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Detail of Takashi Murakami's “Isle of the Dead.”

Designing the Details

By The Elevate Team


Recently, Elevate went on a teambuilding outing to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where we had the opportunity to see their current featured exhibit, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. I started reflecting on my experience and as I tried to pinpoint what it was that I loved so much about it, I came to this conclusion — its success wasn’t necessarily in the entire image, but more so in the tiny details that made up the big picture. Murakami’s art is a shining example of why paying attention to the details in your work matters.

Murakami moon over ruined castle orig
The Moon Over the Ruined Castle”

Murakami’s most recent work is comprised of many smaller, intricate details pieced together to create one large design. If you look at his work (see above) as a whole, it’s obvious that you see a skull with octopus tentacles swirling in and around the openings of its face. Looking at it up close, you can see the various details that are otherwise easy to miss. There are actually multiple skulls in this piece, and the coloring within each form is so meticulous and precise that it’s almost impossible to take in all at once. This exhibit is sensory overload in the best way possible.

My biggest takeaway is simple: Design the details and you will be successful. This concept is applicable in all aspects of life, and in my experience as a project manager it has proven to be a huge contributing factor in my professional life here at Elevate. Communication, clear direction, setting expectations, and planning ahead for any foreseeable obstacles all play into essential details required for success. The attention to detail Murakami communicates in his art is clear — whether you are looking at it up close or standing back and admiring it, he has taken every angle into consideration. Not a single piece has been breezed past or overlooked. In the piece below, I zoomed in to see just the bottom section of the artwork. I could have spent hours examining each individual figure and all the thought and imagination that went into creating each one of them.

Murakami isle of dead orig
Isle of the Dead”

We can talk about our goals as often as we’d like, but without a specific plan to execute, how can we achieve them? This art was a refreshing reminder to me that even if we do not notice small details in a work right away, they are ever present, and that we should always look to them to understand how the final product was achieved. In my personal career experience, I’ve had to learn quickly that every detail matters — every project requirement thought out, every due date outlined, every word spell checked and then looked at one more time for good measure, every hour and every dollar accounted for. The process of these pieces fitting together starts with me, and my communicating them properly to the other people on my team is essential to our overall success.

What makes Murakami’s otherwise bizarre concepts work is the attention to the small details. Each individual person in the piece above tells their own story, from the details in the colors of their eyes down to the patterns on their clothes or the accessories they’re adorned with. Not a single detail has been overlooked. Individually they are not very beautiful, but together they create a masterpiece. If you haven’t already gotten the chance to go check this exhibit out, I highly recommend it (and if you’re an Illinois resident, admission to this museum is FREE on Tuesdays). I loved it so much that I decided to go back a week later to see it again, and I plan on making one more visit before it leaves us in September.

The big picture is important but essentially unachievable without the small details that go into it. As a person who has had to learn this lesson the hard way in the past, this exhibit spoke volumes to me. Pay attention to the details now and your reward will be greater in the end. I promise.

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