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You cannot simply put something new into a place. You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge along with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see.

~Tadao Ando

Design is not always about producing something that stands out distinctively. There are times when it can amalgamate and blend into surroundings for an even stronger flavour. The designers and makers worldwide have been inspired infinitely by nature. But most of the times, they have been inspired only aesthetically. The Japanese way is to be inspired aesthetically as well as functionally. The Japanese understanding of design is to blend the design process with nature instead of manipulating nature to construct the product.

If there is one lesson we must learn from these easterners, it is environmental design. Japanese apparel and lifestyle designing is in accordance with the fine balance in the nature. This way, the product becomes a keepsake for generations to come. This does not essentially refer to the longevity of the product, but the fact that the product will ensure the longevity of the nature. Nothing unethical will be done to increase the aesthetic value of the product. Hence the design will not only be appreciated by generations to come but also preserve the abundance of today for the coming tomorrow.

The design which fails to comprehend nature is always looked down upon. Japan, a small country with a fairly large population, has to an extent saved its residents from mindless consumerism. They have respect for the small space around them and preserve the concord and harmony of that place. There is but a very small space for everybody hence they keep at bay from the habit of hoarding things which are not needed. And this is what gives rise to their problem solving approach to design. So when they say “Attention to Detail”, it does not only discuss the intricacies of the product but also embraces the attention to ethical process of manufacturing, wellbeing of the artisan, respect to the craft, care for the nature, labour and resources.

The ecological equilibrium should not be bothered. Use of locally obtained material is considered best. This not only is cost-effective but is a bonus for the local raw material industry. This pleasant correlation between the design and nature puts in a lot of value than just the money. This is also very solicitous.  A thoughtful and sustainable product will definitely please the mind. A consumer will become more appreciative of the product and shall develop more sense of respect and responsibility towards the nature. The consumer will have more affinity towards the product and will upkeep it for longer no matter what the price is.

This great change in perspective might be attributed to the WWII. Though it is dubious, yet many philanthropists think that the war changed the outlook of Japan. During the war, the most important commercial and trade cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and everything turned into debris. Streets were full of dust and there was litter all around. The people did not only suffer due to injuries, loss of life and wealth but also faced bitter repercussions decades later. Nothing could rebuild the world of yesterday as it was. There was a major loss of societies as well as culture. A huge chunk of tradition and heritage was destroyed. It is said that, “To be able to value something, it is necessary that we lose it once.”

Today, Japan is not only leading in technology but also innovation and social responsibility. Japanese design manages to harness its materials, whether natural or synthetic and at the same time combines respect for tradition with forward-thinking and experimentation.  Esteemed Japanese designers, Shiro Kuramata, Naoto Fukasawa and Sori Yanagi have contributed tremendously towards ethical and thoughtful designing. There are many other noteworthy designers in various cities of Japan who have done benchmark work in the field of ecological designing. This includes a plethora of fields like architecture, space design, apparel, textiles, jewellery, furnishing and food. Little or no wastage is the principle they live by.

This inculcates a collective obligation and a unified sentiment towards the environment. The design conceptualization is done keeping in knowledge the fact that the design bends with nature’s form not the other way round. 1 2  4 3

The aesthetics should not outshine or outgrow the material used. There is a genuine effort to minimise artificiality and promote organic. And to be able to make this lifestyle alluring to the people, a lot of promotion through appreciation of this “organic culture” is done. This starts as early as the basic education. This kind of art appreciation makes the young designers to incline towards sustainability and social relevance. There is a whole lot of culture built around living organic and minimal. This is a responsible way of living and hence evolves a responsible way of designing.

Often the designers in Japan conceptualize a product based on needs instead of inducing an artificial need and creating something fancy. Every design emerges after a lot of research and exploration on human behaviour, actions and reactions to the situations around and life in overall. This is called an excellent design.

And that is why Japan is a design leader!


  1. I loved this post and everything you had to share about Japanese designs and aesthetics! When I visited the Japanese Garden in Portland, it mentioned a great deal about harmony and balance in the design. Nothing was overdone or ornate, but the simplicity of it was beautiful. There’s something to be said for not having or needing excess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a lot Brooke. I wish I can visit that garden in Portland sometime.

      I however was fortunate to have seen various Japanese art installations in the National Gallery of Art during the cherry blossom festival in Washington DC last year.

      Indeed the simplicity in the design and form is breathtaking.


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