Among many attractions at the London Design Fair, the renowned Japanese firm Takram held a presentation about the secrets of radical innovation and showcased several projects at an interactive exhibition.
The company’s director, Kotaro Watanabe, began the talk by describing how his team employs “pendulum thinking” to switch between the perspective of designer and user, “learning about the boundary between the two sides and how those borders change.”
One Title at a Time
Founder Kinya Tagawa elaborated on that idea, presenting a project for an organization that employs Nepalese human trafficking victims to make organic cosmetics usually sold as gifts. Rather than a traditional gift box, Takram designed an envelope—with the sender’s message card hidden inside the soap itself, only revealed when the bar is nearly finished. “You find it when you’re naked,” Tagawa explained.
The audience chuckled when he introduced a Tokyo bookstore with a twist: It sells only one title at a time, which changes every week. “It looks like the book has been chosen especially for you,” said Tagawa, whose idea was to individualize the user experience, creating a gallery-like space for the carefully selected publication.
The branding for Morioka Shoten is refreshingly simple: “A Single Room With A Single Book.” But Tagawa did not underplay the challenge of designing a minimal approach, stating that “verbalizing the obvious is sometimes very difficult.”
Displaying the Latest
Billed as “a playful blend of theater and test lab,” the “Scenes Unseen” exhibition was created by Takram’s London studio, which opened in 2015. The show featured virtual reality data visualization, high-grade camera lenses and a novel Olympic Games for plant life, among other pieces—and Takram creatives enjoyed the chance to try their ideas with the public.
One intriguing item was the “Final Flight Model,” a moon rover designed as the Japanese entry for a Google competition that challenges 16 teams to land a vehicle on the moon’s surface, navigate at least 500 meters and transmit live video back to Earth.
The Takram rover offers “an optimum solution between cost and performance,” with a lightweight design that capitalizes on Japanese engineers’ renowned skill at miniaturizing complex electronics. Cutting-edge heat insulation materials will enable the vehicle to function in extreme lunar temperatures.
Another exhibit was “Playful Hands,” a series of three prosthetic pieces that aims to resolve issues over the high economic and educational costs of helping children born with missing limbs. Using affordable materials and tailoring the designs to make training easier—by balancing manual and automatic functions—make this a potential game changer in the humanitarian field.