Renewal LOGO


We utilized an integrated design system encompassing the logos of the five NOK Group companies. Each company possesses its unique strengths and collaborates seamlessly with one another, exemplifying the collective synergy of the group that extends value across various industries worldwide.

The font is characterized by a clean, sharp, and stable appearance that symbolizes a commitment to technological precision and unwavering reliability. Meanwhile, our chosen color, solid navy, conveys the values of trust, precision, and advancement.

This design represents our dedication to “Essential Core Manufacturing — The manufacture of pivotal products that shape society.” It reflects our capacity to shape future possibilities and foster a higher level of prosperity.



From a manufacturer known by those in the know to a truly global company

The New Corporate Identity (CI) by Kashiwa Sato Is Not Just an Updated Logo, It’s a Representation of NOK’s Commitment to Resilience

NOK is a Japanese manufacturer known by those in the know. On a Group basis, it has around 38,000 employees and sales that top 700 billion yen and has set a target for sales of 1 trillion yen by 2031. It is a B2B company that manufactures and sells parts used in cars, electronic devices, and general industrial equipment. It currently has 91 Group companies in 16 countries and regions, and 72% of its workforce is overseas.

The Group’s mainstay products are oil seals for car engines and other machinery, and flexible printed circuits (FPCs), which are used in IT devices. NOK’s oil seals boast a domestic market share of 70% and are sold to all major domestic automakers. Furthermore, the Group’s FPCs rank third for global sales and their sales continue to grow.

“The auto industry is undergoing a major transition. To maintain the status quo is to fall behind. This is why we, too, must continue to change,” enthuses NOK CEO Masao Tsuru. This was the impetus for reimagining and developing a new Corporate Identity (CI) in April 2024.

Kashiwa Sato, one of Japan’s leading creative directors, was given the task of creating NOK’s new CI. While he has been involved in the brand strategies of renowned clients such as Uniqlo, Rakuten, Seven-Eleven Japan, and Nissin Foods, working for a B2B parts manufacturer like NOK was a first for him.

So why did NOK choose a new CI project as a springboard for its transition away from a manufacturer known only by those in the know?

An exclusive interview by Business Insider Japan with CEO Tsuru and Kashiwa Sato, held on April 3, the same day as the unveiling of the new CI, delved into the reasons behind this shift. Below is a digest of that interview, which discusses the path to success for a Japanese B2B company and the significance of the CI.

Kashiwa Sato
Kashiwa Sato is a creative director who offers end-to-end production of brand strategy from concept-building to designing a communication plan, developing visuals, space design, and design consulting. He is one of Japan’s leading creators.
He also devotes efforts to training creative personnel as an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Management, Kyoto University and visiting professor at Tama Art University. He has received many awards, including the Iconic Awards 2023 Best of Best award.

Unified CI to integrate Group company synergies

NOK is a longstanding company with 80 years of manufacturing experience. To align with global trends, the company has decided to update its identity.

NOK set a goal of upgrading from an international company with independent operations in multiple countries, to a global company, where interconnected businesses across various nations work together seamlessly, and is striving to achieve its goal of unifying all Group companies into “Global One NOK.” To strengthen this new foundation, in 2023, the company redefined its Purpose and Values and held townhall-style meetings to share the message across the Group.

The auto industry is a major customer for NOK, so to align with the shift toward electric vehicles, NOK is expanding its product portfolio, including through M&A, and developing new businesses aimed at growth industries as it searches for its next growth driver. To realize this goal, NOK management has pinpointed global competitiveness as a key strategy.

While the Japanese market is maturing and contracting, markets in China and the ASEAN countries are growing, with both technological capability and quality increasing. The competition to acquire talent has grown fierce. Going forward, it will be essential for NOK to approach not only existing Japanese customers but also global customers. CEO Tsuru emphasizes “the importance of eliminating the notion that NOK is the parent company and Group companies are subsidiaries. We must focus on branding the NOK Group as an enterprise that integrates synergies.”

Under “Global One NOK,” Group company relationships will become flat. However, with the roots of existing business practices accumulated over many years running deep, this is easier said than done. CEO Tsuru started the process of becoming a global company by unifying the CIs that had previously been developed independently by each company. To help with this process, he called in Japanese creative director Kashiwa Sato.

Helping enhance the presence of Japanese manufacturing

CEO Tsuru and Kashiwa had their first meeting in June 2022 before having discussions with NOK officers. At the beginning of the project, Kashiwa was not familiar with NOK and its business, but as his understanding of the company grew deeper, he realized NOK’s potential.

“NOK’s products, such as oil seals, might not be visible in normal day-to-day life. But as I studied them, I understood their importance and learned that NOK creates many important parts at an extremely advanced technical level. And this is one reason why NOK’s sales are so high. As a Japanese individual, it is disheartening to witness Japan’s slip to the fourth position in global GDP rankings and the diminishing perception of the country’s strength on the global stage. NOK is packed with strengths as a Japanese manufacturer, so I hoped to be able to play a role in communicating the company’s message on a global level, including to people like me who were unfamiliar with NOK, and strengthening the presence of Japanese manufacturing.” (Kashiwa)

Creating the new CI started with a conceptual organization process, defining the core values that NOK stands by. After many hours of discussion between Kashiwa and CEO Tsuru, their conversations crystallized into the tagline:

Essential Core Manufacturing

——The manufacture of pivotal products that shape society.

Essential core manufacturing circle

NOK has traditionally supported industries through the supply of parts in a hierarchical structure with NOK’s components as fundamental but not central. However, CEO Tsuru and Kashiwa aimed to shift this perspective and place the company at the core of a circle, expanding the possibilities of every product. This change of perception proved to be very significant in the creation of the tagline. It redefines NOK’s importance as a company and its reason for being, and elevates the message to one of value expansion.

“Companies must communicate with society; in fact, they are obligated to. I think the concept of ‘pivotal products that shape society’ accurately conveys the value NOK brings.

“At NOK’s factories, products are created with levels of precision measured to one angstrom, which is 0.1 nanometers. In contemplating the new CI, I was also conscious of such angstrom-level design and strived for crystal-clear clarity.” (Kashiwa)

Intent of the new CI

Kashiwa thought a logotype with letters lined up in a conventional way would not suffice to convey the concept of “Essential Core Manufacturing.” He felt that the logo needed to convey the image through “visualizations that make the meaning easily stand out to the viewer.”

“The visuals convey a precise and bold image that can’t be put into words. That’s the significance of harnessing the strength of creative design.” (Kashiwa)

The next question was how to express Group synergies. Existing internal company terms provided a starting point.

Masao Tsuru, CEO, NOK Corporation
Masao Tsuru NOK Representative Director, Chief Executive Officer
After joining NOK, Tsuru obtained an MBA and was involved in finance control with partner company Freudenberg & Co. of Germany. Upon returning to Japan, he worked to strengthen NOK’s business alliance with Freudenberg & Co. as a member of NOK’s Corporate Planning Office. In 2018 he was appointed president and representative director of a Group company, NOK KLUEBER CO., LTD., and conducted active technology exchange. After returning to NOK, he served in management in the Corporate Business Strategy Office before being appointed to his current position in April 2021.

“For two of NOK’s Group companies, NIPPON MEKTRON, LTD. and UNIMATEC CO., LTD., it has been common practice to refer to them by their three-letter codes, MEK and UMT.” (Tsuru)

“Masao placed high importance on the structure of the Group’s identity, but I struggled to come up with any good solutions for this. In fact, my initial idea was a little bit different from what we have now. However, we held discussions based on this first proposal, and as we went through a process of revising and refining, the new CI finally took shape. It was like the way a temporarily stitched suit gets put together and perfectly tailored at the very end. I thought this had to be the right solution.” (Kashiwa)

NOK group logo
Left: New NOK Group Logo, Right: New NOK Corporate Logo

NOK’s previous logo used two shades of blue. However, a single color, “solid navy,” was chosen for the new corporate color to express trust, precision, and advancement. Drawing on his knowledge and experience, Kashiwa emphasized that if a company’s focus is on global development, “a single color creates an unwavering image compared to multiple colors.”

The typeface was regulated in terms of line widths and angles to enable output from computer programs. As well as symbolizing the precision and unwavering reliability of NOK technologies, organizing the Group identity based on internal three-letter codes creates a sense of Group unity. A total design system was developed to support logotypes for the five core companies of the NOK Group.

“Since around 2000, branding trends have often consolidated individual brands into a master brand, particularly in the US and Europe. This is because, as globalization advances, creating a single message boosts communication efficiency.

For NOK as well, I initially thought that we wouldn’t be able to create a strong identity unless we utilized a master-brand methodology. However, I broke those shackles. Using the three-letter codes as a design system, we discovered a new way to create a Group identity.” (Kashiwa)

Changing how we perceive ourselves drives the significance of branding, even for B2B companies.

Generally speaking, the purpose of engaging in branding is to differentiate your company or brand from others and to have consumers recall your brand so that they will choose it. However, as a B2B company, NOK has fewer opportunities to make an impression on general consumers. In this context, what are the benefits for NOK in developing a new CI?

CEO Tsuru answers this question by saying, “When customers ask, ‘What type of company are you?’ NOK can now give a unified response.” Previously, the answer differed from one Group company to the next, with an oil seal company responding differently to an FPC maker, for example. However, all companies within the NOK Group are engaged in Essential Core Manufacturing, and this is our shared answer. This is a major change.

To clarify, the previous responses were not wrong when viewed from the individual manufacturer’s perspective. However, we can expect this shift in NOK’s self-perception to gradually change the behavior and thinking of front-line employees, whether they work in product development or sales. NOK is steadily getting closer to establishing a presence as a global company.

Talk session of CEO Tsuru and Mr.Sato

“When a company changes how it is perceived by society, it fosters opportunities to create new businesses. People’s thoughts and actions change depending on how they perceive things. If you try to see things from different perspectives little by little every day, you can arrive at a completely new place.

To illustrate the example, a CI is like a sign. Ultimately, as a form, the sign itself has very little meaning. However, it becomes a symbol when ongoing activities impart meaning to the sign. This new CI will now be given meaning by everyone at NOK. I think it is important to look at the CI and imagine Group activities.” (Kashiwa)

Furthermore, there are also practical benefits that make it easier to work. For example, NOK has set enhancing its product portfolio through M&A as one of its growth drivers, and having a unified tagline makes it easier to align values with those of companies being considered for purchase.

“We are about ‘Essential Core Manufacturing.’ Can you engage with this vision?” This common awareness functions as a criterion for selecting new Group companies. Moreover, with a unified visual identity in place, it becomes easier to fit in with the ways of the NOK Group.

In addition, discussions leading up to formulating the new CI prompted CEO Tsuru to reflect on essential and irreplaceable aspects of his own view of management.

“Kashiwa’s strength lies in simplicity that is neither too much nor too little. This simplicity is a state you cannot reach without delving into fundamentals; it’s a way of thinking that also applies to management. There are changes in broader society every day, and we are exposed to lots of different information. However, it’s important not to be manipulated by those information and forced into making hasty and poor decisions.

We should squarely engage with our customers and with quality and safety. The essence of facing these things does not change; I perceived this in Kashiwa Sato’s style of work. He has tremendous sense, and as a leader, I got a lot out of experiencing the process of communicating as a company should.” (Tsuru)

What’s necessary for a Japanese B2B maker to take on the world?

Can the process leading up to NOK’s new CI and the results of this initiative serve as good precedents for other Japanese B2B companies?

Kashiwa points out that most companies do not communicate with society in the right way. Having worked at an ad agency himself, he perceived acutely the difficulty of communicating with people. Since this awareness was what prompted him to seek a new path, its importance is always fundamental to him.

“To put it in stronger terms, if something is not conveyed and not known, it is the same as not existing. Conversely, if something is properly conveyed, it creates opportunities. The result of this is business growth and a connection to playing a positive role in society. Therefore, I believe that if everyone communicated their ideas more, it would make the world a better place.

Japan is a highly contextual society, and there is a strong feeling that humility is a virtue. This is one aspect of Japanese culture, but thinking globally, conventional wisdom is completely different. If you do not modify your communication with the intent of conveying things to people with different cultures and languages, you will miss out.” (Kashiwa)

CEO Tsuru talks about noticing the importance of “a different dimension of quality” in the company’s products. In addition to the essential quality of the product, there is also perceived quality, which refers to the quality and superiority that comes to mind when comparing alternative products.

Talk session of CEO Tsuru and Mr.Sato

“At the core is product quality. We supply parts that directly impact the functions of vehicle running and steering, so product quality — high performance, no defects, and a stable supply of the necessary amounts — is all-important. Moreover, I think that NOK needs to raise perceived quality going forward. In general, Japanese companies have tended to refine product quality in a simple and honest way, but when competing globally, that’s not enough to win.

There’s room for growth in conveying strengths with visuals and communicating with this mindset. Put into words and communicate the superiority of your company that you have in your head. Harmonization of players, an approach that works in Japan, does not work globally. I think Japanese B2B companies definitely need to engage with the growth potential that is staring them in the face.” (Tsuru)