-- The "CRAFTING NEW BEAUTY" product design exhibition is on at the Ginza Communication Space of the Shiseido Ginza Building till 6 October.
Komai: Every year, Shiseido holds a "Beauty Graphics" exhibition that features mainly works by graphic designers. This latest exhibition is the product design edition of "Beauty Graphics", and focuses on the works of members from the Package & Space Design Department.
-- What led up to the creation of this exhibition theme?
Komai: We are usually engaged in the design of products and stores. In recent years, however, the scope of our work has moved beyond cosmetic products, and we are increasingly involved in the design of a wide range of products and services. The background is the recent diversification of products for "crafting beauty." In light of the success and popularity of beauty-related home appliances produced by leading electrical appliance manufacturers, Shiseido is also planning to design everything without limiting itself to the area of cosmetic products.
Nagasaki: The Design R&D group, which I am a member of, is a research team established in April 2016 to come up with proposals for precisely such areas. Our mission is to inspire a life of beauty and culture by fusing design and technology. We are constantly exploring the potential of beauty beyond the area of cosmetic products, something that has been made possible because of the era we are living in today.
Komai: Separately from that, the other three exhibitors have also been engaged in various activities on an individual basis while maintaining their involvement with cutting-edge technology. In this exhibition, the designers present their respective current interests based on the theme of "CRAFTING NEW BEAUTY."
Muraoka: The social standards for beauty have been broadening and expanding in recent times; there are those who see beauty in caring for the environment, as well as those who see beauty in sensory experiences. By presenting various ideas and prototypes, our objective is also to create an opportunity to think, both for the exhibition viewers and for ourselves.
-- Are advancements in Shiseido's research areas also a background factor for holding the exhibition?
Komai: Yes, that's right. Shiseido has built up a wealth of knowledge in research areas such as fragrance and tactile sensations, which other corporations do not possess. When we actually engage with the research centers, we discover that "Shiseido has such amazing technologies!" This conversely allows us to see the fact that the research centers seek the power of design. The products and ideas that emerge through such information-sharing processes are also on display at the exhibition.
-- Could you tell us more about the specific works on display? I understand that Mr. Muraoka is exhibiting a series of ideas based on the relationship between design and the themes of environment and sustainable society.
Muraoka: This time, I am presenting two methods for thinking about the concept of sustainable manufacturing, which I have titled "Open Study." The first method is the "replace" method, which involves replacing an existing product material with other materials to reduce the burden on the environment. At the exhibition venue, I have put on display the idea of a packaging material made using vegetable gelatin. Vegetable gelatin, which is light and has a multi-porous structure, functions as a cushioning material. In addition, it promises the effect of improving the water-retention capacity of soil after use. This is a work that I produced with the design unit AMAM, which I am a member of outside of my work at Shiseido. Other works that I am presenting include the idea of producing make-up or outer packaging for cosmetic products using the traditional technique of papier-mâché.
-- What is the other method, "Second Life?"
Muraoka: This is the idea of reusing packaging, and thus giving it a second life. Every day, we design packaging materials while taking care to ensure that they are beautiful and easy to use. In designing these materials, I hope to draw attention not only to the environmentally-friendly aspect of creating separate parts for used containers or adding different functions to them, but also to the aspect of our commitment to packaging.
-- On the other hand, Mr. Komai is presenting a project that makes use of the HapLog Contact Force Sensor developed jointly between Shiseido's research center and an external manufacturer in 2011, which is also available for sale on the market.
Komai: When worn on the finger, this sensor can measure changes to the width of the ball of the finger and quantify the tactile sensation when the finger touches something. It was originally developed to quantify the excellent techniques possessed by beauty consultants, so as to enable training and education. However, the product had a drawback; as attention was not paid to the design, the thick wire got in the way and often got disconnected.
Colleagues involved in the sale of this product consulted me, and I have continued to work on it. In 2014, we produced a window display with the images on the screen changing in tandem with the touch of a mechanical finger wearing the sensor on a puff or other objects. For this exhibition, we are presenting an installation based on a similar system, displays that allow visitors to quantify tactile sensations, as well as design models toward the development of a wireless version of the sensor.
-- This is an interesting project that helps people to visualize invisible tactile sensations, isn't it?
Komai: It is now a research material, but we believe that further evolution of the product could enable its application as a controller for wearable devices. For example, rather than operating such devices within the confines of the narrow LCD screens of smartphones, this product can be worn and used to issue instructions to the devices by touching anything. We believe that this sensor has the potential to make human actions more natural and beautiful.
-- Ms. Nagasaki, you are exhibiting a product named "BliScent." What kind of product is it?
Nagasaki: This is a smart aroma diffuser that allows users to customize their preferred scent and filling a space with it. The development of the Internet environment in the modern times has made it easier for people to work or shop from home, so there is a trend of people spending more time in the comfort of their own homes than before.
Fragrances can work on the autonomic nervous system to promote good sleep, as well as make one feel refreshed and thereby improve the ability to concentrate on work. I felt that Shiseido's research knowhow on fragrances can be harnessed to help enrich the time that people spend at home, which led to the development of this product.
-- Even here, Shiseido's policy on art and science has been applied, hasn't it?
Nagasaki: In developing this product, I carried out a range of research work and conducted interviews with experts. Eventually, I came up with the idea of combining fragrance with technology, which I felt is something that only Shiseido can do. This project was my first challenge in coming up with my own idea and seeing it through to the output of the final product in a field that crosses the boundary of cosmetic products, into the home appliance sector. Through this challenge, I realized that there are various approaches toward the "new form of beauty" that Shiseido should think about.
-- Last but not least, Mr. Hori, you are a designer who usually works on designs for stores, etc. What were the events leading to the birth of your exhibit, "Geometry and Texture—From Product to Space"?
Hori: In the area of tactile sensations, I am particularly interested in elasticity and the geometrical structure of the objects that create that comfortable feeling of springiness, and I have conducted studies into this area. At one glance, elasticity may be perceived as something that is analog; however, by converting that sensation into a geometric calculation formula, it can be applied to designs of various scales ranging from products such as testers where products are placed, to store spaces. This time, my objective is to present that thought process, and to allow visitors to experience the differences in elasticity through mock-ups. Going further, I thought of coming up with a display that can show how geometry contributes to various types of comfort in a store.
-- Does this mean that geometrical structures have become easier to analyze than before?
Hori: There is that, as well as the fact that technologies such as 3D printers have made it possible to produce forms that could not be molded before. I have also made use of 3D printers this time. The use of such technologies that we term "digital fabrications" may create new structures and tactile sensations even for materials that we have, until now, taken for granted to be "hard" materials. Based on that, I believe that it is possible to create products and spaces of the future.
-- Mr. Hori, you also created the design for the exhibition venue. What did you pay particular attention to in that respect?
Hori: Shiseido's exhibitions to date have mainly featured completed products, but this exhibition is characterized by the display of "ideas" that are not yet final products. For that reason, by displaying the works of four people alongside one another, we are presenting the possibility of the evolution of each, as well as the possibility of their combination with one another.
Komai: Taking the bold step of exhibiting objects that are in the experimental phase that have not yet become actual products may give rise to productive connections with other companies. In this respect, we have placed great importance on the overall exhibition. In our everyday work, there are workflows that are the premise to the actualization of the work, as well as set deadlines, and I believe that we share the thought of whether it is sufficient simply to fulfill these conditions. I think that creative work, to begin with, lurks within such trial-and-error processes, where it is not known if the idea will actually materialize.
Hori: I think that trial-and-error, which is similar to muscular exercises, also has a good effect on our usual fast-paced work. If we do not regularly provide input and stock up on the ability, when we are tasked with an important job in a pinch, we would not be agile and flexible enough to produce ideas in an instant.
-- Shiseido's climate of accepting such trial-and-error is a very attractive one, isn't it?
Komai: I think that Shiseido is a company where employees have strong interest in design. Everyone has a strong desire to see new and beautiful things. The completed products are, of course, beautiful. However, there have been few exhibitions to date that focused on the thoughts that go into the design work. I hope that everyone will enjoy this "coarse" exhibition, in a good sense of the word, as it offers a glimpse into the individual thought processes that designers go through.