Mira Kirvesmaki

Design with heart


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Design hero: Naoto Fukasawa

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.


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Inspirations: notfound.org

For inspiration in the domain of doing good I present: notfound.org

Notfound.org is a project that aims to make better use of the 404 pages on websites. The idea is that people can sign up their websites to become part of the cause. If they do then all the 404 pages on their website will display an image of a missing child. Posting photos of missing children is the most effective way to find them and now anyone with a website can contribute in a small way.

I love this idea as it allows people to do good but in a way that is doable by companies and individuals alike. It does not actually effect the website as such as it will only appear on a 404 “page not found” but if enough websites sign up for it, it could actually make a difference in getting the images to a bigger audience. I like the simplicity of the idea as well as the connection they have made between their cause and an already existing platform. They are repurposing something that is currently underused and essentially only asking people to give something that they aren’t (in most cases) currently using anyway. 

Here is a video that allows the people behind notfound.org explain their concept:


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Looking for visual language


This weeks tutorial was about starting to look into finding our visual language. As I’m not yet at a stage where i could actually make informed decisions about what kind of visual language I want to use I started to look into few styles that I admire and think might be useful in the project.


As you might have picked up previously I’m a big fan of Pinterest and so to keep up my love affair I started my search there. Instead of looking for a specific visual style I decided to go through a myrriad of choices and pick out the ones that somehow appealed to me. I then put all these together and started looking for commonalities amongst them. I ended up putting together three boards that  represented something that I was particularly attracted to.


The first board shares the use of stricking geometry and bold colours. They use simple shapes to build something more complex.


Board 1



The second board mixes bold images and beautiful typography. I feel this combo is one of the best ways to get across a simple message.


Board 2



The third board might lean more on tone of voice side than actual visual language. But as the two of them are so interconnected I decided to include this here as well. I believe that a hint of playfulness can go a long way in making people really connect to what you are presenting them with. It can really break barriers and makes it all a bit more fun.


Board 3



The sources for all the images can be found on my Pinterest board.


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Inspirations: Out of the box


So far I’ve been collecting anything that has sparked my interest (related to the honours year project that is) on a pinterest board. However I though it would be worth while to post them here as well and open up a bit why I found them inspiring. I’ll do this little by little adding things as we go on.

I’ll start with the one that inspires me today the most:

Out of the box by Vitamins

Out of the box. Source


Out of the box is a new concept for helping everyone get started with a smartphone. It uses the familiar medium of a book but incorporates the phone into it in a very smart way. The first book, the one explaining how to set up the phone, actually reveals the different parts of the phone as you turn the pages and helps you set up everything in a correct order. The next one, the manual, has a slot for your phone and then with the help of pictures and arrows helps you through different tasks you might struggle with. The concept video will explain this a lot better than I can:



What I enjoy about this project is that even though it has been conceived to help elderly adults it does not dumb them down. Unlike many of the actual phones that have been designed for elderly, this one doesn’t exclude but aims to empower. This concept actually won the 2012 Interaction Awards in the category Empowering. I also know from my experience of working with older adults who were in the process of learning how to use computers that physical notes were something that a lot of them found extremely useful and it was something that many of them kept and referred to whenever using technology. The designers have clearly used to their advantage the strengths and preferences of the target user group and really drilled down to what would work for them. To me this concept is just so simple and powerful that I keep wondering why the mobile phone companies don’t do this already. I would definitely not mind getting one of these whenever I buy a new pieces of tech.


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Looking for examples

Yesterdays task for the tutorial time was to find 1 sentence, 1 article and 1 project that are somehow related or exemplify everyones own starting points.

For me this task was quite a hard one as I have several things I want to incorporate to the brief but I’m not sure yet which one will have the biggest weight in the final version. So I decided that all of the examples will highlight a different aspect that I’m currently looking at.

So without further ado here are my chosen examples:

The sentence:

“Simplicity is getting at the core of something and understanding what the thing truly is and then making every part consistent with the core.”

-Steven Bradley (The sentence is from a very nice article on how to achieve simplicity in design. Recommended reading.)


This managed to really get at the core of what I wish to work towards. Something that is simple, effective yet pleasurable to use. I’m not a minimalist though but the idea of getting at the core of something and truly understanding it and the way it is used appeals to me. I would wish to extend this not only to the “thing” but also to the behavior with it, how and why people use it.

The article:

Give your website soul with emotionally intelligent interactions

-Smashing magazine 


This article outlays some thoughts that I have had about incorporating a human touch to a digital product. For some reason most digital products don’t really allow for people to get attached to them on emotional level. There are several physical products that people actually love but at least I could not really name a digital service/product that I could say the same about. To me this could have something to do with the lack of soul and character that seems to be plaguing the digital domain. I really want to have a try at this and have been greatly inspired by a book that gives examples on how this might be achieved. The book, Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen P. Anderson, is really a great read. It’s quite light reading with very approachable style and great examples that illustrate his  points. It goes through several principles derived from psychology and I’m itching to give them a go.

The project:

A key ring that won’t kill your fingertips


This one was the hardest to choose. I had so many projects that I find inspirational and that have a quality that I’m looking for. In the end I chose this one as it really captures the idea of basing the project on a real problem. I mean adding keys to a key ring is a small task and definitely not anything that would have a major impact on your life, but it is an inconvenience. And one that most people struggle with at that. It is somehow to me inspirational that this problem now has a solution (wish they were more available) and just maybe if we could solve all these little inconveniences the bigger problems might not seem as daunting anymore. It is inspiring, simple but genius.

The redesigned key ring

This exercise was very useful as it allowed me to start organizing my thoughts on the different aspects of the brief. I have certain moments when things seem quite clear in my head but it will need some work before I will be able to structure it so that it will make sense firstly all the time and secondly to others as well. Prioritizing all these aspects that appeal to me will need to be something that I start working on early in the project.


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Open your eyes (challenge)

I gave today myself a challenge to photograph all things that caught my eye on my way back home from university. It’s the same route I take most days and as I go past the same things everyday I’ve essentially become blind to them. The aim of this “challenge” was to try and get myself to really look at things again.

Lovely shades of green and red

Actually I have a nice story to tell about my expedition: As I was photographing outside a pub that is currently undergoing renovations a man came out to talk to me. I had been just taking a picture of a lovely flower decoration and he asked me if I would want one. As they were going to take them down anyway he offered to keep one for me to pick up later on. Such a lovely offer, it really cheered up my day.

The flower decoration promised for me

The photos are taken with my phone and by the end of it I was running out of light so some of the photos are quite dark. Also I am by no means a master of photography, just a snap-happy amateur. Regardless I have to say I am loving the fact that I have a (semi-)decent camera always with me. It makes life so much easier.

Love on the pavement

I love this instruction on how to mount the bicycles in the "lockers"

Another heart and my "backyard"

Nice shade of blue and texture

A very cool car

I have to say that this was a very nice way to spend the walk back home and even though I looked a bit daft sticking my phone to weird places I greatly enjoyed it. It was also very effective in making me look at things from a new perspective. I might even make a habit of this.