Hands-on approach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am

'DESIGN SHOULD always be tangible. I've never grasped the concept of Web design or any of these non-tactile forms of design. Early in my career, I focused mainly on interior design, but I've since shifted my work to product, packaging and print design. They all result in finished products that can be held and touched. I need that kind of reality in my work.

Designers are like doctors. Clients come to you with their problem or tell you what they want to achieve - like a sick patient explaining their symptoms. A doctor will prescribe medicine to make you feel better. Similarly, a designer creates a solution that helps the client achieve their goal. The challenge is always making sure you do what you're paid to, but at the same time ensuring that you haven't compromised your own artistic values and are making something you can be proud of.

That's what differentiates design work from art. Design will always have a practical, functional aspect to it; art wouldn't and doesn't have to.

With a purely artistic approach, you only need form. It doesn't have to serve a purpose; it is simply an expression. I can create something and call it a chair but that doesn't mean you can sit on it. On the other hand, look at the Origami chair [a piece created by Takahashi and recently exhibited at Lane Crawford]. It is my version of this very normal object. Some may argue it is more of an artistic venture. But if you want, it will still function as a seat - it has retained its original function - and that's why it is a design, not a piece of art.

The other distinctive difference between art and design is that design is never selfish. I'm always aware of my surroundings and the people around me because as a designer, I have to come up with solutions for them. We create for the people.

Whether two or three-dimensional, physical or visual, design exists as a utility to better people's life. It should enhance the culture it was introduced into and make things better today than it was yesterday. On the other hand, it is people who ultimately dictate the future of design. What we design evolves with the way people want to live their lives and how we communicate. So where design goes next depends on where the people are headed. It's a hugely symbiotic relationship. The mobile phone is a great example of this.

To become a designer is not a difficult task - get a relevant university degree and you can label yourself one. To be a designer, though ... that is another thing. I have always been directed by instinct and many times it hasn't been right. But without failure, there is no success. I live for the moment I come up with an idea, but I know that in order to achieve that, and as a consequence, I have to face failure. That's what it means to be a designer. It is a very long, slow process to get off the ground.

It may sound clich?d, but travelling is actually a great source of inspiration. As I said, I'm always aware of my surroundings. If I see something popping up in one place then see it again in another country, that's where I focus my attention.

In the future, design will be more focused on the details. Combining materials has become more popular and mobility is a huge factor in deciding what we design.'