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Production model in the studio
Examination of sample material
——What impressions have you gained through working in the Yamaha Design Laboratory?
Jose: When I was designing furniture—when making a chair for example—the process from the design mockup through to the finished product would take about one month, and we would make about 100 items. At Yamaha, when we make a new piano, it takes us about two years and we make so many that there is no comparison. These pianos are then used around the world. It's very dynamic. Since Yamaha makes a huge number of products on a global scale, I think that we designers have to think more carefully about our designs, and we have a lot of responsibility towards our products.
Thomas: Unlike when I worked in a design office, I am at Yamaha working on designs in-house, which means that I can watch and be part of the processes related to that product, and I can also meet with people from both the development-teams as well as marketing and sales divisions whenever needed. In Yamaha I have had the ability as a designer to be taking part in the development process all the way to manufacturing and that has been rewarding as a designer.
Yves: I worked on many designs before coming to Yamaha, but they were all for consumable items that are soon thrown away, something that was always a disappointment for me. The products that Yamaha makes now are tools for art, inspire performers, and they are items that will be used for an extremely long time. I think that is terrific. Yamaha's design process involves a constant quest to answer the essential question of what it is that we are designing, which is always rooted in the company's respect for its customers. That is something I have learned from Yamaha.
Jens: I had already been working on products with a global reach that always required a design team, so I didn't really feel much change with regard to the quality of the work itself. However, I noticed that the decision-making process differs greatly between Japan and Denmark. In Denmark we talk directly to the CEO, whereas here in Japan there are many meetings and many steps to be taken before any decision is reached.
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Yves: I felt the same way. Even though the end result may be the same, in Japan they take the long way to get there. When I was in the UK, we dealt with things more directly and there was a "business is business" feel to the work. If you show people an idea in Japan they think about it very carefully, but there is a long period of inaction while they do so, which I mistook as implying that they didn't understand what I was trying to say. In the same vein, the language, etiquette, and way of doing business is different to that of Europe, and it took a long time for me to understand that reality and be able to work successfully with it. I still think that this process is key.
Jose: Actually I think that the attitude of our Japanese colleagues has gradually become more open while multinational designers have been working here, and our attitude have been changed positively as well through this cultural exchange.
Yves: I agree. It's been six years since I started working at Yamaha, and the company no longer seems to expect me to behave as a Japanese person. I think that we foreign designers should retain our uniqueness. Those aspects are probably the reason we were invited to work here in the first place, and I think that our presence serves as a stimulus for other designers.