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Nendo – “hypercreative” design from Tokyo

The man behind the Nendo name is the prolific Japanese designer Oki Sato. Each year, hundreds of his creations are put on display at interior and design fairs all over the world – so it’s little wonder that renowned manufacturers from Cappellini to Kartell have picked up on and used Sato’s designs. Oki Sato and Nendo were recently named as “Designer of the Year” for 2019 at imm Cologne. Sato takes over the title from Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, who won the award in 2018.

Nendo: Flexible like modelling clay

Sato’s career has been relatively unspectacular and straightforward:

Born in 1977 in Toronto, he founded design studio Nendo in 2002 after completing his architecture degree at Waseda University in Tokyo. In 2005, he expanded his business by opening an office in the Italian design capital of Milan. Nendo is Japanese for “modelling clay”, and Sato put a great deal of thought into the name: His studio is named not after the material itself, but after the properties it possesses. Its flexibility and limitless capacity to be shaped, formed and remoulded fascinates Oki Sato and symbolises creativity. Like clay, thoughts can be reformed and are infinitely flexible.

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Creativity: “Akin to breathing or eating”

The endless creativity of the man behind Nendo is evident in the designs the studio produces: Sato develops over a hundred pieces a year with his 40-strong team, including graphics, art installations and architectural designs. Oki Sato discussed his seemingly unending supply of creative inspiration in an interview as being “akin to breathing or eating”. And he is not afraid of running out of ideas either – in fact, the opposite is true. Sato says that the more concepts he comes up with, the freer he feels. The diversity of his work is what gives him this sense of freedom. Sato’s designs are not conceived solely with functionality in mind. They also represent emotions and combine clear, distinct shapes with playful details that tell a story.

From household objects and unusual home accessories to entire homes, Nendo produces minimalist Asian design with a passion for detail. The diversity of his designs is matched by the Japanese label’s varied customer portfolio:

Fritz Hansen, Foscarini, Kartell, Louis Poulsen, Moroso and Cappellini are just a few of the huge names who employ Nendo as a designer.

New designs from Nendo

In 2018, Nendo released his Waku mirror collection for Cappellini at Salone del Mobile in Milan. The floor-standing and wall mirrors all feature delicate lines and a multifunctional design. Their sophisticated finish, elegant frame and refined shapes are a statement in contemporary design. The N01™ chair for Republic of Fritz Hansen also features strong, clear lines and was first presented in Milan in 2018. The wooden chair combines minimalist design and a traditional Japanese aesthetic with natural shapes to produce an eye-catching piece for the office, dining room or living room. For Flos, Nendo developed the cult lamp “Gaku”. Gaku is Japanese for “frame”, a reference to the frame in which the lamp is held by a magnet. The user can reposition the light anywhere in the frame, making the Gaku lamp a useful everyday light source and a stylish art piece in one.

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Design meets technology

Nendo’s designs all rely on creative and cutting-edge development processes. As early as 2015, Oki Sato said that 3D-printing was already an integral and critical part of his design process. The creative minds at Nendo know that modern product design always goes hand in hand with the latest technology. Designs are emailed back and forth between Tokyo and Milan and can be 3D-printed at either end; the company never needs to worry about shipping costs or customs charges.

Honouring one of the world’s “leading creatives”

As one of the key figures on the contemporary design scene, Sato and his design office Nendo were awarded the title of “Designer of the Year” for 2019 at imm Cologne. The jury described Oki Sato as a “designer who effortlessly combines commercial, functional, experimental and poetic design and whose work and installations have advanced him to the position of one of the leading creatives of our time”.

We are really pleased to see the work of this young “hypercreative” recognised, and we agree wholeheartedly with the jury’s verdict. What do you think?

Are you familiar with the Nendo design label? Let us know in the comments.

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