Photograph of Shiseido's Beauty Playground experience, showing large blue, yellow and pink glass panels that resemble test tubes

How Shiseido’s design heritage powers its creative agency

The Japanese cosmetics giant has a rich design legacy that dates back over a century. We speak to the Shiseido Creative team about how its history is steering its future in the beauty industry

In 1872, when Arinobu Fukuhara set up a pharmacy in Tokyo called Shiseido, he began a legacy of introducing health innovations to Japan for the first time. This included the 1888 launch of Fukuhara Sanitary Toothpaste, a beautifully decorated premium alternative to the tooth powder available at the time. It’s said to be Japan’s first toothpaste.

Around 40 years after it was founded, the business was handed over to his son, Shinzo Fukuhara, who began to shift Shiseido’s focus from pharmaceuticals to cosmetics. “Shinzo himself had aspirations to be a painter,” says Shiseido product creative director Kaori Nagata. When he took over the family business, she explains, he continued to work as a photographer (Shinzo’s younger brother Roso also pursued photography). Not only did Shinzo prove himself to be a savvy businessman; she says that he clearly “had a deep desire and understanding of art”.

When Shinzo opened the first Shiseido store with a dedicated cosmetics floor, he also showed his ambitions for the company by installing a creative wing in the same building. “In 1916, he established a design department within the company and invited outstanding artists and designers to work on products, advertisements, store displays, and window displays, all in pursuit of beauty,” says Nagata, who explains that this would have been unusual at the time.

Photo of Shiseido's window display in its Ginza store, which features display boxes stacked on top of each other, with examples of plantlife inside each display
Ginza Ecological Map shown in Shiseido’s Ginza store window. Designed by Shiseido Creative and Hakuten, the display highlights the biodiversity in the surrounding area