3 Important Lessons From Japanese Product Design

  Naoto Fukasawa, Cordless Landline Telephone.

Naoto Fukasawa, Cordless Landline Telephone.

  Oki Sato, Nendo Studio .

Oki Sato, Nendo Studio.

  Kenya Hara, Haptic Exhibition.

Kenya Hara, Haptic Exhibition.

3 Important Lessons From Japanese Product Design

Did you know that over half of the human brain is dedicated to processing visual stimuli and every time we communicate with each another, only 7% is through the use of words? 

Humans are highly visual creatures. The fabric of our environment is built around visual cues that communicate a constant stream of information. Even when we cannot see, our other senses burst into overdrive to make sense of our surroundings. 

For most people, what we see and sense has a powerful influence over how we feel. And how we feel often influences our behaviour and the decisions that we make. So for every business, understanding how to better communicate through design can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Japanese Designers are well known for being masters of communicating through product design language. One of the reasons being they have a very distinct design language of their own. Using examples from some of my favourite Japanese designers, here are three important design lessons every designer and business should consider:

1. Understand your customer’s values and reference them through your design 

Naoto Fukasawa designed this cordless telephone when mobile phones were becoming more popular and beginning to replace household landlines. 

Although the phone itself is very simple, when viewed from the side it is charged with strong visual cues, particularly in the context of Japanese culture. The slight bend in Naoto Fukasawa’s design subtly suggests that the phone is bowing to the user. This is a very strong symbol of respect in Japanese culture, which is a clever way of giving a soon-to-be obsolete object the dignity that it deserved.

What I like most about this design is that it shows how very simple design can still create impact by paying attention to deep customer values. 

2. Incorporate an element of surprise 

Oki Sato, Nendo Studio.

Oki Sato of Nendo Studio designed this furniture range for the Disney office in Tokyo, Japan. The range needed to be sophisticated and refined to reflect the corporate environment but it also needed to communicate the essence of the Disney brand.

What I like most about this design is how it captures the innocence and fun of the Disney brand through the soft edges and knitted details without looking tacky or obvious.

One of the great things about Japanese Design is that there is often an “A-hah!” moment of surprise incorporated into the design. Usually, these surprises are hidden amongst simplicity and left for the user to discover. So for many, it is quite exciting to realise that this design is in fact reflecting the characters of Winnie the Pooh.

3. Engage all of the senses

Kenya Hara, Haptic Exhibition.

For his exhibition held in 2004, Kenya Hara asked 22 participants including architects, designers, a traditional Japanese plasterer and the design team of a high-tech household electric appliances manufacturer to design an object motivated by the goal of "awakening the senses". 

Describing the exhibition, Kenya Hara said“While dealing with shape, colour, material and texture is one of the more important aspects of design, there is one more; it’s not the question of how to create, but how to make someone sense something” (Hara, 2007).

What I like most about these products is the importance they place on the user's experience. It is the way we feel, touch and sense these products that make a lasting impression.

Do you have a question or a comment you would like to share about this post? Visit ourideConnect communityto join the discussion.

Resources
Hara, K. 2007, Designing Design, Lars Muller Publishing, Japan. P68

Erin Evanochko