The first thing that people say when they touch KUDAMEMO is, “It’s made of paper?” This product is popular as a gift because of its surprising concept, and the cuteness of its appearance. We talked to Masashi Tentaku, the designer, and asked about the secret story behind the KUDAMEMO. There are two parts to this interview that we will share with you.
−−What was the impetus for the creation of the KUDAMEMO?

Around 4-5 years after I joined Draft, I was told that it was time to design something, and I was given the chance to develop a D-BROS product. It was suggested that I make a card or a notebook, so I came up with plenty of ideas that I presented to Mr. Uehara and Ms. Watanabe but my ideas weren’t good at all.
A day before I was about to make my presentation to Mr. Miyata, around that time, the company was involved in creating a book about Draft.

−−Was it the book “Design Suru Na” (Don’t Design)?

Yes. At the time, Mr. Hirano who joined the company the same time that I did was tasked with leading the book’s design, but I was asked to help because we lacked people. Just when I thought I’m not yet that good to be of help, I saw Mr. Hirano flip the pages of a thick, rough draft for the book. Seeing that, I suddenly thought, “Well, that’s interesting.”
▲The rough draft resembled a round pillar when opened.

I asked him to hand the draft over; and when I started flipping it, I saw that putting the front cover and the back cover together made the book round. I thought, if I cut it into the shape of an apple, it’s going to look like an apple – all these ideas started percolating in my head. I told Mr. Hirano that I’m sorry I couldn’t help with the book, and I asked him to allow me to make a prototype of my idea. I finished the prototype in one day.

▲The handmade prototype used for presenting his idea.

−−You’ve accomplished a lot in one day! It doesn’t look like a prototype – it’s almost a finished product.

I was happy because it turned out just as I imagined it. I don’t think about the look or the function – I always think of a surprising trick or the construction. I didn’t really think if it were to be a memo pad, or a notebook, or a card. I only thought that this kind of structure is interesting.

−−You also thought that you will be able to turn it into something, right?

Yes, as a paper product, I thought that I will be able to find some use for this kind of construction.

−−How did your presentation go the next day?

Up to that point, I’ve never made a presentation before receiving approval from Mr. Uehara and Ms. Watanabe, but on that day, I made the presentation without showing them the prototype – I presented to everyone at D-BROS straight away. Ms. Watanabe liked it, and with that all the others came on board. But actually, the construction is just that of a book. I didn’t really do anything special except putting the front and back covers together.

−−It’s bookbinding, right?

If people ask if it’s a new thing or not, I’d say it’s not really a new thing but if I turn it into the shape of a fruit or something familiar, I could turn it into a product. But my ideas on how to fasten the front and back covers and how to construct it weren’t sorted out. At first I thought I’d make a paper core and put it inside so that it would close, but we talked about how I really won’t do such as detailed, tiresome thing. I was advised by the team to use a clip instead.
I came up with the idea but I know that without the team’s cooperation, I wouldn’t have been able to turn the idea into a finished product.

−−The impetus for an idea and coming up with an idea really just happens unexpectedly, because there are times when you think and think and there’s nothing. I heard that you received the go-ahead for commodification, but the road to completion was tough.

Yes, there were indeed tough times.

(To be continued)

>>You can read Part 2 (From an idea to a finished product) here.

▼You can purchase a KUDAMEMO at the D-BROS WEBSTORE.

<Designer’s Profile>
Masahi Tentaku
Born in 1978 in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Graduated from the Department of Design, Tokyo University of the Arts. Received a graduate degree from the same university. Joined DRAFT in 2005. Was involved in the development of D-BROS’s popular “KUDAMEMO,” and other products. Member of the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA). Received an ADC Award from the ADC Tokyo Art Directors Club in 2010. Received a New Designer of the Year Award from JAGDA in 2011.