kenya hara at the architecture for dogs exhibition
portrait © designboom



kenya hara was born in tokyo 1958. he graduated from the musashino art university in 1983 with a master’s degree in design and soon after, joined the nippon design centre. in 1991, he founded his current practice, hara design institute. hara is the author of several notable books on design and has curated several highly acclaimed exhibitions. he has been the art director of muji since 2002 and is the current president of the japan graphic designers association. designboom asked him about his work and influences…



designboom: do you remember the instance that made you want to become a designer?
kenya hara: I liked the concept of design, and aspired to become a person who lives on friendly terms with design. I don’t like the ‘er’ of ‘designer’, but over time, I seem to have gotten used to it.



architecture for dogs
see our report »



DB: how would you describe your approach to design?
KH: I visualize the supposition ‘it might have been’.
I produce awakenings and realizations.



the bolero-esque development of D-TUNNEL
architecture for dogs




DB: what would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed it?




KH: discovering and verbalizing the issues of our day: things like ‘re-design’, ‘haptic’, ‘senseware’, ‘ex-formation’ and ‘architecture for ….’.


that is to say, the design of circumstances, rather than objects. I have authored books and produced a great number of exhibitions, and thus have become skilled in the use of words and familiar with the editor’s perspective.

senseware exhibition at the milan triennale
see our report »




DB: what criteria do you judge your work by and how do you meet your own high expectations?
KH: by consistently embracing and incubating a piece of work, I think, ‘I don’t want to die before finishing this’. if one practices this way of thinking, something like a standard naturally comes to be.


a hat made for chocolate





DB: which person, project or product recently challenged your personal views?
KH: I’ve done muji’s art direction since 2002. muji is no product-creation project, but one of aesthetic sensibilities and inspirational power. by pruning away the useless or extraneous, we create something that surpasses the gorgeous. the question is how to make use of the influence of this simple idea. I feel that through this work, I’ve thought a great deal, and managed to mature.

muji poster





DB: what are you currently fascinated by and how is it influencing your work?
KH: I found out that the root word of mathematics, ‘mathematica’, means, ‘to review or rethink what you already know’, and thus I’m being influenced anew by mathematics itself.

packaging for ‘ispahan’ cake by pierre hermé paris





DB: what do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
KH: I wish I’d known that the only time you’ll have in your life to get your driver’s license is when you’re a student.



‘smiling vehicle’ from senseware exhibition, 2009
nissan motors design center + hara design institute




DB: what’s your personal motto?
KH: the right hand does the right hand’s work, the left hand does the left hand’s work.




books by kenya hara