Lead guitarist Chris Walla announced that he was leaving Death Cab For Cutie in August 2014, though he continued contributing to the recording and creative process of Kintsugi until the album was complete. The founding member's departure served as an inspiration for the album title. Bassist Nick Harmer, who came up with the record's name, explained to Rolling Stone it's about finding beauty in a breakup: "The album's called Kintsugi," he said. "It's a Japanese style of art where they take fractured, broken ceramics and put them back together with very obvious, real gold. It's making the repair of an object a visual part of its history. That resonated with us as a philosophy, and it connected to a lot of what we were going through, both professionally and personally."
"In the West, if you break an heirloom, you either throw it away or you make the repair as invisible as possible," he continued. "But there's this artistic movement in Japan where the repair of it, the damage of it, is more important as part of the history of something than repairing it to its original state."