Having lived in Japan and understanding how people live, it doesn’t surprise me how innovative and demanding people can be when they want a certain product that has X, Y & Z features and looks like ABC. In an island nation where something like 80% of the population live on 20% of the land, life can be crowded. In smaller quarters and a more mobile lifestyle, people look to products that are multi-functional, make the most use of limited space, but are also aesthetically pleasing. Like a hybrid conventional oven/microwave oven and futon sofabeds. And while there is a perspective outside Japan of the Japanese as a people who prefer to “fit in” to society (this perspective exists in Japan as well), most people still have both a creative streak and a desire to express their own individuality.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to come across Elephant Design/Cuusso Seikatsu (which means “imagination life”). The Tokyo-based online service brings people with customized needs, designers, and manufacturers together to “democratize innovation” (to borrow from the title of Eric von Hippel’s book). In this way, users take part in product development by contributing their innovation and feedback to the virtual marketplace of Cuusso Seikatsu and successful designs are brought into production.
Take a look at some of the designs that have gone through the process – an Oyako Table (single unit table and chairs for a parent and child), a portable light, a cooking heater, a Tetris sofa, and one that’s yet to be brought into production – a washing machine that also serves as a glowing, vibrating tubular seat! Now that’s some imagination.