ORIGINAL THINKING – Interview with Neo Tamura
In our age of information inspiration is at our fingertips. But where does true originality come from? We selected some of the most forward-thinking, creative, and authentic innovators in art, design, fashion, and culture to tell us about their perspective on the defining qualities of originality. Innovative, essential, exciting, or eccentric, these are people who are relying on their roots and paving their own way in a world full of strong competition.
“My design approach always stems from people’s real needs, and technology and innovation help to visualize the concept.”
Industrial Designer in New York
You design (some of which is shown here) is known to hold a rare balance of innovation and beauty. Your creations are art, more than product design. You have worked with various independent design brands such as Hem, WonderGlass, nanimarquina and many more, and have received a number of prestigious design awards such as IF Design Award, Red Dot Award to name a few. What makes your design original?
My skills involve cross-over cultures, languages, disciplines, concepts, and styles. I am global in my insights and execution. As a product of Tokyo and New York City creative communities, my solutions are equally at ease in the world of 2-D and 3-D with an uncanny ability to find that emotional connection with the audience, that makes my design original.
What have you learned from your design practice that translates to your daily life?
I worked for a design studio in NYC where I was involved with easy to use products for people with arthritis. Products like this may appear rather low key at first glance, but once you use them you realise just how dramatically their design improves their ease of use and makes people’s lives easier. So this is the basis of my design process. My design approach always stems from people’s real needs, and technology and innovation help to visualise the concept. Naturally, good looks also come into it. People want a product that works well and looks beautiful.
What were the most difficult challenges along the way?
Design takes up a considerable part of my life. When I was in Japan, I literally spent all day thinking about design. That was fun at the time but I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t have a choice. I could either devote my life to being a designer or become a housewife (?!). Besides, design by someone who’s constantly immersed in design can look rather fantastical and disconnected from reality. Some people may think that design that does away with the sense of domestic living is cool, but I want to cherish the perspective that can only be revealed through day-to-day living. Thus; keeping the balance between work and private life is always a challenge for me.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Many of my projects are inspired by nature. I believe there is a strong connection between Japanese culture and nature. I have become more conscious of nature since I left Japan. The idea of appreciating each season and enjoying nature’s bounty has entered into our culinary culture. Perhaps becoming keenly aware of the importance of nature after leaving Japan has gradually become manifest in my design.
In ten years where do you want to be?
In ten years, I would like to teach or speak more through my experiences as a designer to the younger designers, especially female designers in Japan. I feel it’s my mission to tell them how important to be independent and break the stereotype against women. I want them to see the bigger picture outside the little island.
Tell us about your favorite eyewear and why?
I don’t wear eyewear except sunglasses (for now!). But I always like eyewear from Anne & Valentin. I would like to wear them someday. I like their design and a choice of materials.
More at www.naotamura.com
This editorial “Original Thinking” was for the ORIGINAL issue // published in April 2019.