SUBJECT: RYOTA YOKOZEKI of RYOTA YOKOZEKI STUDIO
We came across Ryota’s feed and were taken aback by his inventive & highly thoughtful objects. He’s currently operating a unique agency in Tokyo, that balances product creation with maintaining a healthy flow of global clients for design services. Ryota spent considerable time working as an Industrial Designer for tech giants like Sony. His acumen is top-notch, but what’s truly remarkable is his point of view. It was a pleasure to speak with him, pick his brain, and be intrigued by his passionate way of thinking. He’s a tinkerer and loves to experiment, and, simply put, is generally inspired by how things work. His studio is a mixed media + mixed experience agency, that not only conceptualizes new products but serves as the experimental and experiential space that allows users to interact with them. Offering, a one-of-a-kind mastery of Industrial design and an open relationship with people.
THE OBJECT: Tape Dispenser & Cutter By Bruno Ninaber van Eyben
I was immediately drawn to this while looking through a product design book by the renowned Bruno Ninaber van Eyben. The object is minimal and functional in all the right ways. It’s a brutalist cylinder shape, that’s been really well thought through. It’s honest and magical. To operate, you pull out the length you need and the blade comes naturally cutting it to the desired length. All automated. It has kind details. I was super impressed it’s the manufacturing process and the technical drawings that were showcased in the book. Though it’s a stark and raw form, the utility is very considerate. In this way the brutalist object becomes a soft experience, more human, having warmth, empathy, and thoughtful consideration. It suggests the notion of empathetic functionality.
This stuck with me.
I needed to have it, I looked for it all over Japan and I could not find it, so I continued to diligently search for it online, and finally found it. I had it promptly shipped to Japan and has even more inspired when I experienced it for the first time in real life. It’s Super simple, detailed and calculated, well made, and still very affordable. In total, it’s what a good product design should be.
The essence of these objects is not dissimilar from Ryota’s core design philosophy. He’s keen on honest materiality and understanding the natural limits of a material. Believing, for each material there’s a form best suited for that material. Ryota is relentless in manifesting the right shape. He goes the distance experimenting to uncover how both, material and function can come together in new ways to increase delight for a user. He’s fully committed to intentionality behind the use and believes design should ultimately always be helpful, remain honest, and be fully empathetic.
How you approach the design of an object, is not different from how humans should approach one another. Designing, with true empathy. Empathy, for the material, is a form that empathizes with context, and empathy for the user and the Earth. I seek to pair honesty and intentionality in form x material, with user consideration and make things people can delight in using for a long time to come. They should want to keep using it, it should endure and keep adding value. It’s good for the user and also good for the Earth. Actually, love and careful consideration for the object is love for the user. I really just want to come up with a good design. All of our experimentation comes together to achieve good designs that offer lasting utility and empathy, not commodity, excess, and wastefulness.
Tell us about a time it was hard to be yourself, or when being yourself led to a breakthrough?
This is currently happening with our hybrid Agency/ Experiential Retail Space. It’s a new journey for us. We wanted the ability to freely create and also have a direct connection direct to the user. It’s had its challenges because it’s such new territory. I'm well versed in designing for clients, and I'm now seeing the other side of running an end-to-end business. I'm wearing the creative hat and the business hat simultaneously, getting to know what we did not know previously. We delight in bringing our ideas from concept all the way through development & production, and into a space that users interact with them. It’s a way to fully offer complete empathy. We get to experiment with people and respond directly to their feedback. We have to balance all of the business and creative tensions, whilst not losing sight of sales targets and maintaining the numbers. The real breakthrough has been getting a working model in place, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of the labor. It’s led to a more holistic understanding of Design, and respect for how all of these elements are different.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT RYOTA, THAT YOU’D WANT
EVERYONE TO HEAR?
We do a lot of mass production. And, this means there’s a lot of waste generated. So, we’re owning the responsibility of managing the waste we generate. Ongoingly, we’re prototyping/ experimenting with how we can best use the waste from our projects, in our business model & new product production pipelines. We’re currently doing an experiment with a variety of approaches to see what’s is possible. It’s a big challenge, and we've been at it for one year.