Book Review: Dialogue in Design, Kenya Hara + Masayo Ave

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In pursuing design in one's practice, it is a necessary path to question the role of design in our world, and the various values and belief systems associated with the term 'designer'.

Back in 2006, Kenya Hara and Masayo Ave, visited each other's homes in Japan and Berlin and recorded the respective conversations that occurred between them. Hara and Ave, both Japanese designers - one based in Japan and one in Europe - pores over matters of design over the length of the book from the design of kitchen products to accommodate the differences between cultural cuisine, to gushing over bespoke Italian furniture. Strung together from a series of loose conversations, a few themes begin to emerge between these lines. The first being the role of design in society, and the other being the East-West paradigm.

In their examinations from everyday designed objects to the role of design in society, their views aptly reflects Japanese (and broadly speaking, Eastern) intonations, though Ave has practised and taught in Europe for many years. References to haptic senses, a body-centric perspective, and harmony through design - these are some of the remarks made by Hara which reveal these tendencies. Behind these ideas there is the underlying assumption that the Japanese mode of thought is above all a socially driven tool, perhaps in contrast to the Western foundation of thought in rethinking traditionalism as the mode of operation.

Culture, history and society form a great part of the discussion as factors which both inform and reflect contemporary attitudes. For one, depending on one's cultural origins, the products in one's kitchen including the types of pots, cutlery and containers carry great varieties (and as explained by Hara, is also why Japanese kitchen products fail to achieve great sales statistics in foreign lands). Some of the more insightful parts come from Hara's observations on how history, economy and society has shaped the attitudes of its people into their particular epochs. These musings are short but speaks volumes about how our common cultural idiosyncrasies informs a designer's instincts, firmly embedding the role of design within the fabrics of society.

Jane L
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An architectural professional with insight in contemporary arts and culture, construction knowledge, building trends, and a fervent interest in new technology.
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