Design Influences: Naoto Fukasawa
Naoto Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer born in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan in 1956. He attended Tama Art University and graduated in 1980, was hired by the American design firm IDEO in 1989, and returned to Japan in 1996 as the head of IDEO’s Tokyo office. In 2003 he founded Naoto Fukasawa Design, and currently serves as one of the co-directors of Japan’s first design museum; 21 21 DESIGN SIGHT.
Fukasawa’s designs are focused on the interactions between user, object, and environment, and frequently explore the cognitive psychology of unconscious human interaction with the built environment (‘thoughtless design’ as he calls it), as well as a concept of designed objects that are so exact in their approximation of what we think they ought to be that they become, in his words, ‘super normal’.
“I believed I wasn’t the only one who was looking for a more normal-looking boom box. I designed this because I believed that no matter what age or gender a person was, and no matter their taste in music, what everyone wanted was one item that they wouldn’t get tired of.” (Naoto Fukasawa, p. 99)
Fukasawa’s working principles exhibit a strong understanding and sympathy for the human experience of the material world, and seek to take advantage of unconscious knowledge to enrich the user’s experience of an object. More so than Dieter Rams, whose philosophies seek to establish a basis for creating functional and honest objects, Naoto Fukasawa’s design philosophies describe elements of human psychology and the natural environment that, when integrated into product design result in a more inherently pleasurable experience while remaining formally minimal and aesthetically restrained.
The human mind has an enormous propensity for unconscious understanding, and a designed object can more effectively meet a user’s needs by appealing to the human brain’s ability to digest information subconsciously.
Another aspect of human psychology that can be appealed to for the benefit of the user; in referencing common interaction experiences between human and environment, objects can be made easier to use or even made more pleasant and stimulating by making appropriate and deliberate reference to these common memories.
2.5 mm, the radius Fukasawa has identified as the most natural-feeling and haptically pleasurable edge radius for a rectilinear object, derived from the average edge radius that wooden objects develop over hundreds of years of use and touch.
What is the essence of what we want an object to be, or what the object wants to be? Super normal means to distill the ideal form of a ‘normal’ object and express it in the most effective way.
“While many today aspire to stimulating design, too much stimulus is not a good thing in anyone’s life; stimulus inevitably interrupts the unconscious flow of activity by provoking conscious attention. Rather, in my view, an unconscious, harmonious accord of people and thing is best conveyed ‘without thought’.” (Naoto Fukasawa, p. 7)
Fukasawa’s unique humanistic approach to design and his talent for understanding human behavior and psychology never cease to fascinate and inspire me. Many of his most famous designs are manufactured and sold by the company ±0 (plusminuszero), whose name points to the exactitude of design in their products. These products are made to be exactly what we think they ought to be but in a very stimulating way; they becomes obvious in the most unexpected and perfect ways.