By Kenya Hara
An austere white cover; a book I can’t look inside.
Four blurbs on the cover, with cryptic design-related paragraphs from, or about, four different creators. Intrigue…
In “Designing Design”, Japanese designer Kenya Hara “impresses upon the reader the importance of ‘emptiness’ in both the visual and philosophical traditions of Japan, and its application to design, made visible by means of numerous examples from his own work”.
It seems to be not just a monograph but a sort of treatise on design philosophy, a book about sense, perception, creativity.
John Maeda, in the introduction, describes Hara as “a complex man”, and this appears to be a book whose outward simplicity belies a certain type of complexity, of taking complex things in the world and filtering and transmuting them into elegant design.
The book contains a blend of words and images, illustrations and photographs, hundreds of design examples “treated and discussed in concept and philosophy by a man of great wisdom as well as endless creativity.” There’s a chapter on “re-design”. Another entire chapter on the concept of “White”.
And it’s praised by reviewers as extremely beautiful.
Here’s one: “…quite possibly the most beautiful book on design ever published. Not only is the content illuminating and intelligent…the book itself is a paramount of elegance, simplicity and superb creative force.”
And another: “You have to see the book yourself to really appreciate the fact that, of all the gorgeous designs presented within…none is more gorgeous than the book itself.”
In some sense this reads as a coffee table book, but I’m not sure that does it justice. It’s a rare book of any type that’s at once “minimal, elegant, playful, clever and thought-provoking.”