Tombow Talks to: Ms.Kaku Chiseko, Product Planner at Tombow. | Tombow

19 February 2021

Tombow Talks to: Ms.Kaku Chiseko, Product Planner at Tombow.

In our new blog segment ‘Tombow Talks to’ we interview influential individuals who we think will inspire the Tombow UK Community.

This month, we caught up with Tombow Product Planner Ms.Kaku Chiseko, and discussed the intricate design process that is involve when creating Tombow products.   

Tell us more about what Tombow stands for as a company?

Tombow Pencil was established in Japan in 1913 as a manufacturer of pencils. Tombo(w) means "dragonfly" in Japanese. We have adopted the dragonfly as the house mark since 1927 and changed the company name to Tombow Pencil since 1939.

An older name of tombo is Akitsu and Japan was also called Akitsushima―"the Island of the Dragonfly" in the past. Enthusiasm has been placed in the company name to make pencils which represent Japan. Moreover, the dragonfly is also called the "victory insect" which has been recognised by Japanese people as a good luck symbol for a long time.

We created a new Dragonfly Mark to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2013. This new corporate symbol which uses a dragonfly as a motif shows a freely facile leaping.  "∞ (infinity)" shape of the wings which expresses unlimited possibility of stationery and our inquiring mind on manufacturing that will never end. An upward facing dragonfly expresses the spirit to take on new challenges. The shape of the head expresses the dragonfly's multifaceted eyes that carefully observes people―Tombow's attitude toward manufacturing. The deep red colour signifies our profound thought & passion for stationery and excitement & expectation toward the future. Moreover, a dragonfly is a symbol of beautiful nature, so this logo also implies our commitment to achieve corporate growth in harmony with the global environment. 

Can you tell us more about the process when you decide to create a new product as such as the ABT Dual Brush Pens?

  1. Who comes up with the idea?

Product Planners come up with new ideas and propose them within the company as new product development projects.

  1. Where do you get the idea from?

Ideas come from many places both internal and external like market trends, users' voices, stores, competitor products and our own existing products.

Our ABT marker was launched in 1984 at a time when water-based brush markers were starting to emerge in the market. Products from other brands were using rubber brushes which made unpleasant squeaking noises when in use. To improve on this and to make better products, Tombow thoroughly researched materials and mechanisms which resulted in the launch of the ABT in 1984. The ABT innovation was completely new to the market due to its flexible nylon brush.

How do you start the design process?

Regarding the design process, I would like to give an example of the ABT PRO alcohol-based markers. When coming up with the design we had to keep in mind two things:

- We wanted users to be able to associate the ABT PRO with the well-known water-based ABT

-We wanted to design something that was distinguishable from the water-based ABT

How do you decide on the colours?

We normally start by deciding what users will draw with these pens. Then, we consider the total colour balance by using a colour chart.

For the water-based ABT, we tried to enhance the pink and blue tones in 2018. With an additional 12 new colours, we now have 108 colours which is the most variety of colours among any water-based marker.

How do you decide on the shape/length of the nib?

The brush tip of the water-based ABT is loved by users so we put a great effort to make the brush tip of the ABT PRO similar to this. We put the highest priority on the feeling when drawing and decide on shape & length while considering the durability and other quality requirements.

What is the nib made of?

Both the water-based ABT and alcohol-based ABT PRO brushes are made of nylon (polyamide fibre.)

How do you test the pens?

We perform tests focusing on the scenarios our consumers are likely to use the product. Tests are done not only by machines but also manually by hand.

What makes these pens so good?

ABT markers feature beautiful vivid ink colours, tips that are pleasing to use and a comfortable slim barrel. The fine tip is perfect for consistent lines and tight drawings. Perfect for creating smooth shapes, the second tip is highly flexible like a brush - durable, tough and yet soft.

Have you any top tips for using the pens?

Water-based ABT

  • Tombow's Dual Brush Pens work just like watercolour paints and blend effortlessly. You can mix different colours together and make colours lighter or blurred by using the colourless blender or water-brush. You can create drawing like watercolour or can blend or lighten colours directly on paper. If you prefer you could use a plastic sheet to mix your colours like a palette.  
  • These markers allow easy decoration by pressing the brush tip on a paper. With combination of drop shapes, you can make many different doodles like flowers, heart, or X'mas trees.
  • Ideal for all arts and crafts, illustration, Hand-lettering, manga drawings, card-making, rubber stamping, scrapbooking and more.

Alcohol-based ABT PRO

  • The ABT PRO is an alcohol-based marker developed with professionals for professional use
  • This marker is good if you want to repeatedly layer up ink.
  • You can make light dark shades with the same ink and can also make new colour by layering different colours.
  • By choosing colours from the same colour family, you can make a gradation.
  • The ABT PRO's ink flows slowly and hardly runs on the paper and as a result the ink is easy to control and allows one to work with extreme precision.
  • The Brush tip is ideal for drawing details. For colouring larger areas, I would recommend the chisel tip.


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