Andrew Epperson/Mustang News

From famed packaging to world-renowned advertisements, one man has had a front seat to it all.

The work of Hiroki Asai, Cal Poly alumnus and former executive vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Inc., is currently being displayed at the University Art Gallery through Nov. 4.

Asai returned to his roots at the Cal Poly art and design department earlier this month where he gave a talk to students about his career at Apple. Attendees got an inside look at Apple’s growth, how leaders within the company interacted and the processes that creative teams went through to craft their award-winning work.

Following the talk, a reception was held in the University Art Gallery, celebrating the opening of their latest exhibit, titled “Hiroki Asai.” The exhibit focuses on the myriad of projects Asai oversaw while at Apple, including packaging, retail interiors, web, direct marketing, videos and event graphics.

Under Asai’s direction, the University Art Gallery staff and students assembled the exhibit.

Andrew Epperson/Mustang News

“Being the designer he is, Hiroki laid out the whole space for me, so my assistants and I were left with the task of hanging the work,” gallery specialist Garet Zook said.

Of all the pieces in the exhibit, Asai is especially proud of the original iMac work.

“That was done at a time when Apple was so small and scrappy that it really felt like everything we did carried with it the responsibility of the entire company,” Asai said in an email to Mustang News.

Asai began his career working for a variety of graphic design and architecture firms in San Francisco. In 1997 he joined CKS, partners with Pixar, as his key account. In 1998, CKS became Apple’s primary marketing communications agency and Hiroki became the creative director on the account. In 2001, Hiroki and a handful of creatives moved in-house to Apple, to start what is now the graphic design group.

Asai received his bachelor’s degree in Art and Design in 1992 at Cal Poly. This past March, he retired from Apple where he has oversaw the work of over 200 creatives at Apple.

“It was a pretty special experience being back on campus,” Asai said. “Having been away for a while, it really made me appreciate the incredible experience I was lucky enough to have as a student there.”

Asai found it interesting to see campus life through the eyes of his wife and three young boys, whom he brought with him to the event.

“It really brought me back to some of my own emotions and experiences,” Asai said.

When Asai was a freshman at Cal Poly, he attended a similar talk by an alum who, at the time, was the creative director for a popular apparel brand.

“The fact that a graduate from this program had done such impactful work gave me incredible confidence that I had chosen the right place,” Asai said.

American Institute for Graphic Arts Cal Poly Chapter President Ellen Fabini had a similar reaction to Asai’s talk.

“It was pretty mind-blowing to be in the presence of someone who has played such a role in making Apple the company it is today,” Fabini, an art and design senior, said.

Asai’s advice to students: be passionate and love what you do.

“If you love what you are doing — and I mean head over heels love — then success, longevity, and fulfillment will always follow,” Asai said.

The “Hiroki Asai” exhibit runs through Nov. 4 at the University Art Gallery in the Dexter Building. Admission is free and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday
through Saturday.

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