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Naoto Fukasawa is a highly acclaimed Japanese industrial designer who designed many iconic products, including household items for MUJI.  A wall-mount CD player, a MUJI product, is part of the MOMA permanent collection.

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His style is very unique: it talks a lot without uttering any words. His sleek, minimalist and quiet design makes you feel like it’s almost dissolving into the surroundings.  However, while his products blend with the environment, their beauty and charm stands out silently, yet powerfully.  There is something very magnetic and engaging in his work.

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Although he does not use those words to describe his own work, his style looks very Zero. (or we could call it Zen design. Read this article about Zen design and Zero design

He wrote a book called, “デザインの輪郭 (The Profile of Design)”(TOTO Publishing, 2005), where readers can find some of his inspiring Zero philosophy.

What is the profile of design?

At the end of the day, I am drawing a profile in vacant space.

To me, the profile of a design is something obscure and blur that surrounds physical existence.

A profile – it’s the relationship.

Design that dissolves into behavior

If you are dissolving into behavior, you are attempting to locate where the center of your consciousness is.

It is so because ultimately it’s not your will that determines what you do.  It’s your surroundings that work towards you that make you move.

Live with minimum

It’s a rich experience.

We just don’t appreciate how gorgeous it is to be in a tidy, clean space where there is no destruction from stuff.

Anonymous

I think being anonymous means being highly functional.

Imagine the time after I eventually decompose.

If my design still survives, and if it did so even after wars and disasters, or even after all the information was wiped away…

If people still used my design and loved it after all, I think I could say that my design finally became truly anonymous.

Fukasawa, Naoto.  (2005).  デザインの輪郭 (The Profile of Design). Tokyo, Japan: TOTO Publishing

All quotes above were translated by the author.

These statements remind us of the core creed of Buddhism that resonated deeply with ancient Japanese people, when it was brought to Japan in 6 AC.   They especially inherit the gist of  “無常” and “無我”  from the three Dharma seals,  which influenced how Japanese saw the world and how they developed aesthetic values.

  • 無常:  Nothing is permanent. Everything keeps changing its status and goes away eventually.
  • 無我:  There is no such thing as absolute “me.”  Life will be painful if you try to believe that your value is determined by who you are.  You can exist only because there are people (not just humans) around you, and every one- including you- is connected to make this world whole. Since you are an organic part of it, your value is dependent on your surroundings.

Antenna

I think people feel like their sensors are aroused when they experience my design.

If they actually had antennas, they would have felt like all of them were suddenly activated and keenly detecting something exciting.

You feel ecstatic when your body and senses are fully aroused and engaged.

It’s an ecstasy to unleash your own potential by yourself.

In Zero Intro > Zero Narrative > Chapter 1: Power of Zero, we leveraged the Yerkes-Dodson law (empirical relationship that performance increases when arousal level is optimal) to explain satisfaction.  We assumed that satisfaction is not determined only by how much more pleasure and/or how much less pain we get.  We assumed that the level of arousal would also play an important role. Satisfaction that does not accompany arousal is short-lived and requires constant replenishing.  If you seek deep, long-lasting or mindful satisfaction, your physical and/or cognitive abilities need to be aroused, and it requires proactive and spontaneous engagement.  Satisfaction triggered by Zero is long-lasting and mindful because Zero works towards your body and mind and mobilizes your potential.

People who fall in love with Fukawasa’s design must be feeling a long-lasting satisfaction by unleashing their senses because his design works as a catalyst for cognitive/sensory arousal.  By using an example of “antennas,”  he reminds us the fresh excitement and joy we feel when we find a deeper level of beauty and happiness by unleashing the potential of our senses and abilities.