Manager of the Advanced Design GroupYoshihiro Katsumata

Always interested in form

Even my hobbies on my days off touch on design. I have a keen interest in form-I guess you could say that one of my hobbies is creating little design models at home. But I'm really not that good a modeler, and I don't particularly enjoy the building process. What I do enjoy is discovering interesting forms and coming up with ideas for different kinds of forms. I fill notebooks with ideas and sketches of forms that I find interesting-I go through about one notebook a year. Now I've got more than ten of them. Some of the things in them are just sketches with no particular idea behind them; in those cases I try actually making them.
For instance, I'll think about why the bobbing head of a Japanese tora-no-ko tiger doll seems so cute, even though it isn't when it's not moving. In cases like these just making sketches isn't enough, so I use whatever materials I have at hand to make simple models in order to try and abstract the basic motions. Here's an interesting one-a wooden Japanese sake cup that only holds a shot glass's worth of liquid. I made that one, too (laughs). At first glance it can look like a single solid chunk of wood, so people always do double takes when they see it. You could say it's my hobby, or perhaps a sort of habit, to reduce things to their simplest forms, to draw out the truly essential elements. I also take part in the activities of the Katachi Lab, and lately I've been giving lectures and workshops at universities. Oftentimes, the topic of thinking about thinking in design comes up here, too. For instance, I'll find an object that consists of multiple repetitions of the same unit, then try to reduce it down to a single unit-like a ladder with only one rung, or a tambourine with only one jingle.
I also play musical instruments, but only a little (laughs). I think, "I ought to learn an instrument since I am working for Yamaha," or "The bass guitar only has four strings, so it can't be that difficult"-impure motives like that. I also enjoy playing the electric piano just a little bit. I don't copy other songs-I hate copying. That's why I never get any better (laughs). Often I'll simply play a single phrase that I've thought up over and over.

Behind form there is always will

What is design? That's a difficult question. For me, everything is design. Cooking is a form of design; planning out tomorrow's schedule is a form of design. One of my favorite sayings is, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Most things that humans make have the shapes they have for a reason-there's usually some sort of will or motivation behind them. I feel joy in carefully observing things in order to discover the will hidden within them. That's why whenever I want to share this joy with others, when I'm working on designing something, this saying always comes to mind.