This evoking statement is a quote by the industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, which he is explaining his own design practice ‘Without Thought’. Like he said, did you ever notice how you drink, eat, see, talk and touch ‘without thought’?
Naoto Fukasawa was born in 1956 in Japan, and he graduated from Tama Art University in 1980 and worked for Japan’s Seiko Epson Corporation for nine years. Then he moved to US to join the Ideo team and created several award-winning designs and became “a master of giving form to objects”. It was this point when he started to question the real purpose of designing. He started to “shift his focus away from merely the tangible object to understand how design might be applied within a larger context” and as a result, he “has gone from somebody who crafts objects to somebody who crafts relationships with objects” like Tim Brown, the president of Ideo said.
In 1996 he started to develop his own design approach called ‘Without Thought’. In the interview at http://www.designboom.com, he reveals the idea behind ‘Without Thought’.
“Thinking needs time. Feeling can be done in a moment. When you see something for the first time it seems to be important. But it’s the later, when you use the object that you realise that what you’ve missed initially is the essence of what design is all about”
The ‘essence’ of design he mentioned is quite simple but very true to every design. It is “something powerful that cannot be seen, but only felt” which developed from “the Japanese philosophy of Yugen (meaning ‘subtle’, ‘profound’), which requires objects to suggest rather than reveal layers of meaning hidden within”.
↑ CD player designed by Naoto Fukasawa, produced by Muji
↑ Fukasawa talking about his CD player design.
↑ Cell phone designed by Naoto Fukasawa.
This idea of ‘suggestion by objects’ allows Fukasawa to find a natural relationship between two different objects or ideas and let them speak to each other. His most well-known design, the CD player produced by Muji combines the “scene of a CD spinning that gradually stabilises and music starting to drift out” and the “image of a kitchen fan that worked up to a consistent speed after it was clicked on” as described by Fukasawa in the video above. He continues by saying that “the idea that pulling a string could stir a musical device to action made me feel immense warmth akin to friendliness” which relates back to the ‘essence’ of design he mentioned, the ‘feeling’. This relationship between the feeling and mere objects is explored in his other works such as the cellphone which its surface “would cause the users’ fingers to inexplicably want to touch the edges”. The shape of this cellphone was originally inspired by the angular surface of a peeled potato. These examples show that the key to Fukasawa’s designs is the subtle feeling of familiarity. Touching the cellphone would not instantly remind the user of a peeled potato, but because the user has had a familiar feeling, touching it would make the user feel more comfortable and relaxing than touching a normal cellphone.
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ – Banana and strawberry by Naoto Fukasawa
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ – Kiwi by Naoto Fukasawa
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ in Haptic exhibition. Kiwi – banana – soy milk – peach – strawberry – green apple (clockwise)
The book ‘Materials Experience: Fundamentals of materials and design’ (edited by Elvin Karana, Owain Pedgley, Valentina Rognoli) describes Fukasawa’s design practice as ‘quasi-mimicry’. Quasi-mimicry involves “a partial emulation of one substance in another” which its “goal is…to spark interest by subtly revealing this sleight-of-hand maneuver” and “to question the true material nature of things”. Fukasawa explores the ‘true material nature’ through ‘Juice Skin’ which is a set of juice boxes that appear to be wrapped in the actual skins of the fruits including the frequently photographed strawberry, banana, kiwi, and also soy milk, green apple and peach. This simple yet very engaging idea reflects all of Fukasawa’s design concepts mentioned in this post.
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ – modified banana design that is in the market
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ – Study of the octagonal juice carton
This juice box set tells us how versatile a juice carton can be even without changing the geometry of it. A juice carton being an easily disposable object has not stopped Fukasawa from up-styling the appearance of it. Though some of the designs like strawberry or kiwi may be slightly more glamorous to mass produce, the banana juice box has successfully launched into the market (which Fukasawa unfortunately had to give up the ‘texture’ of banana skin but the appearance remains the same). What has to be noticed is not only the real appearance and texture but also Fukasawa’s thorough observation of existing juice cartons to enhance the user’s experience to the maximum level. Fukasawa said that “the configuration of the obtuse faces (of an octagonal juice carton) overlapped with the image of the obtuse surface of a banana” which again, adapts the familiarity of existing products to create a complete harmony between two very different materials.
↑ ‘Juice Skin’ – JUICEPEEL swatches in Haptic exhibition
In the Haptic exhibition that the juice boxes were originally showcased, Fukasawa also provided small square swatches of each juice skin. This suggests that Fukasawa invites the viewers to touch and ‘feel’ the juice skins. In last week’s post David Saldoff’s Newton apple holder allowed users to simply have a fresher apple by picking it from the holder, and Fukasawa’s realistic and vivid juice boxes also advertises as if consumers are drinking the real fruit juice. It is quite interesting that the sense of ‘touch’ creates a harmony between the juice carton and the drink.
↑ Hair wax containers by Yoshihiro Shinde in CONTAINERS exhibition
↑ Toothpaste tube by Masayuki Arakawa
↑ Leather shoe polish case by Asako Okazaki
Fukasawa’s practice with his design concept ‘Without Thought’ does not stop at his own work. He has organised a series of workshops and exhibitions based on the ‘Without Thought’ concept, and ‘CONTAINER’ is one of them. This exhibition focused on the fact that “there’s an appeal to containers, regardless of what’s in them”. Some of the designs shared similar ideas to Fukasawa’s ‘Juice Skin’, such as the hair wax containers where the lids resemble different hairstyles in Japanese animation styles, toothpaste tube in a shape of squeezed out toothpaste or leather shoe polish case which is in the exact same colour as the leather shoes. These designs are designed to be humourous or visually appealing, but none of them have lost the functionality as containers nor are they inconvenient to open/close and handle. These designs again suggest that being creative can be as simple as changing the surface or texture within the familiar shapes.
Fukasawa’s design practices make us re-think about what we easily pass by everyday. Busy, fast and highly technological lifestyle makes us programmed into the daily actions we take ‘without thought’. Fukasawa questioned why people fidget with their phones. He questioned why juice carton always has a flat surface. He observed the way CD rotates. He observed the string of the kitchen fan. He remembered the feeling of a peeled potato, and how furry a kiwi was. This makes us think, how amazing and fascinating is the everyday object? How much thought can you put into the everyday action? Fukasawa is telling us that inspiration is always very close to us. And “news is everywhere”.
In (Tony) Lee