At Design Indaba, Naoto Fukasawa showed us how to look at and listen, and find the secrets of body intelligence.

Observing what every person already knows, thinks and does. That’s at the very heart of good design and communication, as we learned from a host of speakers at this year’s Design Indaba. Chief among them: graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, interaction designer Jake Barton and, the subject of today’s blog, Naoto Fukasawa.

Fukasawa, a prolific product designer from Japan, told the audience about what he calls ‘body intelligence’, which informs his design work. Body intelligence is the natural way our bodies automatically engage with the objects around us for all sorts of mundane, everyday reasons.

Case in point: a person waiting for a bus hangs a plastic bag from the handle of his umbrella almost without thinking, freeing one hand in the process. All the designer needs to do is add a teeny-weeny protrusion to the handle to facilitate this human gesture and prevent the bag from slipping off.

Fukasawa also showed his design for a fan inspired by the ventilation grooves we all recognize from locker doors. We instinctively and immediately associate such slits with air supply. The product needs no explanation, since we naturally understand its function. Our ‘body intelligence’ tells us what it does.

Go through Fukasawa’s body of work and we find countless examples of archetypal, aesthetic and above all simple designs for lamps, chairs, tables, packaging, electrical items and more. Fukasawa make objects we instinctively know how to use. No need to read the enclosed instructions.

Tomorrow: looking and listening with Jake Barton

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