Design for your grandmother

Ola Nilsson

Nowadays he is working as a consultant, helping companies with product design, strategy, and planning. And he knows how to get things done. He was one of the very few original members that designed the Nintendo Wii, which sold 100 million units.
Shinichiro Tamaki is a speaker at this years' From Business to Buttons. Here's an exclusive interview with him.

He says that he works today to give back, like good karma, to the game society. And also because of that he loves games. 

It's a lot of human values showing when you have a chat with Tamaki-san. As the story about Wii and his grandmother.

– I was raised by my grandma, so I wanted to give back the kind and warm feeling which was given to me. I wanted to design a gaming console that grandma could play, says Shinichiro Tamaki.

Or the story about when he went home, years after the Wii was released, to his cousin and for the really first time felt that he had made something good, when he saw the family play together. 

There's a lot of these values and feelings around Shinichiro Tamaki. You get to like him immediately. A bit like how you experience Nintendo Wii the first time you use it.

So, let's tell the story about how Tamaki was one of the founders of the global mega-success Nintendo Wii, which was released in 2006.

– I actually was the initial starting member of the Wii design and the Wii development team. It was a very small team, and I was part of it.

– I was involved at the stage where the name was still not designed. So we started from scratch and created the concept. After the concept, it became a little bit more concrete – and since I have a history of programming, I did the menu development and the direction, the controller design, and the network system and constructed the power design… Pretty much, I touched every various bits and pieces.

A great teamwork

But of course, and which Tamaki certainly underline, it was great teamwork. A collaboration that engaged many parts of the company.

– There was a special kind of activity in Nintendo, where all the teams from many different departments gathered – which was cross throughout the whole company – everyone was meeting in one place and having really intense discussions.  

Tamaki was the communication energizer, and he made the development directions. But now, let's hear about the ideas, the fundaments of the projects. 

Where did it all come from?

– There are two ideas sources mainly. The first is the grandma perspective – we didn't want to make a game console only for gamers – we wanted to make everyone happy. If a grandmother can play it, it is available to almost everybody.

– And the second idea source is the technology available, and the environment. Nintendo has always been researching, and also they have been watching what kind of technological advancement there are. So there was an experimental environment in the company, and we utilized that to make the concept to something real. We used that to crystallize the concept and make it into something tangible and something that could be touched. The strong foundation in the company where you can do experiments and research is something very important.

Tell us more about the environment and the culture during the project.

– In Nintendo, there was a room where we could create prototypes. A thinking room where we secretly created items, and we could think together with our co-workers. A dark room in a very safe environment where we had very fun discussions. 

A safe hiding spot

– It was definitely a safe hiding spot where you can unleash your creativity, safe from the bosses, haha.

How did you work with the pressure – you had to come up with masterpieces from your special secret super room...?

– I wouldn't say that I was running away from the pressure from my boss with the help of that room, but in some ways, it could work like that. We were able to be genuine with each other and being very frank about things. There's something similar to if you're at a casual party or if you're having a nice drink with your friends you'll be able to express that kind of feelings. You'll be very open. 

– So it wasn't just an escape, but it was a place to be very honest to ourselves.

There they come up with thoughts that they didn't just want to create another similar kind of console. Not only an updated version. They wanted to create something more innovative.

– Let me get back to the concept of Wii. As I said earlier, it was about the grandma's perspective, and also – we wanted to create a game console that moms wouldn't complain or get angry over. Generally, games are hated by parents. And as a game creator, this kind of positioning in the family feels very tragic.

– So we had to think of breaking that obstacle. We had to think in reverse. Why are games hated? Well, when we imagined a typical or traditional game, we saw kids sitting in a dark room with a blanket, like in a closet.

– And if you think about it, this is something a bit scary, and definitely, the parents would have a negative attitude towards it. But if you flip that. If the kids are playing with their full-body energetic being really enthusiastic controlling with their hands – parents would be like "Oh let's play together", it'll be a family ritual. 

– That is what we wanted to make and what we thought of about the concept. We researched what technologies there were, and then we prototyped and then… We created the product.

The marvelous product. The magic console that people all over the world bought, talked about, and loved.

So when did you realize that it was a world success? Do you remember what you felt and what you thought?

– Frankly speaking, I never had that kind of feeling of success. We had a feeling that we created something good because we had strived and put our best effort and creativity into it. But not a feeling of success, not even when three, four years with included good sales numbers past. I never felt satisfied. 

A that exact moment

– Not until… I actually bought it myself and brought it back to my home in the countryside. And I gave it to my cousin, and he was playing Wii sports, a bowling game, on the console together with his family and they were really enjoying it. At that exact moment, I felt that I made something worthwhile and good.

From a holistic perspective of your career so far – can you point out some defining moments in your life and career?

– When you ask that question, one instance in my life pops up in my mind. In the first year of my university studies, I actually had a major, major fail. I failed in programming. I had thought that I was an excellent programmer myself, but when I went to university and compared myself with my fellow students … I wasn't as good. And I who had had been thinking of joining a gaming company as a programmer… Compared to other students, I wasn't that awesome. So pretty much I was depressed. But at the same time, it made me think, 'I want to work with this., but maybe planning is what I really want to do. 

– Another moment that what's important to me, a big life-changer for me, is an experience working for Nintendo. One day when I had given an internal presentation. I got the advice, "you should tweak the way that you're speaking to fit the way that the listener feels because you touch the person better in that way". 

– I learned that it really changes the impression. And they also taught me to be flexible. Before that, I thought that I just needed to be right and to be justified. 

– The people at Nintendo helped me to grow.

– Thinking in another person's shoes was the culture of Nintendo. And I inherited that in my soul. And that changed me and the way that I think. I realized that it's about the others, and it's not about me.

But in May, it's surely a bit about Shinichiro Tamaki. For the first time, he is in Europe. Giving a talk at From Business to Buttons. You can't miss out, he's too good for that.

Tickets to From Business to Buttons 2020!


FACTS – Shinichiro Tamaki

After joining Nintendo as a programmer, he turned a planner. As the planning manager of Nintendo Wii, which sold 100 million units all over the world, he was involved in all planning and development of hardware, software and network services from the very beginning.

He’s been interviewed together with Nintendo CEO (2002-2015) Satoru Iwata in e.g., and he’s been called "The Evangelist of Nintendo Wii”. After leaving Nintendo, he moved back to his hometown Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture, and established WAKARU office.

Last year his new game design book How to Create an Experience That You Somehow Cannot Stop But Do (・ついやってしまう体験のつくりかた)  was published in Japan.  

Today he conducts seminars, lectures, workshops and presentations on the theme of concept planning, game design, effective presentation methods, etc. in enterprises and local governments across Japan. He also works on human talent development and regional revitalization.


FBTB2020: How to convince the boss to get the tickets!

Ola Nilsson

Do you want to go to FBTB in May? Are you having problems making your Boss understand the great value of service design, business design and UX, and why you both need to go? We're here to help!

This year's FBTB is about how we all need to grow, both professionally, and as human beings. We need to optimize how we work in our design teams, we need to go even more agile and learn what great product leadership really means, we need to learn to work with data and algorithms, and with conversation and gestures as interfaces. We really do need to get the fundamentals right, but sometimes we also need to know how to break out of the mold, and create something truly revolutionizing – something no one has ever done before. We’ll cover all this, and more, at the 2020 conference.

So, your boss needs you to go to FBTB 2020 too. Here are some arguments.

No external marketing on the stage

Many other conferences sell speaker slots. They charge speakers, or speaker's companies, to get on stage and tell you about their great products and how good they are. This is not the case at FBTB. We're doing this for you. You are paying, and we want you to get the most out of every word, and every second spent at the conference. We want to make this event about knowledge and inspiration, not just marketing buzzwords. That's why we pay our speakers – not the other way around.

The world comes to you

By taking 10 speakers from the other side of the globe, and bringing them here, both you and your boss save a lot of time and money. And of course, this also means that we together also save a little bit of the environment. Oh, and did we mention that we compensate (not ideal, we know, but better than nothing) for the whole carbon footprint for bringing the speakers here. We do. 

Real experts

This year's conference includes the best line up ever, since the first conference back in 2007:

Shinichiro Tamaki  – Co-creator of the groundbreaking Nintendo Wii, which sold over 100 million units worldwide. He'll tell the unique story behind the success, and share some tips along the way.

Melissa Perri – CEO of Produx Labs and the author of “Escaping the Build Trap”. She will tell you how to take the leap to the C-suite, and become the Product Executive.

Jake Knapp – The inventor of the Design Sprint and a New York Times bestselling author. Jake spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the Design Sprint process, and he will tell you how to lead your CEO.

Margot Bloomstein – The author of Content Strategy at Work, producer of BrandSort, and principal of brand and content strategy consultancy Appropriate, Inc. Margot will talk abou how to gain trust by empowering your users.

Mike Monteiro – The co-founder and design director of Mule Design, author of "Ruined by Design", the most important design book in this decade. His talk will help us navigate forward, and make sure we stay on the right path. 

Ghaida Zahran – The lead product designer at Netflix. She works on design strategy, and experiments with different types of content recommendation strategies and algorithms to attract potential members. 

Peter Merholz – Author of "Org Design for Design Orgs". Peter will talk about how to go from team design to DesignOps, and give us his Top 5 things to boost our design org’s effectiveness.

Erika Hall – The author of Conversational Design, and Just Enough Research, and a co-founder of Mule Design Studio. She will talk about how to make an interaction with a digital system feel truly conversational. 

Brad Frost – Mr Design Systems himself. Author of Atomic Design. Brad will look at the present opportunities and challenges design systems provide, and look at what lies ahead.

Indi Young – Co-founder of Adaptive Path, and author of Mental Models and Practical Empathy. Indi will make a case for spending more time and resources understanding the problem, and show us how.

Eight of the speakers also hold workshops. Check them out here!

Design IS business

From Business to Buttons is about how to become successful in this borderland between business and design. The digital revolution is happening now, and it's powered by design. Making the right decisions separate success from failure. Going to FBTB means learning to prioritize, and how to use design methodology to develop your business.

Great value for money (especially now)

A lineup like this is not available anywhere. At least not on this side of the Atlantic. And if you buy before April 3rd, you'll save €100 on the ticket price. There are also group discounts (5 or more), and partnership programs (15 or more), so you can go bring the whole team. If you have any questions about the discount or partnership program, send an e-mail to Jane Murray. Or you could just send your boss to and tell her or him to buy the tickets now!

See you at Cirkus in May!

The final speaker: The Co-creator of Nintendo Wii

Ola Nilsson

It's a real megastar that completes the line-up at this years' From Business to Buttons. The Game Design Expert Shinichiro Tamaki who is the Co-Creator of Nintendo Wii!

In 2005 something happened in the gaming industry. At E3, Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo Revolution – later renamed Nintendo Wii. Upon it’s release late 2006 it was clear to everyone that this was something completely different than all other gaming consoles before it. The full-body gaming experience with the Wii Remotes, the Balance Board and much more, created a revolutionizing, social, living room experience that turned even the most jaded parent into a gamer. Microsoft would later copy the full-body experience concept with Xbox Kinect in 2010, and Sony with Playstation Move the same year.

Shinichiro Tamaki first joined Nintendo as a programmer, but changed roles pretty quick. After a few years he, and less than a handful of colleagues, was tasked to start creating a new gaming platform. A platform that would go on to sell more than 100 million units, and would open up new niches, showing both that games could be an engaging and social experience for the whole family, and that gaming could actually exercise more than your hands. 

Tamaki-san was involved in pretty much all hardware, software and service development from the very beginning. In his work, and afterward, Tamaki-san was also one of the key figures in marketing the Wii, giving interviews together with Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata. So much that he became known as "The Evangelist of Nintendo Wii" among his peers in Japan.

Even so, Tamaki-san's talk at From Business to Buttons will mark his first ever appearance in Europe. He is coming to share the unique story behind the Nintendo Wii. You do not want to miss this!

Join Shinichiro Tamaki and all the other great speakers at From Business to Buttons in Stockholm in May!

The FBTB workshops are here!

Johan Berndtsson

Spend time with the speakers and gain knowledge straight from the source. As usual many of the speakers at From Business to Buttons will host workshops the days before the conference. These workshops are very popular each year, so this time we have more workshops than ever! Including two (!) with last year's runaway success: Jake Knapp.

Wednesday May 6

Jake Knapp: Design Sprint Bootcamp

In this fun, fast-paced, hands-on workshop, you’ll learn the Design Sprint directly from its inventor.

Mike Monteiro: Design Ethics
By choosing to be a designer you are choosing to affect the people who come in contact with your work. Learn how to tell if your work will hurt or help those people and how to measure social impact alongside shareholder value. 

Peter Merholz: Design Your Design Organization

Peter Merholz shines a light on the unsung activities of actually running a design team, the organizational and operational challenges and considerations, and what works and what doesn’t.

Erika Hall: Research Together – Make Critical Research Decisions on Evidence, not Speculation

Is your team making critical product decisions based on evidence or speculation? Just talking to customers isn’t enough. You need to start with shared goals and a clear process in order to end up with useful insights. This workshop will be a great help in doing so.

Thursday May 7

Jake Knapp: Design Sprint Advanced

Take your Design Sprint practice deeper in this choose-your-own-adventure workshop and seminar. 

Brad Frost: Making and Maintaining Successful Design Systems

Design systems and provide solid ground for us to stand on as we tackle the increasingly diverse and fast-moving digital landscape. All the insights and resources you need to create and maintain a successful UI design system.

Margot Bloomstein: Building a Brand-Driven Message Architecture

Complement your practice of user experience design with brand-driven content strategy and learn how to facilitate and create a message architecture. 

Indi Young: Listening Deeply – Understand People Before Solving Problems

Indi will teach you empathic listening skills and how to build self-awareness and humility into the tools you need both as a foundation for understanding users, and to forge strong collaborative relationships.

Melissa Perri: Becoming the Product Leader – Getting to VP and CPO

This workshop will go over what it takes to move up the organization, from a team level Product Manager into the executive suite. 

Tickets are limited, and in previous years several workshops have sold out months in advance. All workshops will be held in central Stockholm. 

Read more about the workshops here!

Jake Knapp is... BACK!

Ola Nilsson

Yes – it's true – for the first time in the history of the conference the same speaker joins the lineup two years in a row! We simply cannot get enough of Jake Knapp. However... This time he has a completely different story to tell.

Every designer secretly wants to be the boss, but the sad truth is that designers are rarely in charge. So, how can you lead your CEO even if you don't have any authority?

Over his twenty-year career, Jake Knapp has managed to get into meetings with over a hundred CEOs including Bill Gates, 23&me's Ann Wojcicki, Slack's Stewart Butterfield, and Oracle's Larry Page. He has been ignored, yelled at, and frequently made an ass of himself. But also, occasionally, he got his way.

In his talk at FBTB2020, Jake will tell stories and share practical advice for influencing executives and boosting self-confidence in high-stakes meetings. Or, at the very least, he'll make an ass of himself one more time.

Jake Knapp is the inventor of the Design Sprint and a New York Times bestselling author. He’s coached teams at places like Google, Slack, LEGO, IDEO, and NASA on design strategy and time management. Previously, Jake helped build products like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Encarta. He is currently among the world’s tallest designers.

Tickets, here!