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Naoto Fukasawa Industrial is the new contemporary.

Today, the world of electronics has taken on a distinct, minimalist look and feel. Cell phones, PDA’s, and desktop computers have become more industrialized with design functionality. Very few people have any idea of the mind behind such sleek, spareness. The next time you dial up a song on your iPod, or make a call on your iPhone, you may want to thank Naoto Fukasawa. Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer born in Yamanashi, Japan in 1956. He graduated from Tama Art University in 1980. He lacks the fame of Jonathan Ive of Apple, but many believe Naoto Fukasawa to be the real influence behind those ubiquitous Apple products. In today’s world, modern product design is as much of a business strategy as any other, in fact it has become more important than most. Fukasawa, based in Tokyo, is credited by A-list designers of Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple for the inspiration for sleek elegance. Linar Design’s Principal Ken Wood admits that Fukasawa inspired the Apple Powerbook design that in many ways began the notebook revolution. A Fukasawa design creates dialogue. One of his famed creations is a humidifier that resembles a Krispy Kreme donut, without the cream. His philosophy is to create “without thought.” He explained this concept in an interview with Business Week in 2007, "When we walk and take steps on the ground, we sense and choose the surface for each step. But this is more about our subconscious response," he continues. "However, being subconscious does not mean to be without thinking. It means that our brain may not be conscious about something, but parts of our body such as hands and legs recognize the environments and react to the situations or to things." This may explain the “I’ve seen this before” reaction to many of his designs, although they are entirely new. There is a commonness that appeals to, an almost a phantom-like memory. To understand him better one must dig deeper into his history and background. Fakasawa got his start at Seiko Epson in the 1980’s. He was working on watches and other electronics. In 1989, he moved to San Francisco and joined IDEO, a move that would forever change his design life. The following years saw him returning to run an IDEO office in Tokyo, and then finally launching his own firm in his birth country. Today, he designs electronics and home accessories for the Naoto Fukasawa Design firm. A sought after speaker, he regularly returns to the US and mentors young designers. He emphasizes in his teachings the little “I” or quiet innovation. He discourages signature designing that moves away from what the end user will need or find enjoyable. The reduction of designer ego is essential, he believes. In a very insightful moment Fukasawa explains his approach to haptic branding, "When people use the same product over and over again, tactile memories with hands, fingers, or with the other part of our bodies can serve as brand recognition.” He believes that attention to such natural acts of repetition can give a design more instinctive and proper orientation, resulting in product success. The ideal design for Fukasawa is one that cannot be seen but only felt.

This approach is very similar to the traditional Japanese philosophy of YUGEN which means to suggest but not reveal layers of meaning hidden within. To avoid the casual eye and the obvious. In an interview with Intramuros magazine Fukasawa sheds greater light on this simple, yet powerful approach. “There is no such thing as a design that is good forever. What lasts is what is in harmony with the body. Things that are in harmony with our thoughts rapidly lose interest. Modern Design means observing objectively. It means being aware of our living nature, being animalistic, and a simple element in the larger environment. Like a jigsaw, finding these gaps means looking not at people or objects themselves, but rather at the space around them or their outlines. It is not a question of logic but of things that fit each other, a perfect fit.” Notable Fukasawa creations include: The Muji CD player, Twist groove pencil holders, the 8 inch LCDTV, and numerous phone designs, many of which can only be found in Tokyo. Companies that seek his work include: B&B Italia, Driade, Magis, Artemide, Danese and Boffi among others. He has won numerous awards including: American IDEA Gold Award, the German if Gold Award, the British D&AD Gold Award, the Mainichi Design Award and the 5th Oribe Award. For Fukasawa, less is not only more, it is a requirement.