Design Studio LondonKunihiro Takei

Snowboarding taught me what's most important in design

Kunihiro Takei


Joined Yamaha in 1993. In addition to working on designs for portable keyboards, synthesizers, and the M7CL digital mixer, has worked on Yamaha's "inpres" series of golf clubs since their first generation. Moved to the United Kingdom in 2008, and is currently based in Yamaha Design Studio London. Is engaged in an ongoing collaborative project with students of the Royal College of Art, with whom he continues to work on new projects.

I decided to become a designer after encountering YMO and the Katana

I've been good at drawing since I was little, so I had this vague notion that I wanted to draw pictures and design things someday. What brought this vague idea into focus were my encounters with the Katana motorcycle and the band YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra). When I saw the Katana, it was striking—it was like fireworks going off in my head. At the YMO concert, synthesizers were lined up in a row—it was really cool, like being in a factory. I hadn't exactly disliked music prior to the event, and YMO turned me into a giant music fan. Since I don't play an instrument myself, I figured if I were going into music it would have to be in instrument design. That's how I decided to work in product design. I think it was in my first year of high school. After graduating I made a beeline into the design department of an art college, majoring in industrial design.
In college I joined the soccer club and the photography club, and participated in two group exhibitions with friends. I'd sometimes go on photography trips and take black and white pictures. My graduation project was a shelf: I also liked airplanes, so I made a shelf entirely supported by wire, giving it a floating appearance, like a biplane. I intended to go to work for a manufacturer after graduating, but deliberately chose a place that didn't have that "mass-production" feel. I joined Yamaha because I was a fan of musical instruments, skis, and motorcycles. It was, so to speak, the greatest common denominator of the things I was interested in.

I wanted to design works like the watercolors of Andrew Wyeth

During my student days, the American painter Andrew Wyeth had a huge impact on me. I had a collection of his works that I kept by my side even when sketching, and I would look at it over and over until the pages were ragged. I especially like his watercolors―I think he was someone who gave shape to the idea of "painting without painting." To give you an idea of what I mean, imagine a single horizontal line neatly drawn on a white canvas. That is all it takes for the remaining white canvas to start resembling a snowy field. You even start remembering the slightly dirty smell of fallen snow. It's like magic. That's still the sort of drawing I still want to create, and I want to design products that resemble Wyatt's work.
One of the tenets of the Yamaha Design Philosophy is "unobtrusive design." For instance, simply cutting a bit off a corner creates the impression of an angular R. I think it is edgy designs like these that define Yamaha, that are truly products resembling Wyatt's work.