Designing Design : Re-Design

Designing Design

This post is about the first topic of the book “Designing Design”, by Kenya Hara. Titled Re-Design, it seeks to examine what design is, and why it has become boring so as to offer a solution  to how we can “Re-Design”. Slowly, but surely through the chapter, Hara exposes our fixations on “should-bes”, and even the first line of the book is a thought provoking “Verbalizing Design is another act of design.” said by the author himself.

Referring to the uncertainty about a subject that emerges after studying it with great intensity, Hara said, “However, it doesn’t mean your knowledge has been overturned. Indeed, it’s just the opposite. You’ve become more keenly conscious of glasses[the example used was glass] than before, when you understood them by simply calling them all by the term “glass”. Now you actually understand glasses more realistically.” In fact, the entire preface is just amazing. I would put it all in, but I would rather have you buy the book in support of true design.

“Re-Design” in particular, seeks to show how minute and major changes affect our perception of an object. The examples present vary, ranging from toilet rolls to matches and even roach traps. Some with minute changes,  some with major changes, they all share a common factor, “Re-Design”.  As evidenced below, the items are essentially the same in function, but differ both insignificantly and vastly from their original counterparts.

Shigeru Ban Toilet Roll Re DesignKaoru-Mendes-Matches-Re-Design








Examining Shigeru Ban’s toilet rolls, one immediately notices that they… stack. Famous for using paper in his architectural designs, Ban recreates the toilet roll with a simple gesture. Using a square core instead of a cylindrical one, he creates a large, but subtle ripple. Now, the toilet roll is more easily stored, looks interesting and has a inbuilt eco-control. “The traditional design gives you more paper than you need. The square toilet paper, on the other hand, generates resistance, functioning to reduce the consumption of resources and also deliver the message: ‘economize'”, as said by Hara, aptly summarizes his complex, bold yet simple and subtle design.

On the other hand, Kaoru Mende’s matches are a stark contrast. Functionally similar, but purposefully different, these are called the Anniversary matches. Why and how, are they purposefully different? As stated by Hara,” […] his concept is to entrust these dried twigs a final role(matches), prior to their return to the soil. The design asks us to consider the relationship between humans and fire[…]” The matches now no longer serve just a menial purpose of igniting a combustible item, but represents the power man has harnessed, and in Hara’s words, “The giant imagination is infused into a match-sized design solution.”

The book further goes on to discuss how macaroni is architecture and cooking as a form of design. Prior to reading this book, I would have easily dismissed it as a fanciful notion from an air-headed individual, but just as Hara mentioned, the more I learn about design, the less I am sure what design is, and that is bringing me closer to what true design is to me. I highly recommend this book!

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