Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Hajime Tsuruta ("HT") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

HT : I was born and raised in Japan. When I was a junior high school student, I lived in Thailand for a while, and I earned my Bachelor's degree in the United States. Being exposed to multicultural influences has influenced my designs to this day.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

HT : I became a designer in order to blend different cultural influences in innovative ways, and that remains my motivation to this day.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

HT : I neither chose, nor was I forced. I think that my path to design was a natural progression.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

HT : I mainly deal with commercial facilities, but in the future I hope to work on more public museums, schools, and libraries.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

HT : The most important advice I can give is to study abroad and establish connections to other cultures and peoples.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

HT : A good designer works with the individual's needs in mind, while a great designer thinks of their community and nation.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

HT : The quality of a design is found in its concept, rather than its immediate appearance.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

HT : Good design must be sustainable both in terms of environment and culture—in other words, the value of good design is its long-term contribution to the community. When we invest in sustainable design, we invest in our future.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

HT : I would like to design facilities to serve people and regions that have been affected by natural disasters, such as earthquakes or typhoons.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

HT : I would like to design a fully Integrated resort including a hotel, shopping facilities, restaurants, MICE, and so forth.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

HT : My "secret ingredient" is to slip in some functional element that the client only finds after they have begun using the space. This is particularly important to my philosophy of housing design: the home should be a continual space of delight.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

HT : I'm most inspired by Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect who emphasizes simplicity and Zen in his designs.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

HT : I would have to say that my favorite design is the OCULUS shopping mall in New York City, which was built in 2016 by architect Santiago Calatrava. The structure represents the region's triumph over the dark past of 9/11.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

HT : My team and I designed an amusement facility called TENGOKU built in the suburbs of Japan in 2016. The client company’s logo is wings, so we modified it to show those wings flying away.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

HT : It's important to make connections with people in other industries. If you are only surrounded by other designers, it becomes harder to innovate. Having relationships with people from different professions helps you think about their perspectives and gain new inspiration.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

HT : I sometimes imagine that I might have had a technology-related job, similar to Steve Jobs.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

HT : To me, design is a force that makes people change not only their life but their way of thinking.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

HT : Our valued clients have been our biggest supporters! I'm always learning new things frmo my clients.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

HT : I think the key factor in becoming a good designer was my international upbringing. I'm very grateful to my parents for the opportunities they gave me.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

HT : When I went to college in the United States to study architecture, I often found language comprehension a barrier. My English was not very good for the first year I lived there, so I sometimes struggled in class.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

HT : Modern designers should be able to use technology to express our ideas visually and help clients picture how their designs will turn out.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

HT : We are planning and designing a huge shopping mall in Tokyo, where we plan to install an innovative new technology interface.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

HT : I'd like to donate a design to the public.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

HT : The most important expectation placed on me, and the one I always keep in mind, is that I must respect and value the opinions of other designers—not just those who came before me, but the young designers who will carry on the profession after I have retired.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

HT : Design can be used to promote sustainable principles that promote a higher standard of living for the public. For instance, by renovating or converting empty buildings, we can conserve resources.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

HT : I am excited to renovate some old, empty buildings rather than building new ones. It's always challenging and exciting to think about and solve problems presented by the existing building.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

HT : A couple of years ago I had the privilege of designing a commercial facility, and since then the operating company has been able to expand considerably. I'm very satisfied by how my work was able to help them prosper.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

HT : I expect that due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the design industry will change in some unpredictable ways in the next few years. My priority now is to make myself as flexible as possible and keep an open mind so that I can respond to the new demands that will be placed on my work.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

HT : I believe that designers' dependence on IT and CAD software will only increase, so it's important for designers to stay abreast of new technology.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

HT : A small project takes about six months, while a large one may take up to three years.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

HT : We always start from a kick-off meeting with the clients to establish our understanding of their needs and desires.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

HT : Listen not only to the client's words, but to their heart.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

HT : I believe design sets the trends.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

HT : Due to recent innovations in IT, I often transfer my designs to digital imaging programs to help the clients better envision the completed project. Technology has also enabled faster communication with our clients.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

HT : I mainly use CAD software, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

HT : It depends entirely on the design itself. When I design a natural atmosphere, I attempt to imitate the natural world, but when I'm working on a project with an inorganic atmosphere I will opt for muted colors and manmade materials.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

HT : I want them to ask me any question they have about my work! It's important to me to remain open to questions, especially from other designers or laypeople.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

HT : Seeing something great inspires me to create as well! I immediately start thinking about what I can design next.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

HT : I think co-design is an excellent way to work, if you have the right partner. I'm very lucky; my wife is also an architect and designer, and she is truly my ideal design partner! She always approaches our projects with enthusiasm.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

HT : When I was a college student in the United States, my studio mates were a tremendous influence on my design because we worked together every day.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

HT : I was strongly influenced by the biography of Frank Lloyd Wright. It not only gave me insight into his legacy, but also his process, and how he was perceived by his contemporaries.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

HT : I always try to learn from others. I can't declare myself a master and decide that I have nothing left to learn; the field is always changing.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

HT : I would like to meet some African designers and architects. I haven't had many opportunities to interact with African cultures, and I'm interested in learning about their philosophy and values.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

HT : I don't particularly think of myself as famous. When I receive publicity or awards, I tend to view it as a reflection of the project, rather than of myself.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

HT : I tend to fall into a routine so that I'm not distracted by my work. I tend to dress in monochromes, eat the same foods, and buy the same brands over and over.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

HT : I found it a little funny that in various competitions, the same team (including my firm) was selected three times in a row. We discovered that the concepts behind the projects selected were mostly the same, and we all knew the client involved!

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

HT : I like to watch TED Talks on YouTube to hear about different perspectives. TED Talks are interesting to me because so many people from diverse professions share what motivates them.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

HT : I was such a shy child that my parents were worried about me. They gave me a paper and pen to encourage me to communicate. I don't know if it was obvious that I would become a designer, but I drew constantly, so I can see the logical progression. Then again, I also could have become a comic artist.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

HT : I think that a thousand years from now, everything will be commodified, even buildings and housing. Changes in available materials will affect the ways in which we use buildings as status symbols.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

HT : I often try to use natural materials; however, nature materials are often cost-prohibitive due to both upfront expenses and maintenance costs. Therefore, I sometimes use elaborate imitation techniques inspired by Japan's long history of mortar and lacquer craft.



eeGee Stay Local Capsule Hotel

eeGee Stay Local Capsule Hotel by Hajime Tsuruta

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