Design Without Boundaries – Ryosuke Fukusada

by Margie T Logarta

Left : Ryosuke Fukusada, Right : ALYSOID Suspension Lamps

They say: “Father knows best,” and in product designer Ryokosuke Fukusada’s case, that belief hit bull’s eye when his dad Yoshiaki Fukusada advised his offspring to consider a career in design. The younger Fukusada, who is based in Kyoto, after several years in Milan with the prestigious firm of Patricia Urquiola, is now firmly part of Japan’s constellation of rising design novas.

The mop-haired 37-year-old recalls: “I have always loved drawing and crafting since I was a child. When I was 17 and had to choose the course for my future career, I decided to work in the design field because it could offer a job that made use of my skills. And my father also recommended it – I guess he knew what would suit me.”

From Kanazawa College of Art (1998 to 2002), Fukusada went to work for Sharp Corporation for five and a half years, assigned to the consumer electronics products division. The experience, he described as “a great fortune to have had the chance to go through it,” even if the projects meant churning out mass-produced items and dealing with a lot of people. The freedom to design may have tended to be “low”, but Fukusada looks back on those years for the education he received.

Once Fukusada felt he had mastered all the steps of the design process came the itch to try his hand at doing interiors, and no place would do to soak up this ethos but Europe, Italy specifically. “Italy is one of the leading producers of interiors and accessories in Europe. Also, I admire the work of Achille Castiglioni and Bruno Munari.

“My Italian experience has expanded my perspective. The ability to use materials and colors has also increased. It was in Italy where I resolved to open my own design studio.” Fukusada graduated from Domus Academy with a Masters Degree in Interior and Living Design.

Fukusada’s drive and talent did not go unnoticed in Italy. He was hired by the globally renowned, Spanish born Patricia Urquiola, who made him assistant designer for product design. He held this plum post in her Milan headquarters from 2008 to 2012, the year he finally succumbed to setting up his own atelier in Kyoto.

He chose the ancient city as his base since he was familiar with the local craftsmen whom he had worked with during his Urquiola stint. “This made it convenient, and another reason for setting up in Kyoto was that the city has retained many of its old structures and traditions. As a designer, I find this stimulating.”

Being Japanese with an extensive overseas tour of duty has had multiple benefits, which Fukusada uses with both overseas and local clientele. “I usually incorporate my culture and identity as a Japanese in the foreign projects, and my Italian experience in projects for Japanese companies.” In addition, he has teamed up with Portugese designer Rui Pereira, “where we attempted to create new value by fusing our own cultures and backgrounds.”

His other approach is to use material most typical in the manufacturer’s country of origin, for example, for the outdoor furniture line of Thai company Deesawat, teakwood was chosen. For the German light bulb maker Ledon, he conceptualized and executed the “impossible” – he created a light bulb from wood, wrapping an LED bulb in a thin layer of pine. The resulting product looks solid when off, but when switched on, a warm, red glow shines through the wood’s natural rings and markings.

He adds: “If there is a material mainly treated by the client or skillfully processed by the client, then that will be my preferred one. When I was designing products at Sharp, plastic was common, but now we use wood, metal, fabric and others, and we are also exploring 3D printing.”

What is Fukusada’s creative process like?

He explains: “I start by doing research on the type of on the type of product I am asked to design.

“In the case of Axolight’s Alysoid lamp (one of Fukusada’s most iconic collections, consisting of hand crafted suspension lamps characterised by draped chains that define the diffuser. Alysoid is inspired by geometry and architecture. In geometry, the alysoid, also known as “catenary arch”, is the curve formed by a flexible chain suspended from its endpoints.), the initial briefing was to design a large ceiling light suitable for upscale structures like hotel halls and the like. I then mentally organize the information collected and think about how to execute the design.

“Many ideas are quickly drawn on paper, and through the visualization, I can judge if it is worth going further in certain direction. I will make a more precise picture with CAD software.

“Often, we craft a three-dimensional rough model to narrow down the most suitable concepts from that picture. For the Axo light, I chose the Alsoid and some other designs to go ahead with. With the rough model, we can pinpoint the details and elements tht need adjusting, so we return to the PC to modify the object.

“The process can be iterated for as many times as we until we think we can create a prototype. Most often, the prototype will be created by the client. Axo Light created the prototype for Alysoid. With the prototype now in hand, we discuss again and modify the necessary parts until the final product is completed.”

According to Fukusada, form and function should co-exist. He says: “For me, design creation is combining material, shape, colour and my own creativity, to derive the optimal solution for the client. Also, it is a major premise that the object is easy to use and looks good. And we should not forget the important theme: the creation of products that hold new cultural values that can cross national borders.

“To that end, I believe it is important not to be confined to the values and languages of design typical of each country.”

Browsing through Fukusada’s website (www. ryosukefukusada.com/en), one finds a whimsical gallery featuring not only furniture but lifestyle and personal accessories as well, including scent diffusers (Chim Chim), pendants (Hiyoshigi), lamps and lanterns (bamboo inspired Gabbia in partnership with Rui Pereira) and driving sunglasses (for DEEC brand fitted to Asian features) among others.

Fukusada believes he has remained true to his design style over the years. “However, the distinctiveness of each client and project leads to designs that are very diverse,” he stresses. “As always, my proposition is make designs that satisfy the client and is optimum for the consumer. Ideally, it should one that can adapt to different markets, especially Japan and Europe.”

Balance in a product is Fukusada’s response to blending aesthetics, practicality and commercial attractiveness. “I always take those details into consideration in a project. A designer, who is just starting out, should be trained in this mindset.”

With a thriving business and steady climb in the design world, Fukusada is mighty glad he followed his father’s counsel.