From Design

Looking at how how things work, not just what they look like

Hot Metal Typesetting

Hakko type casting machine

A few weeks ago I attended a letterpress workshop at Tsukiji Katsuji (築地活字) print shop in Yokohama. Founded in 1919, the shop specialises in letterpress printing, a mechanical process which went largely out-of-date in the 1980s due to the rise of computers, but has recently experienced a resurgence as an artisan handcraft. Read more

Demystifying Wabi-sabi

Photo by Phil Shirley

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of thing unconventional.

While sitting beneath the cherry blossoms at a typical Hanami (“flower viewing”) party in Japan it’s easy to forget that behind the alcohol-fueled revelry you’re actually taking place in a very particular form of appreciation centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Aesthetic ideals are central to Japan’s cultural identity and the Japanese language has all sorts of fancy words for describing our feelings towards how we perceive the world but underlying them all is the notion of wabi-sabi (侘寂). Read more

Inbetween The Lines

JR-Metro Maps Overlayed

Since beginning a full-time job in Tokyo I’ve been taking the train to work, and everyday it leaves me with the weirdest feeling of having just passed through the bowels of some otherworldly monster. Read more

Neon Hong Kong

NEONSIGNS_HK

As long-term readers will know I have a bit of an obsession about the neon signage which gives many cities in Asia their unique and seductive streetscapes. The epitome of this has to be Hong Kong where the dense and chaotic texture of its neon have brought the city to life at night since the 1950s. Read more

Everyday Usability in Japan (Part 3)

Japanese Vending Machine

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we looked at some of the intriguing aspects of the way people’s everyday lives are affected by design in Japan. Whether the result of a lone designer with a singular focus or a meddling committee with a medley of requirements it’s fascinating to see how other countries have approached the same challenges. Read more