Plusminuszero cordless phone, Nendo’s Skiima, Toshi Iwai’s Tenori-On, Monacca’s Bag-Kaku


In the world of product design, we’ve finally come to a point where features have seemingly attained a certain level of parity. Gone are the days when detailed specs ruled, and bigger (brighter, louder, faster) was better. The focus has now shifted toward the promotion of an object’s outward design — functionality and stylishness are now trumping innards.

With this in mind, On Design is set to showcase the latest and most exciting products as they come out, and to shine a light on the wave of “good design” currently seen in Japan. Expect a continuous parade of objects that are sure to awaken feelings of lust and desire — don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Operator, give me sleek

It’s hard to find any faults in the products that have resulted from the fervent mind of designer Naoto Fukasawa under the Plusminuszero brand. The universal, and deserved, praise the line has garnered comes as no surprise, and the recently launched Cordless Telephone does not disappoint. Sleek and simple, it does what you’d expect, while retaining the clean lines that have become a Fukasawa trademark. Both models (in blue and gray) come in at just under 20,000, yen making it surprisingly affordable (compared to the rest of the brand’s offerings). To see the whole Plusminuszero line, visit their shop/cafe in Aoyama, 3-12-12 Kita-Aoyama, (03) 5778-5380.

The Skiima of things

Design unit Nendo certainly understands functionality, with words like “flexibility” and “adaptability” guiding most of their design concepts. Just take a look at their groundbreaking Drawer-House in Tokyo, where household components — from shelves to counter space — slide into view as needed. Nendo’s Skiima seems likely to live up to the group’s previous successes. Although it can certainly be appreciated on the basis of it being a very comfy couch, the idea of inserting tables and lamps within its confines introduces a new way to save space, and adds a conceptual touch that distinguishes it from any old sofa.

For more information, see www.nendo.jp

Sound and vision

Media artist Toshio Iwai is no stranger to the realms of sound and electronics — he is, among other things, the creator of the quirky Nintendo DS game/music simulator Electroplankton — and the Tenori-On, developed in conjunction with Yamaha, is very much an Iwai creation. An aluminum frame forms the base of this “new digital instrument,” a device that lets the user form light/sound compositions by interacting with the LED display. A push on one of the switches on the 16 x 16 “canvas” has it instantly resonating with a flurry of swirling lights, giving the resulting sound piece some visual indices. Giving visual form to music, it’s an elegant approach to making the musical creation process much more intuitive, and something that is sure to turn Iwai’s dream of being able to manipulate “both light and sound simultaneously and pleasantly” into a reality.

For more information, see www.yamaha.co.jp/design/tenori-on/

A hard case

Looking for a laptop case that really stands out from the crowd? Go wood, or more precisely, Japanese cedar, with the original Bag-Kaku from Monacca. Takumi Shimamura has created an interesting range of products for the brand (next month sees the release of a calculator that shares the same wooden exterior, as well as a light that somehow shines through its casing), with this bag leading the pack. Roomy enough to fit a 17-inch Powerbook, it comes in a variety of colored varnishes (plain, mocha, tannin and brown). If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on this Good Design Award 2005 winner, try ordering directly from Monacca, www.monacca.com