company more positive and removing any
ambiguity about what we do. I was also given feedback by some of our customers about it. Tengu has a wider reach advertising wise, and has more applicable uses, so it’s abit of a case by case scenario (sometimes necessary, for example if it embroidered or screen printed), but once again used consistently and clearly incorporating the companies main focus.
In September 2012, the new catalog was completed (the previous one was in 2009). I also
completely revolutionized the design and production methods. Basically my goal was to
make something with excitement, information and encouragement, to be visually light
years ahead of our previous catalog, while drastically cutting the costs (almost 50%). I also
expanded it from 44 pages to 64 pages, as I wanted every item to have a full color picture,
as well as feature items and large background example pictures to further connect the
viewer with the joy of food. I have included some before and after shots of the catalogs to
show how they changed.
This was such a busy job for me as I not only did all the design and layout work from
scratch (as we did not have the data from the previous catalog), but did all the
photography and image manipulation as well, and all the cost negotiations for
printing,shipping and quality control. I was so excited to turn this dream into a reality, and
from this use it as a benchmark for quality for our future production, and also a style to
infuse into the online store.
ONLINE ADVERTISING. Twitter, Facebook and Analytics. Full scale advertising control .
As stated on the Alishan portfolio page ( the parent company of Tengu) I experimented with various forms of online advertising, mainly using Facebook and Twitter and combining that with analytics gateways to monitor the effectiveness of both for using the same budget. I did this over the course of a year to observe seasonal changes. This was also done over the particularly tumultuous period following the earthquake and subsequent radiation leak of 2011. It gave me the insight to understand the drastically changed needs of our customers. Of course peoples desire for imported foods increased but the amount of foreigners in Japan decreased even more. While we are not the kind of company to exploit people’s weakness ( in fact half of our warehouse was converted into a free storage house for people in Tohoku, supported by Second Harvest Japan, who distributes free food to those in need) we prepared ourselves to cater for their new needs, including importing new items now deemed too dangerous in Japan.From the data collected, we also lostabout half of our foreign customers, a slack that was quickly taken up by resident Japanese now looking for imported foods.
By offering coupon codes with discount on the site, every month I track our customers, see who is taking advantages of our various sales, cores referenced, with their location, budget, preferences, which not only helps us, but really helps our customers, and the environment by reducing waste of foodstuff and transportation fuel.