Kenya Hara (原 研哉 Hara Ken’ya)
He is a Japanese graphic designer, a curator, a teacher, an author also the director of the Nippon Design Center.
But he is much more - he turns Design into philosophy of life which is of particular interest to us.
It is one thing to like the work of a designer ; it is surely inspiring, captivating, astonishing (moreover, we discovered his work while visiting a MUJI store for the first time. He was the art director of the graphic communication back then) but we are only scratching the surface.
Fortunately, Kenya Hara is a teacher, a good writer and he is generous. He shares his thoughts in his book « Designing Design » which become for us a handbook we refer to, “a classic”. It is for this reason we choose him here. In some way, he reminds us of the wise men, philosophers « wearing a toga » from antiquity. Not because he has a traditional thinking but on the contrary because of his freedom of tone, deeply grounded in the present, challenging the common opinion rather than conforming to it. For instance, he questions our exhausted innovation race. He is not afraid to point out the shortcomings of new technologies. But that doesn’t make him a retrograde designer. In so doing, he makes us aware that technologies must be use with discernement and lucidity in order to make the best use of them, instead of being naively submit to them. (To be more aware about the lag between the environment we live in and the environment we want to live in.)
He is a true teacher who doesn’t prescribe what to think but how to think by ourselves, how to raise question. One of his fondamental design precepts is called « ex-formation : making people aware of how little they know ». Being aware of this is a very valuable lesson as designers, maybe even more as individuals.
Kenya Hara has a benevolent and smart vision of design. He inspires us in so many ways : his design is humble, full of dignity, which is not restricted to big and beautiful projects but also for the everyday ones. He excels at making coexist old and new medias, traditions and contemporaneity, global concepts and local ones ; he imagines concepts, reveals the already latent potential in order to make a full experience of the environment around us. He is attached of his Japanese culture and philosophy and demonstrate through his work how the past can enrich the present, which is tremendous.
As minimalist designers, we share his hobbyhorse –summarized beautifully by Li Edelkoort in the first pages of « Designing Design »–« contentment with emptiness and simplicity » but he, demonstrates brilliantly how to achieve it.
For all of these reasons, Kenya Hara is a true master. His writings, his thinking, his work, enrich our everyday works.