–Today I’d like to ask Mr. Miyata about what he thinks of D-BROS products.

Basically, as products that manufacturers send out into the world, there is a very wide range in the way design is expressed in these products, but in a sense, as designers, (the products that we design) should have distinct characteristics. For example, we can make clothes, or furniture, or tableware. The point being, the kind of products that D-BROS makes isn’t decided beforehand – we can make anything. Within a very wide range of possibilities, the objective of D-BROS’s efforts is how can we expend our abilities so that a product comes into being. D-BROS was started by a graphic designer, so I think (our goal) is to develop products that have features of graphic design.

For example, when making the packaging, we first consider the shape of the package. We also think of the material, then the cost of the material, then the production cost. We also need to consider the form that will be the basis of the product itself, and the design. Based on the trends of the times and various confines, you can see where the direction of the design is going, and then you can make the form of the product. After that, you’d have to be able to show what the product is. There’s such a thing called surface design, right? When surface design fits (the product), it feels right to the customer. (When the customer) holds it in their hand, if it feels right and if they “get it,” they’ll be inclined to buy it. (As designers), we should look at the product’s suitability to its performance – if its too much I don’t think that’s a good thing, but it’s also not good to design a very good product with a poor quality design. I think that nicely linking form and superficial design, considering suitability, and adding a little allure is just right. In the case of a product’s packaging, I think that this is how it comes to life.

In surface design, things like special printing techniques, whether or not something three-dimensional is attached to the surface increases costs, so mass production will be difficult. Mass production always comes into play – we’re not a company that produces each thing by hand. We need to mass produce to some extent, have inventory, and line products up on store shelves. We do things based on this way of thinking – it’s not like we’re carving wood or kneading clay, or blowing glass. We create things by “pouring things into molds.” If we don’t do this, not everyone can use our products. The moment you want plenty of people to use your product is when you’ll first see the significance of what you’re doing.

In this sense, aside from other things, mass production becomes a necessary structure. Design should also be done with mass production in mind. There’s a dilemma there – it seems like it can be done but it’s surprisingly very difficult. If you try a little hard to create something unique, it will be costly, you won’t be able to machine-produce it, or it will take time to produce…

In the sense that one must consider this kind of balance while designing, I can say for sure that the Flower Vase is a product that very successfully demonstrates this balance. Firstly, it is produced at a low cost, the production process at the factory runs smoothly, and it’s a safe product that conforms to product liability laws. There’s no concern that the product may injure someone, nor is it something that will give you an upset stomach if you eat it. Moreover, it fulfills the requirement of having an easy-to-design surface design. It’s transparent, so it’s possible that the design on the other side (of the flower vase) also has an effect. You can also interpret the flower’s stem inside the vase as part of the design. In terms of flat surface design, the material’s convenient, and as a product it’s also convenient – its workings make it so. In many ways, it’s a very “controlled” product, in terms of cost, mass production, design, and the way of looking at it.

So this (the flower vase) happened, but it is also the reason why D-BROS is now in a quandary. If we didn’t have (the flower vase), D-BROS would have grown a lot more (laughs). Conversely, everyone feels the pressure to exceed (the flower vase) so their work isn’t progressing. Put simply, no one can surpass it. For a long time now, even the ones who created it haven’t been able to surpass it. That’s why everyone’s really feeling a certain malaise.

–How does a product come into being? In what way are you conscious of it while creating it?

For example, which of the things here do you think is the most complex to make? Which ones are the ones that we shouldn’t make at D-BROS? (He points at a smartphone, a spoon, eyeglasses, a pen, and the white board in the room.)

–The smartphone?

We wouldn’t even think of creating a smart phone or a white board from scratch. How about the eyeglasses?

–There is a possibility that we could make them, right?

I wonder if there is. You know that this is being sold at a 100 yen, right?

–Oh, in that sense, it will be difficult to make that.

In terms of cost, this will be difficult to make at D-BROS. How about the spoon then?

–In terms of form, the spoon can be designed, but there aren’t many parts to it that can be graphically designed, right?

Not necessarily. You can put some graphic design on the handle. The point is, there are times when inside our heads, we decide that this isn’t a job for us. There are things that we disregard right from the start, because we’re graphic designers. Things like we can do the interior, but not the exterior, much less the structure. You can say these same things when you’re trying to design this spoon too.

–There are things such as domains that we can’t be involved in and things that shouldn’t be done right from the start.

Yes. We don’t have a space to sell them, and we have to sell them to people who are entirely different from our customers to date. When you consider these things and organize things in your head, you then think, what can be done? Once you do this, you’ll begin to see what’s possible and what can be made, right?

–Yes, it becomes clearer.

Yes, it will be something that already exists in the world. A new form isn’t visible in something that already exists. If something is new and unprecedented, no one will buy it if it’s not considerably interesting. As such, even things that already exist are considered unnecessary if they aren’t frequently used.

(Mr. Miyata brings something that he took from his room.)

This is perfect. If this were painted with a lot of paint in one go, it wouldn’t function as building blocks. It won’t fit in its box. The technique is amazing – right from the start, how it is painted has been factored in. If you place it this way, the lines connect to each other perfectly. I think that this smooth, even painting technique is extraordinary.

IMG_0242▲Mr. Miyata bought these “Modulon” building blocks by the Naef company overseas.

–The precision is amazing.

Firstly, it’s difficult to cut the wood all the same thickness and to round off those corners. Paint changes the (size of a) product by a certain number of millimeters, so maybe they paint this by applying thin paint a number of times. Or they probably spray the paint through steam. I don’t know how they do it.

–The more I look at it, the more beautiful it is.

If you simply say that a craftsman’s skill caused this, then you stop there and leave no room (for other things). But it makes you wonder if wood can indeed be cut this neatly – I don’t know how they did it. I think they really use a hard wood for this.

This, without anything else, is beautiful. You might say, “Well actually, they didn’t really do anything to it” (laughs), but you wonder why does it look so beautiful just the way it is? There’s graphic design in this, as well as architecture, but these are enough. Because of technique, nothing is transformed into something, and this is what a product ought to be. Even if you don’t think about it in a complicated way, you can just line these up on store shelves and sell them as they are. That’s how much value they have.

–If you see something like this with this kind of precision being sold in a casual, nonchalant way, you’d want it, right?

If you organize these things in your head, you’ll begin to see what has potential and what doesn’t. Basically, there aren’t many things that can be made. Among the things (that can be made), it’s just best to organize what possible and what’s not with the capabilities that we have.

For example, take this stone (that’s used as decoration). If you climb up a mountain, you’ll find lots of these rolling about. But then you think how can you use such a stone? If you try to polish it, you might be able to create something pretty. This way of thinking is also possibly one way to go about it. Trying to do something with a stone – it’s like something might come into being by using this kind of material. D-BROS’s craftsmanship can begin here.

▼The Flower Vase that is featured in this dialogue can be purchased here:

▼Archived dialogue with Satoru Miyata
Part 1 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata: Preparation is Courage
Part 2 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata: “Everything Else is Trivial After my Encounter with Trees.”
Part 3 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata (First Half), with Two Guests from KIGI (Ryosuke Uehara and Yoshie Watanabe)
Part 3 of A Dialogue with Satoru Miyata (Second Half), with Two Guests from KIGI (Ryosuke Uehara and Yoshie Watanabe)
Part 4 of a Dialogue with Satoru Miyata – Taking a Look Back at KYOTO Design Lab’s Past Year

Satoru Miyata
Born in 1948 in Chiba Prefecture. CEO of DRAFT Inc.. Creative Director. Joined the Nippon Design Center in 1966. Received an honorable mention from the Japan Advertising Artists Club in 1969. After leaving the Nippon Design Center in 1970, established the Satoru Miyata Design Office in 1978. The company name was changed to DRAFT in 1989. Launched D-BROS in 1995, and commenced product design development and sales. Awarded the Asahi Advertising Award, the ADC Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prize, and the Yamana Prize of the Japan Advertising Awards. Subject of the book “Design Suru Na” (Don’t Design) by Keiichiro Fujisaki / DNP Art Communications.

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