unliked – the UNLIKE DESIGN CO. blog

remembering kaplicky

Posted in Web by unliked on August 22, 2016



Reading or listening to interviews are a great way of peering into the great minds of design and architecture. Some words and phrases have a habit of sticking around for years if not decades. I found this little gem in The Observer (2002) – an interview with Jan Kaplicky. The name first registered in my mind only upon his sudden passing in 2009. Upto a few years before that, he was a partner at his firm Future Systems – famous for the design of the Marni store, the Media Centre at Lords, the Selfridges Birmingham department store and much more.

In this piece, he speaks in a reassuring and inspiring tone, much like the old Milanese architects who saw no boundaries between buildings and objects – from spoons to cities as one of them said. Personally, I like to believe that categorisation within the creative profession is as fragile an idea as the boundaries of creativity itself. Given the first chance, it shall be broken.

We’re anatomically designed to stretch beyond our immediate footprint. The mind as head and processor stays at a relatively stable centre, but the arms reach out to touch and connect as the legs walk and run exploring new surfaces. Tim Brown of IDEO calls it ‘T-shaped’ skills. Paul Rand did contradict, though I doubt he will in a present day scenario. He said – “a student whose mind is cluttered with matters that have nothing directly to do with design… is a bewildered student.”

That said, here is the interview with Jan Kaplicky:

“The world is full of beautiful things, and you have to be observant as an architect – if not, you are in trouble. Creativity is everywhere. I don’t collect beautiful pieces of design, but I do collect airmail stickers, which I find fascinating: how they differ over the years and the energy that goes into them.


zlin for alessi


I come into the office every day. I like to arrive at 8am, as this is a very peaceful period when I can think about things before the usual routine starts and other people arrive. The weekends are even better, because there are no distractions.

The initial idea for a job comes to me literally just like that sometimes, and if that first idea is good then you are on the right track. It’s not a sign of creativity to have 65 ideas for one problem, that’s just a waste of energy.

I also don’t think you need to go anywhere particular to be creative; people just use that as an excuse. But I do think a lot of creativity depends on your relationships with other people, your personal relationships, your partner or whatever. Your personal happiness or unhappiness comes out in your work, it’s a reflection of your emotional state and you can’t separate the two.


ferrari museum detail


Architecture is generally presented by one name, but it’s a fantasy and very 19th-century to claim it is a one-man product. A lot depends on the people you have around you and how good they are. There are the structural engineers, environmental engineers, modelmakers, photographers – as well as the guy in Italy who polished the steel for the tower we’re presenting at the Venice Biennale this year – if he doesn’t do a good job, then you have a badly polished piece of steel.

The biggest mistake is underestimating the small product. It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a coffee cup or a 25,000sqm building – the principles of design are the same, it’s just a matter of scale. I think perhaps my favourite creation is the Media Centre. It is something which was revolutionary in many areas – a real technical achievement – but above all, the people operating inside it have said: ‘We love it,’ and that’s great.”

September 22, 2002 / Kate Mikhail / The Observer

Photos: Selfridges Store, Tony Hisgett / Zlin Cutlery for Alessi, Dezeen / Detail from Ferrari Museum, Dezeen.


hikari 465 to nagoya

Posted in 1, General by unliked on September 15, 2013


Satisfying the craving for a long overdue mind boost, we took off to Japan for three weeks over July and August. Nine cities, seventeen express trains, eight bullet trains, six flights, six buses, two trams, one ferry, countless metro and monorail rides later, we quite literally ran out of memory space – absorbing and living the design and culture planet that Japan is.




One of the most memorable highlights of Japan was visiting Nagoya and its museums. Nagoya is an official UNESCO certified ‘City of Design’. If you look carefully, the design language is all around – from manhole covers that are a bit more interesting to the choice of doorbells and letterboxes. I first heard of Nagoya back in 2000 at design school because of the Nagoya Design Do! competition – held every two years and always themed on the softer meaningful aspects of design. One of the reasons Nagoya featured big on our plans.



Noritake garden was the first on our list – a carefully preserved and well groomed remnant of the old Noritake ceramics factory. Amidst the loud but strangely pleasant cicada sounds of the typical Japanese summer, we found our way to the beautiful gardens amidst which the old factory, gallery, museum and craft center are set.





We had a fantastic time at the craft center – learning the never-before things about slip casting, the making of a Noritake product, surface ornamentation techniques and even viewing a century old collection of Noritake plates.




At Noritake Celabo, we saw the various applications of modern day ceramics – from circuit boards to fluorescent displays to grinding surgical needles and blades. They didn’t allow us to shoot inside, but that only made the brain take better notes.




Richer from the previous days ceramic experience, we moved on to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. Of course we expected this to be about automobiles, but that really isn’t so. Toyota began as Toyoda – and Sakichi Toyoda, the man behind it all, was the inventor of the first automatic power loom. It was his son, Kiichiro Toyoda, who eventually led the way to Toyota the way we know it now.



And so the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is divided into two main sections – the textile pavilion and the automobile pavilion. We started with the textile pavilion and in the few hours we spent there, saw a beautifully put together timeline of weaving and loom technology over the past century.




From Gandhi’s charkha to Sakichi Toyoda’s Model G loom (the first automatic) to rapier looms to faster-than-the-speed-of-thought water jet looms, the museum surpasses its ingrained ability to educate both the informed as well as the casual visitor. The staff struggle a bit with their English, but they don’t let that come in the way of ensuring your complete and thorough understanding of what you see.




At some point in between the several riveting demonstrations, we couldn’t help but think of the situation back in current day industrial India, where most large corporations either don’t have the intention to share and educate of their work processes or never think of it as important enough to spend their profits on.





In the transition area between the textile and the automobile pavilion, there is a in-process model of Kiichiro Toyoda’s first car and the first Toyota ever – the Standard Sedan Model AA. It is displayed amidst a replica of the workshop where the first one was engineered for production. Nearby, there is a storage cabinet from those early years, a subtle visual reminder of Japanese work culture.





The automobile pavilion was no less than the textile pavilion in its open-ness to lay bare the materials and processes that go into the making of a Toyota automobile, or any automobile for that matter.





At the press of a button (and there are hundreds of them over the gargantuan exhibition hall), robotic arms, lights, motors and assembly lines come alive to demonstrate their contribution to car making, with signature Japanese pride.

If only Indian design institutes sponsored trips to such museums as official curriculum. And how much nicer if Indian industry opened up their rusty factory doors to the general public.

As for us, over these two fabulous days of educative brain bombing, we realised how important it is to stay close to factories and workshops, to keep our hands dirty and to keep alive the spirit of ‘making’. Even if we have to travel to Japan for it.

(Over the next few days in Japan, we visited the International Manga Museum at Kyoto and the Peace Memorial Museum at Hiroshima / Tickets for the Noritake Craft Center and the Toyota CMIT can be purchased as a combination at a special price of ¥ 800)

All Photographs © Unlike Design Co.

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