Kazuo Kawasaki (川崎 和男) Ph.D is a Japanese Industrial Designer, born in Fukui Prefecture, Japan in 1949. He graduated from Kanazawa College of Art in 1972.
Kawasaki is a professor at Osaka University and a visiting professor at Tama Art University and Kanazawa Institute of Technology. Representative works include the wheelchair CARNA (part of the permanent collection, MoMA New York), the EIZO brand of LCD flat panel and CRT desktop FlexScan Displays. He also runs a research project on artificial heart design.
Kazuo Kawasaki is probably most well known for his name-sake brand of eyewear, which Sarah Palin made oh-so-famous during the 2008 US Election.
Put simply, Kawasaki is a genius in a multitude of design and engineering fields. A hero to many, I was truly thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with the man himself, and ask him a few questions in this Exclusive Interview for Tall Dark Roast.
Do you think design has evolved in the past century?
I think that the designers’ ability has changed a great deal in the 20th century. Computers are now our primary design tool, and this makes design expression easy and has enabled a more detailed approach.
Our society talks a lot about consumption, and our need for new things all the time. Japanese culture is especially telling of this statement, as what’s new today is old tomorrow.
First, let me talk about the nation called Japan… Japan is a small island, and we have little natural resources. Therefore, we Japanese are convinced of a ‘thought collective’; evolving a culture traditionally and historically…
I think Japan will carry a big role in the future and will become particularly more and more remarkable in the creative sector of design, by a modern viewpoint which is truly global.
When you were little, what did you dream of being as an adult? Did you consider yourself a trend setter?
I wanted to be a writer, or a doctor… The reason for that being – there are a lot of writers and doctors in Japan. I am not a writer – but I became a doctor of medicinal science, and became a designer as a type of story teller, I suppose. I believe solving a problem by design method it is something revolutionary, not merely a trend.
Could you name some design inspirations or those whom you admire?
As the present age, It’s really difficult for me to find designs that I can praise… The reason for this is many of the designers of the next generation are misunderstanding… I want the young designer to revolutionize design itself in this information-intensive society.
What principles are necessary to be a successful design engineer? Do you think there is some kind of formula?
The ability to study, to absorb various intellects is imperative to being an interdisciplinary designer. To that end, I think that it is necessary to have an interest in medicine, law, and mathematics, which are established domains. You should be familiar with a computer, and the designs of the given application, as well as an ability for programming are all necessary.
Innovative can be sometimes be seen as “weird” by many. What are your thoughts about this statement?
There is a lot of misunderstanding around innovation. It’s essentially a word driven by our economy, and the real ‘innovation’ is one that takes place within… There is definitely a bit of magic involved when creating a design solution, and this to me is innovation.
A piece of advice for a young creative mind hoping to become successful at his dream?
I think that it should be known that I was really lucky to have chosen this occupation… Therefore, I believe that when happiness of the designer is there, that the good luck is shared through design activity to many people.
Our thanks to Mr. Kawasaki for his generous time. Visit him online @ kazuokawasaki.jp
Interview by Adrian Harris