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Naoto Fukasawa: Blending In

In town to inaugurate Business of Design Week’s ‘Designed by Hong Kong’ lecture series, Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa tells us about his design philosophy, dream project and what minimalism really means. Christie Lee files this report.

Naoto Fukasawa: Blending In

If there is single, definitive Naoto Fukasawa style, it is perhaps one of simplicity and humility. The Japanese designer has a penchant for crafting objects that blend so seamlessly with the surrounding environment that you hardly notice them until much later. And none epitomises this ethos better than the MUJI CD player. A whimsical ode to whirling ventilation fans, it became a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 2004.

Born in the Yamanashi Prefecture in 1956, Fukasawa studied at the Tama Art University before being tapped as head of IDEO’s Tokyo Office in the 1980s. Since establishing his eponymous brand in 2003, he has gone on to design such iconic products as the Hiroshima chair and the Infobar A02. We find out more.

Naoto Fukasawa
(Left) Hiroshima chair for Maruni. (Right) MUJI CD Player

What is your design philosophy?

A lot of people think that a good design should evoke emotions. From my perspective, a good design should have the ability to blend in with your everyday life. You aren’t conscious of its existence. When it comes to finding the best design, your senses are the best judge.

Which comes first – form or function?

Definitely function.

Naoto Fukasawa
Demetra task lamp for Artemide

A lot of people label your work as ‘minimalist’. What is a minimalist design?

A minimalist design isn’t the same as a simple design. By doing away with all the frills, a minimalist design focuses on the way a product, be it a chair or a lamp, fits our lifestyle.

Like the Hiroshima chair you designed for Maruni Wood Industry?

Yes, we designed it so that it’d accommodate a range of body sizes and lower-limb postures.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

The Hiroshima chair and the MUJI CD player.

Naoto Fukasawa
Grande Papilio for B&B Italia

Do people from different countries have different levels of appreciation for the same design?

Yes, but the divide is between individuals rather than nations. The production process differs from country to country though. Japanese designers are very slow when it comes to making decisions!

What do you want to design next?

A house. I’ve done interiors before, but I’d like to do more. Basically I want to have a box where I can put all my favourite designs.

Naoto Fukasawa

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