The unexpected expected with Naoto Fukasawa.

Hari; the tension and emotion between people, objects and the environment. This is the world of Japanese product designer, Nato Fukasawa.

“We want to make objects that fit your everyday mind, not your designed mind”. Naoto Fukasawa designs with the intention of creating a harmony between people, objects and the surroundings. His practice encompasses the Japanese style of Hari which generates a level of surface tension as well as emotion within a person’s social environment. Through this style, his designs are charismatic and unconventional. His mission is to connect to the audience emotionally, in a way that’s unpredictable. Juice Boxes (2004) is a strong reflection of his approach towards design; unconventional but pleasant.

Juice Boxes

Juice Boxes, 2004

Having studied and worked with electronics for some time, Fukasawa got to appreciate the components that go unnoticed inside an object. As product designers, our forms are sleek covers for what lies underneath. We lose an appreciation for the heart and soul of the object. The form is ‘clean’ but meaningless. “My design was like a controlled kind of sculpture. People really liked it, and I was kind of satisfied too, but, on the other hand, after my products sold – six months on – they had totally disappeared. I was a nice form-maker, but there weren’t any reasons why I was making these shapes. So I stopped.” It’s important to know why you are doing something. What does it mean? Juice Boxes (2004) is a series made up of 6 beautifully designed juice boxes. Each package reflects the fruit juice that is contained inside. Instantly you know what is contained and suggests a more organic alternative. Traditional juice boxes are mass produced sugar drinks; relying heavily on graphics to engage with the audience. This design brings the inside out; shifting away from conventional packaging. The Juice Boxes form tells a story of harvesting and where the drink has originated from. In doing so it has meaning and a purpose to the form.

This isn’t the first time designers have brought the inside out. In the late 1990’s Nintendo released controllers with clear cases. Working the controller, you feel connected as lights flash, things move; you see this unfold in your hands. There is something quite beautiful about the layouts of electronics and components. This design draws you not to the form but deeper into the workings of the product. Once you appreciate the functionality of the object, the form becomes clearer. As they say form follows function. This form has purpose once you understand what lies beneath.

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Nintendo 64 Game Controller, 1996

Besides the visual aspect of the design, there is also texture, matching the texture found on real fruit. Strawberries, oranges and the like have a rough surface while bananas, apples and pears have quite smooth surfaces. Grasping each Juice box provides a different experience. What Fukasawa has done is create an unexpected touch sense. An argument of Fukasawa is that we have innate awareness or natural instinct. The unexpected lies within the texture. We have to think twice when we hold the juice box. This surprise forces the user to react and question what they are consuming. This is challenging the norm of a juice box with plastic coated card that crumbles and builds up in the environment.

Following his return to his homeland of Japan, Fukasawa became inspired by not only Hari, but also of the Japanese Aesthetic. According to japan-talk.com, there are 9 principles of Japanese art and culture;

  1. Wabi Sabi (Imperfect)
  2. Miyabi (Elegance)
  3. Shibui (Subtle)
  4. Iki (Originality)
  5. Jo-Ha-Kyu (Slow, Accelerate, End)
  6. Yugen (Mysterious)
  7. Giedo (Discipline and Ethics)
  8. Ensou (The Void)
  9. Kawaii (Cute)

Analysing the Juice Boxes (2004), it’s clear to see this style play out. Fruit is imperfect, subtle and elegant. The use of fruit as the body is mysterious but original and cute. Furthermore, another one of Fukasawa’s designs also carries these traits. His ‘CD Player’ (2000), is elegant and subtle. Its wall mounting is one of a kind for a CD player. To me it’s the subtly and elegance in the designs of Fukasawa that links closely to the arts and crafts of Japanese culture. In doing so Fukasawa reflects the Japanese culture he was brought up in.

Naoto Fukasawa is a designer of purpose and emotion. What Fukasawa demonstrates is an importance of meaning behind the design and doing things for a reason, not because you can. As a fellow product designer, it’s refreshing to see different approaches to the design practice. Fukasawa certainly has originality. Juice Boxes challenges norms and in my mind creates a stronger connection to the audience. The intention wasn’t to create beautiful forms. The beauty is generated through the connection of the audience. Design with the mind to effect not appeal.

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