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Innovative products rethink generic design

by Jean Snow

Be prepared with Nosigner

The latest project from Eisuke Tachikawa — founder of design firm Nosigner and a frequent presence in this column — builds on the humanitarian work he has been involved in since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Barely a day passed after the disaster before he launched Olive, an online wiki with the purpose of collecting information to help those affected by similar disasters.

Since then, the site has grown and its most useful crowd-sourced information has been published in the form of the Olive book, which has been illustrated in a way to make it easily understandable and accessible to readers.

Now, in collaboration with Kohshin Shoji Corporation, based in Sendai, Nosigner has produced The Second Aid, a disaster-relief kit that includes an abridged version of the Olive book along with dried foods, utensils, a mask, foil blanket and other emergency items.

The Second Aid disaster kit can be ordered online from Amazon Japan for ¥8,424, and the Olive book is available in bookstores and on Amazon Japan for ¥1,028.

The Second Aid: bit.ly/2ndaid0906 Olive: bit.ly/nsol0906

Design swings into Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been a hive of inspiring, independent design, offering all manner of goods from video games to the silliest of things (gourmet potato salad, anyone?). So far, though, few projects have been offered from Japan, most likely because of the lack of local bank support to collect the funds. It’s great, then, to see designer Shigeichiro Takeuchi try his hand at Kickstarter with his attractive Swing Bin.

Originally produced as a prototype in 2009, this innovative and seemingly simple design — a diagonal top allows the lid of the bin to swing open and shut easily — was in reality so difficult to produce that it was never manufactured. Yet there was clearly a demand for it, which led to Takeuchi to take the project to Kickstarter where it’s already getting close to its pledge goal.

The Swing Bin campaign runs until Sept. 15 and a pledge of $65 will get you a Swing Bin with shipping in Japan (there’s an additional cost to ship elsewhere).

Shigeichiro Takeuchi: www.shigeichiro.com Kickstarter: bit.ly/swbks0906

Gu-pa gets box clever

Cardboard boxes always come in handy, but who says they need to be generic or boring? The Gu-pa collection brings a little humor to boxes by shaping them into a series of animal heads — there’s a bear, elephant, deer, rabbit and hippopotamus, each with brightly colored accents.

These are also clever constructions that come flat-packed, so you can fold them into the shapes yourself — kind of like doing a puzzle.

All the animals are available at a size of around 10 cm wide, priced at ¥766, but the bear also comes in a “jumbo” size of around 40 cm for ¥2,781. They can all be purchased online from the Mitsubai webstore.

Gu-pa: www.gu-pa.jp Mitsubai: www.mitsubai.com/tokyo/detail/tk025603.html

Furniture that rolls with it

How’s this for a novel idea: kids’ furniture that adapts as the children grow up? Torafu Architects’ Dice aims to do just that. Like its name suggests, this shelf-like structure is designed to be rolled. And with each roll a new function is revealed.

It can start off as a tiny seat and desk for a child, then flip it over and it becomes a stool for an adult. Flip it over again, and you get a compact set of shelves. It’s all about perception and, of course, careful design.

Rubberized and curved edges make sure that children don’t hurt themselves, and its natural wood grain, stained in mute colors, make it a stylish addition to any room.

Dice is currently in its prototype phase, but there are plans to have it manufactured by Tanseisha.

Torafu Architects: torafu.com/works/dice Tanseisha: www.tanseisha.co.jp.

Stick out your tongs

Long chopsticks and tongs are essentials for every cook, so it makes sense that the brand EAトCO has made a hybrid.

Sleek in design but also very practical, the Saibashi is flat with tapered tips, which makes it easier to use than a pair of chopsticks and more precise than a pair of tongs. The hinged end also has an indent that stops it from sliding into your bowl or plate when you rest it there.

Saibashi tongs are priced at ¥2,376 and can be bought from the online Koncent store.

Koncent: www.koncent.jp/?pid=78051050