Japanese designer Oki Sato brings minimalist designs to life to wow with a flair of humor.
His designs continue to find popularity around the world, and we wanted to look deeper into his award winning mindset.
Photography: Shuya Nakano

Sato established Nendo the same year he completed his studies in 2002. Since then, he has drawn numerous design awards and much media attention, including magazine, newspaper, and television features.

Last year marked the 15th anniversary of his company, and he was holding his largest exhibition to date,
Nendo: Invisible Outlines at the CIDGrand-Hornu complex in Belgium.
Sato has also recently completed his first public facility project CoFuFun in front of Nara Prefecture’s Tenri Station. His career continues to build momentum.

“I’m glad my career is growing, although it’s not only through Nendo. I feel that the definition of design has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. It used to be that the biggest quality demanded from a designer was artistic and design sense. A brilliant designer was the one who could produce new and unique shapes, unlike
any other artist. However, it’s now necessary for designers to think in a wider sense, such as how to express a corporate message, a brand philosophy, and how to spread messages beyond producing products for a company.
Don’t you think?”

A designer must explore the challenges both behind the brand and its products
in addition to producing consumer goods. It’s not always finding the solution, says Sato, it’s often finding the problem that leads to a contemporary designer’s success.

“For example, how do we transform the complex and technical know-how of heavy industry manufacturers that don’t do business in consumer or general markets? As a designer, one faces a real test of strength with difficult themes such as this.”

Many designers work in a diverse spectrum of creativity from the tangible to the intangible while tackling a variety of topics and industries. Sato seems to do quite well in this new environment.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have the unique and rare artistic talent and sense of form to dazzle. Ninety-percent of Nendo’s design could probably be copied, but I’m meticulous about conveying the process clearly and meticulously.”

Thin, black lines look like a pen-drawn chair, and it changes when the viewer changes angles.
© Masayuki Hayashi

Thin, black lines look like a pen-drawn chair, and it changes when the viewer changes angles.
© Masayuki Hayashi

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