Creator Conversations
Yasuko Furukawa

Nowadays, design is often defined as something that solves people’s problems. But we would like to show an aspect of design that is not just about ease of use and functionality.

Stationed in the world's most populous metropolis, YOY studio embodies what makes Tokyo a continual epicenter of forward-thinking design. Embodying their design theme of “between space and object”, founders Naoki Ono and Yuki Yamamoto, create works that manages to dance the line between minimally-designed and mildly mischievous.

Their collection of work often requires the viewer to pause and reflect on how we interact with everyday objects. It’s a look at how imaginative creativity can transform perspective. YOY’s masterful designs give the illusion of simplicity, but on closer examination, showcase their wildly inventive exploration of the ordinary.

We interviewed the duo to get a deeper look at their influences, creative process, and their work ethic.

How does the design process begin for you?

We usually start creating our ideas with sketching, 3D modelling, and spending time in Photoshop. When we find some ideas that we think are interesting, we talk them through about why they are interesting. When are we are both confident with the idea, we begin the design process to realise it.

Working in tandem can be a challenge for some teams. Who do you delegate design?

We always talk with each other until both feel convinced about a particular design.

So much of your work seems to force the user to alter their perspective. Is that by design?

We are interested in “errors” that occur in perception. So we tend to think of ideas that make perception errors. For us, design and ideas are different. Design is a means to realise an idea as ideal as possible.

Tokyo continues to be a major hub of creativity. How does the city influence your design practice?

It’s the people within the city who are most inspiring as there are a lot of designers and other creators in Tokyo. We often have many opportunities to meet and talk with them.

Many of your designs play with light and shadow. What inspired you towards this interplay?

Shadows are always following light. So we like the idea that controlling the behaviour of light is actually controlling the behaviour of shadow.

How do you want people to interact with your designs?

We would like people to have fun with our products. Not only design-conscious people but ordinary people, whether it be children to the elderly.

Often, the more simple the design, the longer the creative process. Have you found that to be true?

Yes, it’s not a fast process. We make a lot of samples to find the ideal shape and structure for the idea.

We are enthralled with how you use materials, like the concrete and metal used for the brilliant SOLIDITY stool. What role do materials play in your design process?

Ideas are always first. We think of materials when we start thinking of how to realise the idea. With regard to the SOLIDITY design, concrete texture was the key material for the idea.

Light seems to be a focus of many of your pieces. For instance, PAINT is a masterful interplay of both LED and canvas. What inspired it?

Yes. We love light. Because for us light is a material for expression as well as a functional tool to illuminate a space.

Do you each have a project that you are especially proud of?

We both love PEEL. It was our first project and we think it embodies the identity of YOY as a design studio.

Is if fair to say that there is a playful element to your work? Pieces like the PROTRUDE tray come to mind. It's utilitarian and with to touch of danger.

Playfulness is one of YOY’s identifiers, yes. We want our designs to go beyond the functional use and aesthetic. We want people to have fun with them.

The interactive nature of your work is truly on display with the SHELF series. How was it conceived?

SHELF was made for YOY’s exhibition called “EXISTENCE” focusing on the phenomenon to perceive that something exists when it actually doesn’t. In SHELF, we wanted to take advantage of the visual completion effect, the objects are placed in mid air at an even level to create the perception of a shelf that doesn't exist.

We often find that designers are answering a set of questions with their creations. What questions are you answering with yours?

Nowadays, “design” is often defined as something that solves people’s problems. But we would like to show an aspect of design that is not just about ease of use and functionality. We want to design objects that people can connect with on a more emotional level and use their imagination.

When you are not in your studio, where do you enjoy spending your time?

At home reading (Manga) comics.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

At home. We think of ideas looking at where a product might be installed, such as walls, ceilings, and floors.

In the shop