UNIQUE DESIGNS ROOTED IN ‘CHILDLIKE CURIOSITY’
Sometimes, a different angle or varied lighting is all it takes for something in our everyday surroundings to stand out and grab our attention, inviting us to perceive our environment in fresh, new ways.
Nendo, a design studio active in Tokyo and Milan, focuses on capturing these moments with works that span a wide range of genres, from architecture and interior design to chocolate and cosmetics. Since its founding in 2002, Nendo has collaborated with numerous world-renowned clients, designing lamps for Louis Vuitton, furniture for Phillips and a host of other creations for clientele across various markets.
Nendo was founded in 2002 by designer Oki Sato, who decided to start his own design studio after graduating from Waseda University’s Department of Architecture.
Speaking about his office’s founding philosophy, Sato said: “When I went to Salone Internazionale del Mobile — an annual furniture fair held in Milan — for the first time in 2002, I was impressed by the designers’ playfully designed products and installations. In Japan, people who study architecture usually only design architectural works, and those who study product design only design products. I wanted to design more flexibly and transcend genres; that’s why I started Nendo.”
Nendo boasts a vast portfolio that reaches across genres and illustrates how the office approaches design with a childlike curiosity. Though spanning various genres, Nendo’s works share a distinct identity that exudes chicness, but seamlessly blends in with its surroundings, enriching its environment rather than merely embellishing it.
This identity can be seen in Nendo’s tables for Glas Italia — named “soft” — whose five sheets of brightly colored glass come together to create a gradation effect that is soft and natural. This identity is also present in its Harcourt glass chessboard for Baccarat, where first-rate glassware beautifully compliments the layout and intricacies of a chessboard.
The latest release in Nendo’s draftsman wristwatch series is a member of its 10:10 wristwatch brand, partially named for the colon used in reading time, which can be interpreted as two vertically stacked “ten-ten” marks — Japanese for “two dots.”
Available exclusively through retailer Nordic Feeling, the watch reflects Nendo’s philosophy of reconstituting the everyday by collecting and reshaping small moments into something that’s easy to understand. Inspired by the tools used by draftsmen to prepare precise plans and drawings, the wristwatch’s design mimics the layout of a ruler, with scale marks printed directly on the wristwatch’s glass rather than on its face. This design emphasizes the presence of the graduations, reflecting Nendo’s intent to create a piece that evokes the sense of measuring time as one would measure length.
The name of the watch derives from the idea of creating something from scratch, which is why Nendo purposefully left the graduations unadorned. Sato reasoned that if a wristwatch’s sole purpose was to simply track time, then smartphones would have already rendered them obsolete.
He explained that when a watch’s owner puts it on, the wristwatch allows its wearer to feel time, invoking a transformation from deep within the wearer. It’s from this aspect that a wristwatch derives personal value, and Sato hopes this latest version of the draftsman wristwatch will create emotional meaning in the wearer’s everyday life.
Building upon the notion of personal value, 10:10-brand wristwatches allow wearers to freely mix and match cases and straps. The strap can be easily removed with a pin lever, and customers can try different color variations and coordinate according to preference and occasion.
Since Nendo’s founding, Sato has established a worldwide reputation, receiving accolades from various art institutions and publications. In 2006, Newsweek magazine named him one of the “100 Most Respected Japanese,” and in 2007, his office was named one of the publication’s “Top 100 Small Japanese Companies.”
In 2012, he was named designer of the year by U.K. lifestyle magazine Wallpaper and received the Elle Deco International Design Award. In 2015, Sato was awarded Designer of the Year at Maison et Objet Paris, the largest interior design trade fair in Europe.
Collections of Nendo’s works have been displayed in prominent museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Given Sato’s prolific output, one must wonder what inspires him to produce such an immense volume of work. “I’ve noticed that routine work in everyday life really assists me with my designs. If you keep on repeating things every day, you notice small differences, and I feel these small differences become, in a way, the sources of my designs,” he said.
With much more routine work ahead of Sato — he is only 41 years old — the art world can look forward to seeing how these small differences continue to inspire Sato’s designs for many years to come.