Priscilla Santos

INTERVIEW: We Talk to Designer Fumi Masuda About Sustainable Design

by , 08/12/13
filed under: green furniture, Interviews

Fumi Masuda, Japanese Designer, inhabitat interview, Japanese Sustainable Designer, Japanese Furniture Design, Open House Inc, green design, eco design, recycled materials

Japanese designer Fumi Masuda, who is responsible for the Pile Chair (an Inhabitat favorite) is the director of the EcoDesign Institute, a professor at the Design Department at Tokyo Zokei University, President of Open House Inc., a member of the Japan Design Consultant Association and founder of the O2 Global Network in Japan. So you can imagine how glad we were when he made some time to talk to us about green design. We recently had the chance to speak to Fumi about his history with design and he offered some interesting perspectives on the sustainable design market. Read on for his thoughts.


For those that are not familiar with the work of this designer, Fumi Masuda‘s company, Open House, develops electric gadgets, tools, home appliances and, pretty much anything else you want him to.

Fumi Masuda, Japanese Designer, Japanese Sustainable Designer, Japanese Furniture Design, Open House Inc 2

Priscilla: What is your concept of sustainable design?

Fumi: Sustainable design is not design to sustain our society – because our society is not sustainable anymore. So we have to re-think and start again, to build something new. We should come back to learn from nature. The concept of waste is something that mankind has created. There is no waste in nature. Everything just goes in circles, everything is recycled, including us. So, it is our responsibility to reuse products again and again until they can not be used like a product anymore, but as a material. This is recycling. I am quite optimistic in this way. In Japan there are good efforts from big companies: Ricoh is recirculating the actual copy machines they made years ago and have re-appropriated and repaired them; Fuji is producing recycled film. That is what we have to do. It is not necessary to excavate natural resources anymore, there is enough material available to us already.

Fumi Masuda, Japanese Designer, Japanese Sustainable Designer, Japanese Furniture Design, Open House Inc 3

Priscilla: You told me that young people in Tokyo are fascinated with Lohas (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). What do you think about that?

Fumi: In Japan now we have this trend, the Lohas trend (it’s a marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living). It came from American marketing and dramatically changed Japanese lifestyle. But I believe that is just a trend, only a style, not a real concern. It is like some fashion designers in the eighties in Japan. They called themselves ecological designers because they were using earth tones in their clothes. That doesn’t make any sense, but it happens. It makes things more complicated, fools people. People who don’t know much about it might make a mistake. We should not do that. We have to live more carefully and not try to make money by telling people that you are doing ecological things when you are not. This is really not ecological.

Fumi Masuda, Japanese Designer, Japanese Sustainable Designer, Japanese Furniture Design, Open House Inc 4

Priscilla: Do you believe that some companies need to alter their brands toward more sustainable design in order for sustainability to really take root in our society?

Fumi: Brand is a reflection of the market. So we can’t say to change the brand. You actually have to change the market first, and then brands follow. It is the economy; it is a matter of money. So the market itself has to change. You can not say to a brand: your value is not good, change it. They have the right to continue in this system, in capitalism. I am not a politician, designers are not politicians. I am not fighting to convince people to change their way of living. Something will happen very soon. They will notice that they have to change on their own.

+ OpenHouse

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7 Comments

  1. lorrbrack June 23, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Some interesting thoughts by Fuma. Definitely makes one think about how we can steer future design and designers! Sorry for the cliche, but worth turning thinking ‘out of the box’ on it’s head in terms of new concepts/ materials/ technology and what’s possible.. :)

  2. Aguida Zanol October 20, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    cool!

  3. Tim November 29, 2007 at 5:55 am

    Your chairs are amazing

  4. Hun Boon May 4, 2007 at 2:30 am

    Bamboo speakers!

    I have a couple of audiophile friends, and they have been bugging me (for a very long time!) to fabricate some bamboo speakers and turntables for them. Pity I never got around to doing it.

    Now Fumi Masuda has beaten me to it. :)

  5. Harry Martinian April 28, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    The “Lohas” demographic is a way to define the evolving character of our consumer society.

    Of course Fumi Masuda is correct when he states that there is no waste in Nature. It is true that everything is food for some other aspect in creation. That is the wisdom of the designer of the universe. Fortunately the laws of nature that govern the order of the universe are no different that the laws of the universe that are behind our every thought word or deed. Only we have a choice to be more or less in tune with the design of the contitution of the universe. When we are out of tune we sure do make a mess.

    Making a sustainable impact on society doesn’t really come from or happen because what the popoular culture informs us about or becuse we get it intellectually and try to do things consciously about the thing. Global Warming is a cultural “symptom” that has a it’s origins in a “cause’.That cause is when lhumans beings are disconnected to some level of life that is transcendental. Then we natural are violating every law in natures book. Get enough of humanity disconnected and you have the world as it is today.

    Want to change this world?

    The formula is only the square root of 1% of the worlds population having their lives in tune with the constitution of the universe. Find your self. It all begins to change for the better from there, inside. Take care of the inside and the inside will take care of the outside.

    Yes, something will happen soon. And that something will be seen in the world but seeds of this change will have been started somewhere deep in quite states of the mind of a few. The wisdom is to make sure we are investing in the peacemakers not the masters of war. No one is to blame this is not about the money it is more about the change from within. Education for enlightenment. Where are we putting our attention?

  6. Ron Bourdon April 27, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Pretty.

  7. Bob Ellenberg April 26, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Boy does his last statement show how well he is rooted in reality! “Fumi: Brand is a reflection of the market. So we can’t say to change the brand. You actually have to change the market first, and then brands follow. It is the economy; it is a matter of money. So the market itself has to change. You can not say to a brand: your value is not good, change it. They have the right to continue in this system, in capitalism. I am not a politician, designers are not politicians. I am not fighting to convince people to change their way of living. Something will happen very soon. They will notice that they have to change on their own”

    Start at the end of that statement and work backwards. American consumers ARE getting it and I predict it will snowball. They in turn bring about the change. We cannot blame the manufactures, retailers, builders, etc. because in our society they respond to the market. The statement, “it is a matter of money”, is the main reason there is so much that frustrates people who are greatly concerned with the environment. As long as price is King among consumers, providers will not provide a lot of more expensive “green” products. But when consumers want them–they will come.

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