Industrial designer and creative advisor at MUJI, Naoto Fukasawa, on the pursuit of normal and the necessary intersection between his work and personal life.
Interview by Charlene Chan and Jerry Goh
Translation by Reiko Yokoi
Photographs courtesy of MUJI
In the flurry of activity taking place within MUJI Singapore’s newly opened flagship store, Naoto Fukasawa is a picture of calm. He goes about the room, taking in the elaborate displays of products hanging from the ceiling; the riot of colour that pervades the IDÉE concept space; and the people in the crowd who have turned up in droves to visit the outlet. It strikes me how he’s almost a living embodiment of the products he creates—unflappable, quiet, assuring in their simplicity.
As we take our seats next to the Found MUJI section of the store, I am amused to find that in conversation, Fukasawa is not quite as minimal as his work and demeanour would suggest. His responses, while measured, are peppered with analogies and a refreshing dose of humour. They’re poetic at times, too, a characteristic I continue to pick out later on during the talk he delivers. Over cups of tea, we discuss his evolving role in MUJI, and some of the values he holds dear.
Can you tell us how you got into product design?
One day, I was reading a career advice book. It told you what you should study to get a job in a particular profession, and I saw a job called “Product Designer”. In the description, it said that product designers are people who bring happiness to others by making things. I have always liked drawing and making things, so I thought this might be the thing for me.
You have designed a wide range of products from home appliances to smaller objects like stationery. What is the greatest challenge for you during the design process?
My biggest challenge is to come up with a design that is normal per se. If you make something that is truly normal, then it would just blend in with its surroundings. It wouldn’t stand out. My mission is to design things that seem normal, but are a special kind of normal. So that when people pick up the product that I have designed, they will say, “Oh, this is normal. But it’s a good normal—super normal.” It’s about rediscovering the normal-ness in life. This place, for example, it is a special normal place, right? They’re all normal products, but the space is really special.
Read more in The U Press N˚16 (Singapore edition).