5 Concepts to Improve Your Design the Japanese Way

Japanese Design: Double HappinessI've always been drawn to the Japanese culture. In fact, as I sit writing this article, I'm "watching" The Last Samurai, which wasn't even planned. Talk about inspiration!

The foundations of Japanese life are steeped in the tradition of values, attitudes and the skills that are passed down from their ancestors. No separation is made for art and life.

Japanese design plays a role in their everyday life as it is part of their philosophy and primary pillars of their culture.

Here are 5 conceptual terms that will improve your work:

  1. Kaizen:
    a deep-seated compulsion to strive for perfection in the quality of the design, its functionality and the quality of the piece itself. In order to achieve kaizen, the Japanese believed in the intensive master (Meisho)-apprentice (Deshi) approach in order to seek continuous improvement.

    Seek to continuously improve your work through a coach, teacher or mentor. Never stop studying your art.

  2. Shizenbi:
    the belief that all things in nature have spirits. All things are connected by energy including the materials used in your work and the tools with which they are created. To view each element of your work as holding and carrying energy can change the way you hold the tool, use the tool and the energy you pass along to your creations.

    Put your love and energy into your work. Make each mark deliberate and a tool of communication.

  3. Kanjo Ni Uttaeru:
    to appeal to the emotions. In the Japanese culture emotions are fostered even in grown men. To express your emotions is an honorable trait.

    Express your emotion through your work and it will make you a better artist. You'll connect with the viewer and your story will be heard.

  4. Kanso:
    keep things plain and simple. Reducing designs to their essence is seen as strength of character.

    Edit your work and create strong designs that don't require needless ornamentation. More is just more. It is distracting and causes confusion.

  5. Wabi Sabi:
    simplicity and tranquility combined with honor and respect for the process of life. Sabi is connected to the design concepts asymmetry and austerity. It suggests the viewer fill in the image and complete the surprise. Wabi is translated as rustic simplicity and an understated simplicity.

Incorporate the art of imperfection and age in your work. Doing things imperfectly perfect, is as it should be.

Don't forget to leave a comment and get entered to win a F*R*E*E give-away from Whole Lotta Whimsy! Drawing is July 30th, 2012!

25 Responses to 5 Concepts to Improve Your Design the Japanese Way

  1. These all make sense to me. Thanks for setting the principles out like this, makes it easier to consciously think about them.

  2. always inspirational! I have found that truly you need to sometimes walk away from your work and let it be. My best designs have come from the most simplist ideas. I have a bad habit of adding and adding and then giving up. If I just let it be I'd be much happier with the results.

  3. as usual very inspirational- and these are concepts that can be carried over into everyday life- though I do have a habit of over-elaborating things which needs to be curbed at times especially at design stage- I have books of unworkable designs- but I have learned now to look-at, rework and sometimes take parts from the elaborate design-pieces to become simpler and beautiful pieces- which have also come from what at an earlier time I would have considered mistakes and now view as new opportunities

  4. I've heard about Wabi Sabi several times over the past months, but not these other four concepts. This is going up on my studio whiteboard! Thanks Tonya!

  5. The Japanese culture has such a beautiful way of thinking about every aspect of daily life.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thankyou, Tonya, for this wise inspiration.
    My sister, thinking that I had unused artistic talent, challenged me to keep and art journal…
    After a sluggish start I started seeing the beauty of the world around me and this inspiration slowly lead to a desire to create…something…
    I finally settled, happily, onto metalsmithing and enameling.
    I think over-doing a piece has often been due to my desire for perfection. But by continuing to study and learn techniques the creation process has become more streamlined.
    My learning how design and function go hand in hand has also been a learning process.
    For instance, learning to make a pair of earrings that flatter the face and do not strain the earlobe…
    I respect (and sometime cherish…) the tools I’ve obtained, some new, some old with a history. I never thought I’d be so thrilled over a finely manufactured file. This file required a close quality control that, after having used “okay” files for so long, was very obvious with my first use.
    Had this file been the first file I ever used I would not have understood what I held in my hand. This file had “spirit”.
    This path, my sister pushed me onto, has lead me to beloved artist friends, teachers and a studio that I can find timeless serenity.

  7. I used to think that wabi sabi was just an excuse for my 'less than perfect' things – as I get older, ahem, more 'experienced' I appreciate it more as a philosophy for life. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

  8. I learned long ago that I am always doing the best I can do. Sometimes that "best" is better than at other times, but it is always the best I can do at that given time. This allows me to accept myself and not berate myself for not having done better. Whether we realize it or not, we are always doing the best we can do. Be kind to yourself. You are perfect and your work is perfect.

  9. It is so easy to often mistake complexity for beauty. I somehow end up taking up the most complex design to work on which takes too much procrastination and too much time. Thanks for reminding me that beauty lies in the most simple things and anything executed with utmost sincerity would be beautiful :)

  10. Years ago our business had the word Kaizen in it based on those principals!

    In my lampwork glass art now, it is all about PPP—practice, practice, practice!!

    Thanks for all your amazing info and tips Tonya–hope to see you in Seattle with the ISGB!

    Smiles, Sheri

  11. Wonderful, wonderful!! Almost such as the childlike approach – untainted and simplistic. Outside influences and resitance removed, all energies flow freely and properly to a common result that is spiritually rewarding, liberating and a sense of completeness.

  12. Ancient wisdom seems so simple yet powerful. So easily overlooked in our fast ‘more is better’ society.

  13. As always your posts get the juices flowing – confirming some and developing other areas.
    Thank you Tonya.

  14. It seems that my Wabi Sabi sucesses occur when I have pushed the boundaries past perfection and ended up with very happy accidents, little gifts from above. Thanks for your insights.

  15. Once again, thank you, Tonya, for added-value. I have always admired the simplicity and beauty of Japanese art and culture. My gardens reflect this feeling of beauty and serenity and I strive for this in my art. Less is more! Shizenbi, Kanso, Wabi Sabi are my favorites. Thanks for giving me the words and their essence. It is now posted on my studio wall to help me stay focused as in Follow One Course Until Successful!

  16. Very interesting. I would have not thought of thinking this way. Thanks for the inspiration.

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