Known for his global success in Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York,
and London, Yasumichi Morita is one of the most vigorous designers
in Japan today, who continues to expand his activities beyond national
borders and design genres. While he takes an edgy, gorgeous, and
artistic approach to his interior designs, Morita himself cultivates
a neutral atmosphere around himself, showing his "plain and
natural" sense. In this interview, Morita openly tells us
about his design theory and also his views about the people of
Kansai (western Japan).
(Morita) People may think that designers start
their work by planning what is tangible, but I first focus on
the mental side. And probably because I inherited the DNA of
Osaka natives, I especially consider how I can design spaces
that can create good business for my clients. For example, if
you want to succeed in an udon restaurant business in a typical,
traditional Osaka neighborhood, you want your restaurant to be
clean and friendly, rather than fancy and catchy. My design starts
from that point. I am a designer, not an artist, and I need to
create spaces so that the client's business will expand successfully.
My emphasis is on the future prosperity of business, not its
temporary popularity. It is my goal to suggest design plans that
will become a durable standard, not a short-lived boom. The essential
driving force of successful business is word of mouth among people.
You may know one or two shops and restaurants that you don't
remember the name of but still want to recommend to someone else.
I think the power of word-of-mouth communication is enormous.
I want my design to be something that will be talked about in
such a way.
WATAMI izakaya restaurant (Hong Kong)
MEGU NY（NY・JAPANESE DINING）
(Morita) Each design project is unique and will
never be the same. Like a tailor, we designers make what perfectly
fits the clients according to their order. While I place top
priority on requests from the business owners for whom I work,
I also believe that a successful design should make customers
and employees happy as well. I always simulate the viewpoints
of different people in different positions, imagining myself
being an owner, a customer, or a staff member, before I make
the final judgment as a designer on which plan should work best.
Carriere Hotel & Travel College (Kyoto, Japan)
Resona Bank (Tokyo, Japan)
(Morita) When I design, I do not use a pen until
I come up with a solid plan. I would go to a place like a cafe
on a busy street, rather than a quiet room, and build a mental
image of the space I am designing and then explore it thoroughly
in my mind. I examine every possible way of designing the space
by putting up imaginary concrete walls, placing counter tables,
or taking down other walls that are unnecessary. My first goal
of this process is to identify all the demerits of the target
space. My next step is to change those demerits into something
positive that I can add to the plan. I look for what I can do
with those demerits, or more precisely, what cannot be realized
without those demerits. Inevitably, I come to see what is necessary
and what is not through this process. For example, it may not
be effective to put up a sign for a shop on a hidden backstreet,
but it could still attract people by adding some luminous elements
to its exterior. As I clear this stage and find a way to change
disadvantages to advantages, I start seeing how I can make both
the business owner and his/her customers happy. However, I have
to come up with an original solution and not a copy of the rivals.
People from Kansai do not like to imitate someone else's ideas,
you know. You cannot beat the competition without the originality
that has never been seen before. With those problem-solving ideas
and project budget in mind, I begin to put materials together
to establish a concrete plan in my head. As the last step, I
add a twist to the design plan as a surprise to make people happy.
The twist has to be small and humorous, though. If I add a surprise
that is obvious and would make everyone point and laugh, people
will soon get bored of that design. My goal is always to create
a design plan that can be cherished for a long time.
TOKIA Building (corridor) (Tokyo, Japan)
Keifuku Arashiyama Station
(Morita) Today, the fields of designers' work
have become borderless. I myself have developed original furniture
lines, lighting fixtures, clocks, jewelry, and other products
in addition to interior designs. Whatever I design, however,
my idea is derived from the same basic thought: I want to create
it because I want it but can't find it. While our world is overflowing
with things today, it is often difficult for me to find exactly
what I am looking for to buy. When I can't find what I want,
I make it by myself. Since what I want changes at different times
and ages, I never run out of ideas of what I want to make. These
days I am interested in designing nursing homes and grave stones.
ORIGAMI CHAIR (CIBONE)
TRAVEL TRUNK, TRAVEL SOFA
(table/trunk, sofa) (BALS TOKYO)
(Morita) I have been inspired by many creators.
Among them, Master Tsurube (rakugo storyteller Shofukutei
Tsurube) is probably the one who takes a similar approach to
mine, although our fields are quite different. He is a real professional.
He can be so witty and so cool at the same time without going
over the edge. He never fails to recognize the feelings of others--he
would deliver racy jokes to young people while staying warm and
friendly to old people. He is modern and classical. In other
words, he has a "haute couture" style while performing rakugo and
chatting with fans. In the same sense, my wife (actress Mao Daichi)
has also been my inspiration and a person I respect. She is a
professional too, who knows how to express herself on a stage
based on her knowledge of the basics and traditions she has learned.
After I got married to her, my schedule became more oriented
to private time rather than work. If I am tired, I cannot make
a good design plan. My job is to make people happy, and to make
someone happy, I myself have to be happy first.
In recent projects, I especially enjoyed working with custom painter Masataka
Kurashina from Tokyo and painter Gaku Azuma from Kansai. It is often said that
the people of Kansai, myself included, tend to have a strong personal character.
I think it is because many of us are honest and straightforward. I believe what
you naturally have is most important for creative work. I know that straightforwardness
can sometimes cause misunderstandings, but this is how we Kansai people live.
April 16, 2008
Born in 1967 in Osaka, Yasumichi Morita accumulated experience
as freelance before he was appointed as chief designer
at Imagine, Inc. He established Morita Yasumichi Design
Office in 1996 and reorganized it into GLAMOROUS co.,
ltd. in June 2000. Starting with a project in Hong Kong
in 2001, Morita has continuously expanded his activities
overseas, including New York, London, and Shanghai. In
addition to interior design, Morita works in diverse
areas of creation, including graphic and product design
Yoshimi works as a copywriter and interviewer and runs her own
office, Canariya Company. In collaboration with a talent agency,
Yellow Cab WEST, Yoshimi just launched a new project, "Bunkajin," to
support cultural figures in the Kansai region with their activities,
mainly in casting and producing.