We extend our Cubes Indesign issue 80 coverage of the Salone del Mobile in Milan with Naoto Fukasawa’s thoughts and his latest work for Magis.
15 June, 2016
Product designer Naoto Fukasawa is known for seeking the essential – things that are understood without the need for explanation or expression. In a way, this is also a quest for the eternal – the ultimate form of sustainable design. How that tallies with a design industry constantly seeking the new and exciting is a cause for contemplation in itself.
We spoke to Fukasawa at the Magis stand at the Salone del Mobile 2016, where ‘old’ (2015) and ‘new’ (2016) versions of his chair Substance were being displayed, along with other era-spanning products in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the brand.
What’s new this year with regard to the chair Substance?
Substance is a chair that’s simply a chair. Previously it was offered with bent plywood legs and larger-diameter aluminium tube legs. This year we have introduced thin metal legs because not only Magis, but all of the companies around here have become more focused on the contract market. The industry has changed quite radically.
Toward contract, you mean?
Yes, that is the trend. Also, the working environment and the domestic environment are not so distinct from each other anymore. People work easily anywhere and in any style. A mobile phone is enough to work with. So that affects furniture, as well. We don’t need to be so focused on the office furniture industry.
Your name appears in many brand catalogues. What are the positives and negatives of this situation where the most desirable designers are working with many brands?
It’s positive of course, because I like to design things. But in general, every year when I’m here, I feel a bit confused.
Why is that?
Because there are so many things happening here. It makes me struggle a bit. I feel confused about what is right and what is wrong. The furniture we see here might disappear next year and there will be new pieces here. I’m not sure it’s a good situation. That’s why I really want to try to do long-life design.
Is it difficult to make long-life design?
[I hope that the] objects I design are used by people for a long time. That is the most suitable thing I can do to protect the environment. It means people don’t throw away my products, but rather keep them longer. And even if the owner of the chair changes, the chair will live on. I focus on more long-term products.
Tell us a bit more about the topics that you’re exploring across all of your work at the moment.
It’s difficult, but I have been trying to minimise and simplify my design for fifteen years – since I joined this event. I’m a bit against the designers who really express themselves without thinking much about atmosphere, environment or ambience. I think that at this kind of event, I should have some other answer. I’m a designer who really wants to find the subconscious mind – [an understanding that is shared] with the people. I hope that once I describe or visualise the ideas, everyone will respond with, “Wow, how did you know I like this kind of thing?” But I think in the future that will not be enough, because people will expect to get something new. I’m not sure what is new, and what is old. That’s my challenge.
You must have a tight schedule of interviews. We have just ten minutes to chat with you.
Today I have a lot, yes.
What do you think the media should be talking about, but aren’t?
Well, people know me already. That’s why the style of the questions is different now than when I was a young designer starting out at the Salone. Now, everybody is asking me what this year means to me, things like that. Also, people exchange information instantly through their phones these days. There’s more paparazzi. That will happen more and more.
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