Kenya Hara says design is the wisdom necessary for human beings to live and build an environment
When designer Kenya Hara came to Bangalore at the invitation of Ganjam, he supplemented the little English he knew with an extensive photo presentation, allowing the pictures to communicate effectively his thoughts on re-thinking design and designing as a critical conceptual process from a concept of emptiness which has its roots in the traditional culture of Japan. He is also the art director of a Japanese Lifestyle Brand Mujji which designs products from pencils and housing to communities.
Design is pervasive; would you say it is taken for granted?
Design is not for designers, nor for businesses that use designs. Design is the wisdom necessary for human beings to live and build an environment. Cultural accomplishment makes us aware that human wisdom is found in all things. It is intelligence that is essential for future global development and harmonization, peaceful resolution of issues, and sharing of mutual respect for each other’s cultures. The world appears differently when one discerns this viewpoint.
On the other hand, designers are people who deliberate over the business of public planning, rather than being technicians in styling. They should possess creativity to present the world with hypothetical views in an easily understood way. We will naturally understand the importance of design when we are aware of this point.
What do you mean when you say the design of objects and experiences – your expertise of design is not of things that are, but of things that happen?
I have tried to create identity and vision rather than industrial products and posters, and presented society with fresh issues of our times. I have also tried to present society with hypothetical views in an easily understood way. Now I am working on the House Vision scheme that poses the future of industry as houses. This represents design of things that happen, rather than things that are.
The nothingness or emptiness of design – how did that become the focus of your work?
I have found “emptiness” through research on Japanese-style minimalism, which differs from the concept of simplicity discovered in the West. This emptiness is a concept that triggers diverse images among people and functions as a receptacle for such images, or as a creative receptacle instead of simply being empty. A focus on the culture of my country and essential features of communication is important if I am to remain active in an international context. Focusing on the significance and essence of one’s locality should benefit any designer active in the global context, not only concerning emptiness.
Your choice of using traditional tools and simple material, does it pose limitations to your work, or is it an asset?
My current interest includes tourism, houses, plants, and mobility. Both emptiness and Designing Design (his book in which he stresses on the importance of “emptiness” in both the visual and philosophical traditions of Japan, and its application to design) merely present methodologies for these. Designers always face essential problems and issues and future potential of the cities and countries where they are based. They should always choose what is most effective for the situation. Concepts are a convenient tool for thinking, but we do not need to be bound by them.