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Arts

Japan design guru Oki Sato keeps it simple

Inside Nendo, a meticulously minimalist Tokyo industrial design lab

  © Jun Okada

A lesser person might collapse under Oki Sato's workload. The 40-year-old head of Tokyo design studio Nendo works on dozens of projects simultaneously, has won multiple awards, written books and been the subject of several retrospective exhibitions. He has designed everything from shopping centres (Siam Discovery) to beer cans (Kinkura) and is in demand at home and abroad (half his clients are overseas).

Born in Toronto, Sato studied architecture at Waseda University in Tokyo before founding Nendo in 2002. Always accompanied by Kinako, his half-pug, half-chihuahua, he maintains a relentless pace, managing a studio of 30 designers in Tokyo and an office in Milan. His office in Akasaka is on the upper floor of a building designed by Kenzo Tange in 1977, the year Sato was born. Downstairs is a striking stone garden designed by Isamu Noguchi for the Sogetsu Ikebana School and a cafe designed and run by Nendo. Sato's output is unstoppable; he is a designer who is always moving forward, never sticking to one form or material, switching between products, furniture and, increasingly, architecture.

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