Mira Kirvesmaki

Design with heart

Design hero: Naoto Fukasawa

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Last weeks tutorial discussed our design heroes and heroines, and the role they can play in forming our projects, so I decided that it was about time I introduce you to one of my favourite designers: Naoto Fukasawa

Naoto Fukasawa himself. Source

Naoto Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer with a pinch of an interaction designer in him as well. He is most well known for working as the head of the Tokoy studio of IDEO as well as his work for Muji, most notably the pull cord CD player. He himself describes his work, not as a showcase of his own personality or style, but as something that aims for clarity of idea and appropriateness. Working on each piece so that the shapes meet the conditions comfortably making sure that it is appropriate for all the different contexts of use. He sees the worth of design in everyday, small and unconscious actions as well as in listening and observing people. In his own words: “design isn’t something that I generate, so much as something that already exists in situ; all I do is give it concrete form.”

The CD player for Muji. Source

This quote really exemplifies why I find him so inspirational. His approach to design is something that I can really relate to and aspire towards. He bases his projects on beautifully simple insights and has elegant design responses to these. He has a deep understanding of human behaviour and the materials he works with and can use these to his advantage when designing. His objects are beautiful, bit it is really the story behind them that gets to me. But, it really would be silly to just talk about a designers work when I can actually show you, so here are few of his projects that I love:

Rice cooker for Muji

This is a pice of work Fukasawa did for Muji, which stems from discovering a break in the flow of actions people had when using a rice cooker. The object itself is beautiful, no doubt, but the reason I wanted to include it here is the simple, understated brilliance that can come from understanding behaviour. What sets this rice cooker apart from your average joe rice cookers is the way the lid has been designed to accommodate the serving utensil to be set on top of it.

In the task flow diagram you see how Fukasawa identified a moment of hesitation that breaks the fluidity of the task. He then used this insight to design a solution that allows users to over come this break. As he puts it: “If small problems indicated by discontinuity in a behaviour are resolved, then everything runs smoothly once again.”

Part of the task flow for using the rice cooker

The rice cooker. Source

Cordless telephone

The starting premise for this phone design was the realization that ever since the mobile phones started conquering the world the home and office phones have become almost obsolete. So this design allows the phone to take a dignified bow in the space it inhibits. To me this thought is beautiful and sophisticated while managing to be even little humorous at the same time.

The bowing phone. Source

Juice skin

This project is a true ode to affordability. These juice boxes have been designed to have a multisensory appeal, and not only in the taste of the juice or the visual appearance of the box. They aim to communicate the content through the actual feel of the box, creating an ultimate visual communication piece that gives the often overlooked sense of touch a place in the design.

Juice boxes designed for an exhibition. Source

I’m feeling very genorous today so as a special gift I’m also sharing two TED talks from two women, who also inspire me immensely (you are welcome).

The first one is from a lovely designer/artist called Kelli Anderson. She has an amazing way of seeing the world and using the everyday as her inspiration. She inspires me in the way she can reinvent the most common place of things, like paper, and bring forth qualities we didn’t even realize they possessed.

This next one is a hugely talented paper cutter called Béatrice Coron. She inspires me in the way she tells stories through her work and how wildly broad her sources of inspiration are. I’m also in awe of the sense of humor she brings to her work as well as a sense of location and sophistication. She makes the art works relevant to the places they inhibit through incorporating local stories and historical facts into them.

I used the brilliant book: Naoto Fukasawa as the resource for this blog post. This is where all the quotes are from. I’ve only started to skim the surface of who Fukasawa is as a designer, so if you got interested, I recommend this book as a great place to learn a bit more.

Author: mirakirvesmaki

I'm an honours year student documenting the journey towards a BSc (hons) in Digital Interaction Design (Dundee University).

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