Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Takusei Kajitani ("TK") 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.
TK : When I was a student, I studied urban design at Kyoto University. At that time, I was impressed by a book called "Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander. He was an architect, famous for saying that "a city is not a tree," and he argued that urban planning is not a top-down process, but a bottom-up one. He compiled the elements that make up a city like a "language," creating a kind of dictionary for architects, which he wrote down as theory in his book "Pattern Language." He thus created a stir in the urban planning industry of the time by presenting the idea that urban planning could be achieved by designing each small facility in harmony with each other. I fully agreed with his idea and thought that a bottom-up approach was needed not only in urban planning but in all of our designs. And I wanted to be a designer with that perspective. So I believe it is important to think of design not as mere decoration, but as a part of the larger plan that is our lives. After graduation, I wanted to work on designing various stores as components of a city, so I joined an interior design firm and designed several stores and commercial facilities. After that, I wanted to work on design with a slightly broader perspective, so I moved to the spatial experience design department of an advertising company. There, I have been involved in the planning, design, and production of brand experience facilities for various companies. In 2014, I launched Consentable as my personal studio to work on designs other than client work, and I continue to design and develop digital life furniture.
TK : While it is exciting just to see a design that I imagined in my head actually take shape in the finished product, there is an unparalleled joy for me in having unknown people experience it, be interested in it, enjoy it. I think that is why I became a designer.
TK : Of course I chose to be a designer. After studying urban design in Kyoto University, I wanted to design stores, one of the elements that make up a city, so I started to work for an interior design and construction company. There I studied interior design and architectural design in earnest, and also got a first-class architectural license in Japan. After that, I wanted to design large scale facilities, so I changed jobs to the space development division of a big advertising company. It is an incomparable pleasure for me to see customers enjoy shopping, eating and drinking, and experiencing exhibits in the retail spaces and corporate facilities that I designed. And in order to present to the world not only designs in response to clients' requests, but also my own designs, I have established a private design studio, Consentable, where I design digital life furniture. This is also very exciting.
TK : As a Concentable, I would like to design new furniture that is with the major lifestyle change of digital transformation, centered on the design and development of digital life furniture. In particular, I feel that modern people's lifestyles are becoming more and more disconnected from the earth's nature. Rather, I would like to continue to create designs that allow people to live a sustainable and rational digital life while always feeling the aura of nature. Since ancient times, the idea of continuing to live a rich life while rationally incorporating nature has been ingrained in Japanese culture, and I would like to carry on this idea in contemporary design.
TK : The profession of designer is so important, meaningful and interesting that will affect the future of human beings. Going back to the history of design in a broad sense, the design of stone tools about 3 million years ago was the first. After that the design on how to use fire around a million year ago, and then decorations, cave paintings, musical instruments 30,000-80,000 years ago. Surprisingly, the design of architecture and letters is an event of only about 10,000 years ago. Anyway, as you can see from the history of design, design has the power to change human civilization. What I would like to convey to young designers is to work on design from a big perspective, to think what kind of design is needed when looking back on the present from that perspective.
TK : I think a good designer has the ability to turn 90% into 100%, but a great designer has the ability to turn 0% into 100%. In other words, a good designer has the ability to sharpen the given conditions, while a great designer has the ability to create new value from no prerequisites with the power of design.
TK : When I evaluate the quality of a design, I always focus on originality. In particular, I focus on the scarcity value of the experience by the design. What is designed becomes a product, is used by the user, and is eventually disposed of as waste. Considering that what I design becomes a product, I believe that I should not design too many products that have no scarcity value. In addition, I also place importance on the potential of the design to become a standard in the future. Our lives are changing rapidly with the times, and what is required of design will also change with the demands of the times. In this context, I believe it is important for designers to design with an awareness of the standards of the next generation.
TK : For example, when good design first appears in the world, it may only be seen as an oddity in society. This is because it is a design that goes against conventional wisdom. Many people tend to choose a familiar design that is an extension of the conventional wisdom. Therefore, good design is initially a weak entity that will disappear if only a few people realize its value. That is why those who find its value should invest in spreading its value while communicating its goodness to the public.
TK : Whenever I design, I always think of the famous Native American saying, "The earth is borrowed from the next generation of children." If I had the time I would design new furniture for my own grandchildren. He is not born yet, but probably will be some years later, and he will be living a totally different life in a few decades. It would be wonderful to be able to imagine that and design furniture that will be needed by him in the future.
TK : What I'm most interested in right now is to create a eco-system for collaboration between designers in the world, in other words, to build a business model for next-generation design. Now is the time to think seriously about the sustainability of the global environment. We must rewrite the concept of growth that the world takes for granted, such as mass production, mass consumption society, and urbanization. To that end, we designers should change and proceed. As for how to change, I hope that more designers in the world should have relations beyond the borders of nationality, corporate, culture and so on. Because we should start talking on how we should protect the global environment or how we can make it. Because it is necessary to collaborate from various perspectives in order to solve such a very big problem. If I could invent such a business model, I can say I could contribute a little to the next generation of designers.
TK : Perhaps paradoxically, the answer is not to seek design success. I see design as a means to solve various problems. So, only finding reasonable challenges and focusing solutions will be a shortcut to good design.
TK : Achille Castiglioni is my favorite master. All of his designs have originality, humor, and a warmth that you can feel in his personality. At the same time, I am numb to his very rational way of thinking. There is a word he lectured to design students in 1995 that left a great impression on me. It is the following sentence. "A good project (design) does not come from the ambition to leave a legacy of your achievements to future generations, but from the desire to exchange experiences, even the smallest ones, with strangers who will use what you have designed. Keep in mind that our work is all about exploration. Each work is not a destination, but rather a pause in the process. It is a process."
TK : I love SELLA designed by Achille Castiglioni. There is an anecdote that the stool was designed for Italians who like to make long phone calls, so that they cannot stay too long. The bicycle saddle seat, the pink shaft, and the hemispherical leg bottoms are all out of the ordinary, yet I think it is a very rational design, given the concepts mentioned above. At the same time, it has a sense of humor and warmth. If we had furniture like this in our homes, our lives would feel very rich and joyful.
TK : My favorite is Swing. When I ask my friends to sit in Swing, they all look surprised and enjoy the new experience. It is so much fun for me. The idea of Swing started when I began to work from home because of COVID 19. As a football enthusiast, I had a growing sense of anxiety that my body would continue to decline because of all day sitting. I heard similar concerns from my teammates, and I began to think about designing a chair that would benefit them. Then, as I learned a lot from the books on the human body structure, I became very interested in the importance of the human sense of balance and unconscious body manipulation. This is how I came up with the image of Swing. Most chairs are designed based on the idea that sitting is a static action, even though the human body is designed to move. This may cause our bodies to remain still for long periods of time and accelerate the decline of our physical senses. Swing is designed to allow the seat to move freely like a small swing in conjunction with the movement of the sitter's pelvis. The Swing has a structure that allows the seat to move freely like a small swing, in conjunction with the pelvic movement of the sitter. It is a stool that aims to activate the body's senses while enjoying the feeling of floating. I feel I have designed a good solution for people with similar problems in Work From Home. That's why my favorites is Swing.
TK : The following words of my favorite master, Achille Castiglioni, are my answer. "Experience does not give us certainty. On the contrary, it only increases the likelihood of failure. The more time that passes, the more difficult it becomes to design better. The countermeasure? Always start over from scratch, with humility and patience. What I want today's students to understand is that what design should really matter should be found in the mistakes and deviations in the acts of living." And I always have been trying to design from the problems of our daily life and to think from scratch.
TK : Even if I had not been a designer, I would have been involved in creating something new in some way. Proposing new value to the world through creating something new is a very attractive job. Even if I am not a designer, there are many jobs related to design, such as marketer, engineer, craftsman, sales person, PR person, and so on. I believe that a design work can be realized only when people in many specialized fields join forces, so I would have done any job related to that.
TK : For me, "design" is like an important part for philosophizing my life as a homo sapience. Also, I believe that design is a very effective planning tool for our humanity to "live" well. I often wonder why "design" was born in the history of human beings. It is said that our human ancestors began designing stone tools for food processing during the Lower Paleolithic Period, about 3 million years ago. This was long before the discovery of fire. In other words, "design" may have existed even before the formation of collective societies such as families and hunting groups. In other words, "design" may have arisen not only to express something to the collective society, but also as a result of greed for "survival" in the harsh environment of ancient times. Of course, today's environment is easier to live in than in ancient times, and expression in collective society has become more important, but still, when we look to the long distant future, we should create the "design" that human-being needs to "live" well. After all, I think it is important to design from our own insatiable desire to "live" well. I believe that design is an important task that makes me think about the relationship between both large and small perspectives, such as "now" in long histories of human-being, and "here" in the diverse places on the earth.
TK : If I had to name just one person, I would say my wife. She always gives me honest feedback on my designs as a user. She never takes my side, never completely rejects me, but gives me intuitive and sincere feedback as a representative of the user, which I believe has helped my designs to grow and not go in the wrong direction. Of course, there are numerous other benefactors who have supported me. For example, Zsofia of Design Pier, a global curator who guided me to various global exhibitions; Mr. Shibuya of ELD Interior products, Mr. Oshima of Yobi, Mr. Tanaka of KOKKOK, who helped me shape my designs as a craftsman; Mr. Miyachi of Ao, a wonderful wood dyeing studio; the members of mokutankan team who are doing unique activities; my designer friends whom I met at exhibitions in Tokyo, Milan, Paris, New York and Hong Kong; Abezo who always supports my website creation; and Manabu Matsunaga, a photographer in Paris, Yoko Inoue, photographer in Okayama, and so on. I am very grateful to the many people who have inspired me and helped my designs grow including various people who have purchased Consentable pieces.
TK : I think that experiencing the pieces of the masters of various designers and visiting their studios helped me the most. I believe that the purpose of design is mostly about real experiences. I think a lot of the purpose of design is to form real experiences, and I was able to sense the attractive aura of great designs by experiencing a series of real touches with them. I feel that the accumulation of these senses has been very important.
TK : I don't consider myself a design master, but I have experienced many obstacles. For example, when I have exhibited my piece in global exhibitions, I have often felt quite depressed when compared to the others. Even under such circumstances, there were people who praised my work. With such encouragement, I would often ask myself, "What is the originality of my design and where does it stand out?". I have repeatedly worked to think carefully about it and apply them to the next piece of work. I believe this is the reason why my designs have been able to grow. Since I have come to believe that design is not about competing with each other, but about continuing to express my own unique senses and ideas without fear of failure, I have been able to concentrate on my own design work.
TK : In this era of digitalization, designs are often expressed and evaluated through photographs and CG graphics, but I still believe that they should be evaluated by seeing the real pieces. Therefore, I think designers should show their pieces as realistically as possible, show them in the exhibitions or solo show.
TK : I would like to design various series of chairs using the same structure for a while, and to explore new possibilities for chairs based on the unique experience of Swing's movable seat. I also hope to design furniture or play equipment that will provide a solution to the problem of "lack of exercise" that many people face in today's world, where Work From Home has become the norm. I am designing and developing pieces under the theme of digital life furniture as Consentable, and I would like to pursue all possibilities under this theme.
TK : To continue creating designs until just before I die. I believe that design is a means to "solve problems" and "create new experiences”. In this light, I believe that the "challenges" and "necessary experiences" we face in each era, society, place, and stage of life will continue to change. That is why I believe that will be an opportunity to create some kind of new design based on the experiences just before I die. Anyway, I always like the act of designing.
TK : I think what many people expect to esteemed designers is "beauty of form" within their designs. However, I believe that people also expect them to find issues in their daily lives. People are so familiar with their normal environment that they rarely notice everyday problems. Therefore, it is important for designers to find problems and its solutions that concern with the everyday lives for people and to message it by their designs. I think the design pieces should be a new message or new solutions to the people.
TK : If we think of design not only as a beautiful form, but also as creating a form that aims at solutions to various issues, there are many things that design can do to make a better society. In today's society, the issues of global environmental destruction and global warming have become very important, and various designers are already working on designs that provide solutions to these issues. Designs that use sustainable materials, new tools to protect the global environment, graphic designs that educate people about sustainable culture, designs that utilize discarded items, and designs that do not generate waste, are all new ideas that have not been seen in human-being's history. I think the various sustainable designs never seen in the past history is proof of the ongoing progress that design can make for a better society.
TK : I believe that society had faced a situation that had never existed in the past history of human being. It is a situation in which it has become clear that nature, or natural resources, the natural environment, and the natural circulation system, which we thought provided infinite benefits, are finite. In such a situation, society, which has been dominated by the values of "convenience" and "efficiency" for human beings, is about to change to the next set of values. These values are still unknown, but I think it is important for designers to find them. What I would excite to design with particular emphasis is how to find them and give form to the new values.
TK : My favorite design project is Swing. When I ask my friends to sit in Swing, they all look surprised and enjoy the new experience. It is so much fun for me. The idea of Swing started when I began to work from home because of COVID 19. As a football enthusiast, I had a growing sense of anxiety that my body would continue to decline because of all day sitting. I heard similar concerns from my teammates, and I began to think about designing a chair that would benefit them. Then, as I learned a lot from the books on the human body structure, I became very interested in the importance of the human sense of balance and unconscious body manipulation. This is how I came up with the image of Swing. Most chairs are designed based on the idea that sitting is a static action, even though the human body is designed to move. This may cause our bodies to remain still for long periods of time and accelerate the decline of our physical senses. Swing is designed to allow the seat to move freely like a small swing in conjunction with the movement of the sitter's pelvis. The Swing has a structure that allows the seat to move freely like a small swing, in conjunction with the pelvic movement of the sitter. It is a stool that aims to activate the body's senses while enjoying the feeling of floating. I feel I have designed a good solution for people with similar problems in Work From Home
TK : Basically, I think the design industry needs diversity and tolerance in its reputation, and I would be happy to see it change more in that direction. I totally agree with the following statement by Achille Castiglioni. "Forget the 'ivory tower' image of the artist. A work of design is the result of a group of people with abilities in each field (technical, industrial, commercial, and aesthetic) coming together and joining forces. And the designer's job is to bring this collective work together and express it."
TK : I think that “design field” is expanding as quickly as the urbanization of the earth now. I think that “design field” which has started with inventing stone tools 3 million years ago is evolving at an amazing speed that humankinds cannot keep up with in this era. On the contrary, the nature and resources on the earth, which are the raw materials for design products, will gradually decrease at an amazing speed. So, I think it become the normal design that we always have to redesign our environment with reusing existing products or cities in the near future. In other words, I think it will be very important for future design that the sustainability is considered from production to disposal in the beginning of designing. Now, we are standing on the being-damaged earth where should be rewrote with new ways of design.
TK : It takes about a year to complete one work. Approximately 3 months at the concept development stage, next 3 months at the basic design stage where materials and manufacturing methods are examined and craftsmen are selected, and then 3 months at the implementation design stage where all details are fixed with collaborating with the craftsmen, and 3 months at the mockup production stage. The above is a normal schedule for me.
TK : My design projects start with the discovery of a problem, so when a project arises is when I have identified the problem to be solved. From that perspective, the first step is to find an original way to solve the problem while researching methods and ideas from a wide range of perspectives. One way to do research is to search the Internet, or to look for clues in the works of the masters that I have experienced in the past.
TK : I have two mottos they are "design what I really want" and "design with a sustainable perspective". Most of the things I want already exist in the world, so I don't try to design them. On the other hand, I don't want to design new things that I don't really want. So, I ask myself, "Do I really want it?" is the driving force behind my design. I also consider whether the design is needed by others. If it is just for me to use now, a mock-up is sufficient, but if it is going to be used for a long time by others, I think it is my responsibility as a designer to design from a sustainable perspective while keeping a long-term perspective in mind.
TK : I believe that "design" is one tool to talk to society. A certain design is born when it responds to the needs of society, but I believe that the design can also influence society and dramatically change it. Then another dramatically changed social need arises, and a new design is needed again, and so on. In other words, design and trends are like a conversation between designers and society, and I believe that they evolve back and forth between each other.
TK : I believe that they add expression and mood to design pieces. In other words, I believe that they fulfill the communication function of the design to society. In fact, I was surprised that my piece called WT Ao, which won a bronze at the A' Design Award in 2021, was evaluated much more highly than WT, even though it was an indigo dyed version of a previously created WT with only wood color. I think, perhaps the rustic simplicity of WT was felt to be richer and simpler with the added mysterious look of the indigo-dyed wood work. In this way, I believe that color, material, and ambient in design function when they appeal more to the human senses.
TK : There are various tools I use when designing. The tools will change depending on what stage the design is at. I usually use Mac Book, pen tools, sketchbooks, pencils, and the internet or design books and design magazines for research at the concept stage. Once you've decided on a concept, I usually use a MacBook and Adobe Creative Cloud to make drawings during the design phase. At the same time, I often make real sized mockups quickly with my DIY skills. And I go back and forth between the mockup and the drawings as I work to bring the project closer to completion.
TK : I believe that they add expression and mood to the products. In other words, I believe that they fulfill the communication function of the design to society. In fact, I was surprised that my piece called WT Ao, which won a bronze at the A' Design Award in 2021, was evaluated much more highly than WT, even though it was an indigo dyed version of a previously created WT with only wood color. I think, perhaps the rustic simplicity of WT was felt to be richer and simpler with the added mysterious look of the indigo-dyed wood work. In this way, I believe that color, material, and ambient in design function when they appeal more to the human senses.
TK : I design furniture for the digital life era as my design studio Consentable. In other words, furniture that offers a different kind of functionality and experience. So, I would like you to ask these questions, "What is different from the past?" or "What function does it serve?" or "What kind of experience is this design intended to provide?".
TK : I would like to use it first. If it is something that is not available, I want to check out its video and recommendations. In other words, I want to have a concrete image in my mind of what the experience will be like, different from anything I have seen before.
TK : My ideal design partner is my wife who is not a designer. She gives me very clear feedback on my designs from one user's point of view. In other words, my ideal partner would be someone who can objectively evaluate and give me feedback on my designs. I believe that co-design is possible if such a relationship can be established, but at the moment my wife is not a designer, so she is not a co-designer.
TK : I think they were intellectual workers living a digital life in a very ordinary modern Tokyo because I always think about digital life furniture as Consentable. Actually, one of them is myself, and from my own life, I think about whether I can innovate various existing furniture into a form suitable for digital life.
TK : “Achille Castiglioni, Complete Works”. For me, it is a precious book that gives me inspiration with every turn of the page.
TK : Besides my private design studio, Consentable, I have been working as a space designer for a Japanese advertising firm, planning and designing branding facilities for various companies, where I have been involved in designing spaces to build "brand experiences" for people. In the process, I have always focused on the "experience" and "action" of the visitors to the facility, and I believe that this is a skill that I have been able to utilize. Of course, "experience" is an extremely important element in furniture design as well.
TK : If I could meet the respected master, Achille Castiglioni, I would like to show him my pieces and receive his feedback and I would like to have a discussion about the design in this era.
TK : I am not famous, but I imagine that being famous is hard because it seems to take away from my free time. However, I am interested in the fact that being famous puts me in a position to get a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, which may give me a chance to grow faster.
TK : I'll answer intuitively. My favorite color is lemon yellow, my favorite place is the ocean, my favorite food is pasta, my favorite season is early summer, my other favorite things are soccer, wines, and motorcycles, and my favorite brand is Apple Computer.
TK : In 2001, a year before 2002 FIFA World Cup Japan and Korea, a Japan architects’ soccer tournament has been held annually by a group of architects’ who love soccer. Each team is made up of master Japanese architect who invite members of their studios and their families to participate. Among them, of course, there are women and children are allowed to participate, but no contact play is allowed to them. Last year, in 2021, the 20th competition was held, and about 300 architects gather to seriously compete for the championship. I have been a part of the start-up of that convention and I have continued to participate since the very first time, but there is one thing that I find very strange. Each year, the architect studios of the masters who have made outstanding achievements in the design world win that soccer tournament. Even though they are so busy with their design work that they don't have time to practice soccer. One year, during a heavy rainstorm, the winning team was decided by rock-paper-scissors, and the winner and runner-up were the teams of the masters of the architect world. I think it was really strange.
TK : For me, design is as important as living, so whether my motivation is up or down, I always think about design. Every day the weather can be sunny, rainy, or stormy, but just like that, I try to take whatever situation comes my way and have a great day as a designer.
TK : To be honest, it was never obvious to me as a small child that I wanted to be a designer. However, I was obsessed with making "games" such as baseball boards, Sugoroku, and Monopoly out of cardboard and construction paper. I also wrote my own comic books. The story was very simple: a game story until my favorite baseball team always won the game.
TK : I would like to see the concept of national borders disappearing from people all over the world, and people living together with plants and animals as a family, while protecting the global environment, the land on which we live.
TK : My pieces will be exhibited at many global exhibitions in the future. I really hope that everyone will experience with them. Thank you very much.
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