This year, I traveled around East Asia and Europe many times, so I got lots of input during my travels. The development of China in particular surprised me. The quality of their products was astonishing, the application of IT to their daily lives was aggressive and forward-looking. In addition, they’re coming up with ideas by taking into consideration the user’s point of view, creating eye-opening designs, and the direction of their products is now moving in the same direction as Japan’s. There are more attractive products now.
Yet, the quality, specs and technology of Japanese products are still among the world’s best. However, these days Japanese companies might be overly sensitive to their users’ opinions. It seems they’re obsessed by the market. That is, they are focusing on function or specs to satisfy their users. Because of this, product itself is unattractive and mediocre. You can say it’s ‘an excellent tool,’ but it’s not unique and instead becomes uninteresting.
What is the goal of product making in Japan? That’s a bit open to question. Isn’t the goal to achieve functionality and specs, and to satisfy various users’ needs?
For example, when it comes to cameras, the aim of technical achievement becomes a measure of the product’s completion. That’s OK in a way. I don’t want to negate the importance of high functionality and specs because people always want new specs for their movie equipment. But most of those products don’t reflect the users/creators’ feelings or their taste, I feel.
The products that are used to create something become part of that creator’s style through continuous use. So it’s significant that they like those products. If technical achievement were the only goal, it would be expendable…
This September, ARRI (Arnold & Richter) celebrated its 100th anniversary, and commemoration parties were held all over the world in Europe, Asia and Holloywood. I saw the company being celebrated by the world’s filmmakers. Of course, there are great products from other makers, but the celebration proved how big the presence of ARRI is in the movie industry. Their products, which continue to be part of the movie-making industry, reflect both pride and trust, and serve to solidify their position in the business. Plus, since many people are involved on set in proportion to the scale of production, what is more important than multiple functions or diversity is simplicity and ease of use, something that makes people want to use a particular camera. ARRI is well aware of this.
ARRI has continued to make an effort ‘to carve out the allure of the products,’ which is the most important thing when designing a product. Have Japanese companies lost sight of this process somewhere along the way? Are they forgetting what is most important? It looks like the allure of Japanese products is fading, so I hope Japanese companies will return to their original approach to product making, which used to be their specialty before products from other nations started developing and surpassing them.