This week Tokyo correspondent Jean Snow eschews the customary survey of recent events in Tokyo and instead sent in this interview with one of Japan's design giants, Naoto Fukasawa.
When you went freelance four years ago, one of your desires was to see more of your designs actually get produced. Now that you can expect most of what you design to make it to retail, has this affected your design process, or how you consider what to tackle next?
I understand that my role as a designer is about bettering our living. Some people think that designers try to bring in concepts for bettering and predicting the future. I wouldn't say that this is any less important, but after working on many design concepts or advanced planning, I've become more attached to the current life, and have started considering the betterment of our lives in a reality where we all belong, rather than predicting what could happen. My works today are about this reality, and so are more feasible.
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For the future, I don't really have a particular set of goals, but I would like to work earnestly with each project I have, and to deliver the best results. Working with projects gives me further motivation and provides momentum for my process.
By having such a pure/simple design aesthetic throughout your work, is there more thought that goes into the removal of unnecessary elements? Is there a limit to how far you are willing to go (eliminating practical functions to keep things simple)?
First of all, I would like to say that being pure and simple is not the goal, but rather an inevitable consequence brought on through my process. Each consequence represents the commonly shared vision between the receiver (end user), clients, and myself. So it is not just about me making decisions. I believe that my role is to visualize these shared common images in our mind on their behalf. Once I visualise the images in my mind, I remove all unnecessary elements away from the products to reach these images. As a result, these works at the end are made up of only the elements that are necessary to form these ideas and nothing else. This is what simplicity means. It is not just about making things minimal but it is rather about executing the most appropriate form.
Does your approach differ greatly whether you are designing electronics or interior products?
They are certainly different types of projects, but the way I work on them is no different.
You have talked about the importance of thought in the design process, playing a larger role than just considering form. Does this thought come into play after you have set your sights on a certain product category, or does it affect what sort of product you will tackle from the very start?
It happens in both instances -- I don't think the when is particularly important. The most important thing for me is to find appropriate solutions for each project.