It would be hard for me not to mention at the outset that it wasn’t entirely easy to listen to Kenya Hara’s talk with the AIGA NY Small Talk series. It had nothing to do with his carefully considered words, but just the delivery. Of course english is not Kenya’s first language which should negate some of my issues. If the talk had been entirely spoken through an interpreter questions of how much bias in word selection would have been asked. Did they repeat every single phrase the way he meant it to be? So…
Kenya’s talk focussed primarily on two parts of his new book Designing Design (book review to come), those being the chapters on Haptic and Senseware. He is also tied quite closely to Muji and spoke about that too – but more from the questions after the talk had finished. I had already completed reading the chapter on Haptic and seen most of the commissioned pieces – so I didn’t have the same excited reaction that others in the audience had. What I was extremely in awe of was the quick video clips of Tadpole Coaster, Gel Remote Control, Floating Compass that he showed. My favourite was the Water Pachinko piece. Watching the tiny droplets of water in motion was beautiful. The water came to life, it almost seemed like it’s own little urban city in motion. I could have watched it for hours. The photos and descriptions in the book are nice, but to see them living was quite another. I hope that those short videos find themselves on the net so others can see them.
If I’m not mistaken, some of the examples that he showed for Sensware were not in the book. I didn’t remember seeing the Honda prototype cars that challenged the notion of an exterior in the book. The question was posed that if the combustible engine no longer exists past 2020, how will that effect the nature of the cars outside. The examples of different textures on the cars were quite interesting – just as the process of eliminating some of the hard surfaces due to technological improvements in crash detection. I think Honda’s a little over optimistic in challenging some conventions but for the sake of discussion it was interesting. What I found inspiring overall in the display of the examples for both Haptic and Senseware was how well the objects felt together when showed in duplication. Whether it was the Water Compass or the Tadpole Coaster, as a series the visual sense was quite complete.
One idea that was not mentioned but I think is worth throwing out there is the designer art category, and where does it fit into the discussion of design as a commercial application. If you argue that design does not come from a vacuum and that you need open ways to explore design as the book Designing Design seems like a good example of, then there’s no issue. But if you’re a designer working in the commercial sector that is more curious about how that design thinking was transferred to a successful brand like Muji – those answers were lacking from the talk. Of course there’s a chapter all on Muji that I haven’t gotten to yet, but if you don’t have the book you’ll just have to go to the store and experience it for yourself to get your answer.