An early sketch of the Coppélia Chandelier designed by Arihiro Miyake and manufacturered by Moooi, showing an intricate 'bloom' of carefully detailed LEDs.

An early sketch of the Coppélia Chandelier designed by Arihiro Miyake and manufacturered by Moooi, showing an intricate 'bloom' of carefully detailed LEDs.

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Designer Arihiro Miyake is on the go. With a studio in Helsinki where he also teaches design at the University of Art and Design, any given week will find Miyake in Amsterdam with Moooi or in Milan visiting the many collaborators and manufacturers he works with, or in Japan working on a new interior. For designers who work with international clients, being nimble and close to all the action of the research and development departments is crucial for developing relationships that last.

This long term thinking is at the heart of Studio Arihiro Miyake. After completing studies in industrial design at Kobe University, Japan, Miyake moved to Finland to complete a Master's degree in furniture and spatial design at the Univeristy of Art and Design. It was there that he worked with IIkka Suppanen and Yrio Wiherheimo before opening the doors to his own studio in 2004. Today his collection of projects and clients include lights for Moooi, interiors including Tooth Tooth in Tokyo and Helsinki Bakery in Osaka where he also designed the identity, as well as research projects that combine Miyake's interest in cross-cultural exchange and his role at the Japan Finland Design Association. more space caught up with Arihiro Miyake via email to find out more bout his practice and design process, working with clients including Moooi, and what makes him tick as a designer...

What does a day in the life of Studio Arihiro Miyake look like, and how do you balance all of your projects?

Quite relaxed I would say… not like some years ago. I now have the environments to concentrate on developing projects very carefully, one by one. In other words, at this moment I do not have sleepless nights thinking about how to pay next month’s rent… Of course, inside my head, I am fighting against my own will and people’s expectations…. 😊 I always keep several design interests in my head and take them out one by one when the time comes.

How would you describe your design philosophy?

I do not have a specific philosophy. I just think as much as possible upon the subject I am curious about. 

Is there a moment, a process, a breakthrough or collaboration that has been most important in the development of your practice so far?

Mmmm… It is difficult to choose one. It took so long to reach where I am today and no one incident or one design has made me. I have a very limited number of clients at the moment and with each of them, I have a long and intensive relationship. As a result, I believe that I have been able to work on the projects that I really believe in, while designs today are often consumed only as a trend or a communication tool.

The unique point of working with Moooi is that everything starts with hand-drawn sketches... When Marcel and his team see something is interesting, all the developments start.... for me, it is a lot of fun working with Moooi.
— Arihiro Miyake, Studio Arihiro Miyake

Can you please describe the relationship you have with Moooi, and the process of working with the team on the two lights you have designed for them – Coppélia and Miyake?

The unique point of working with Moooi is that everything starts with hand-drawn sketches. They would like to see them before any further development, for example, the computer renderings. When Marcel and his team see something is interesting, all the developments start. Modelling, computer drawings, technical drawings and so on, all with their producer point of view. Then it goes into the hands of the product development team at Moooi. I suppose they would like the design to strongly reflect the personal touch and thoughts of each designer. They involve designers a lot for each products` promotional activities. So for me, it is a lot of fun working with Moooi.

 The Coppélia Chandelier designed by Arihiro Miyake and manufactured by Moooi has been hugely popular internationally and is one of Moooi's design success stoires.

The Coppélia Chandelier designed by Arihiro Miyake and manufactured by Moooi has been hugely popular internationally and is one of Moooi's design success stoires.

Are there any new projects for Moooi currently on the drawing board? 

I am proposing new ideas time by time, and also some extension ideas of past products. Including some ideas which have been developed to a certain stage but have not yet reached the final product. As a basic agreement, we are not allowed to talk about “what and when” until the last moment… I am sorry.

You have worked in design studios in Helsinki and Milan, what were some of the important lessons you learnt?

To keep thinking. Unlike school projects (tasks), in reality, product development easily goes on for 3 to 4 years before the product is on the market. Even the projects of super experienced master designers often come to a deadlock. In our profession, we must move on all the time! 

I understand you divide your time between both cities, how does that feed you creatively?  

Not only my base cities but travelling and meeting new people, they all lead me to new ideas I think.

 Miyake's ability to translate a design idea with a sketch – here his Miyake Lamp – has established a storng working relationship with Marcel Wanders and the team at Moooi.

Miyake's ability to translate a design idea with a sketch – here his Miyake Lamp – has established a storng working relationship with Marcel Wanders and the team at Moooi.

Who are the people who have had the most impact on you and your work, and how have they helped you develop?

An anaesthetist friend of mine who is working on 24-hour shifts at the ICU, taking care of her patients, helping them to wake and recover, I wish to learn about her mentality as a designer. Sounds strange? I guess you are asking for some designers or architects… 😊… but there are too many to mention.  

What design skills have you developed that you are most proud of?

The ability to keep thinking I suppose...

Do you do much experimentation with materials and how has that influenced and developed your design process?

Yes, when it is necessary when the main design idea is based on a specific material. With the development team of each company, we are always seeking the best benefit and use of all materials and their combinations. In the case of the lighting objects I design, we really study the LED parts to realise each design because that is the core interest of my ideas – how to make a new typology object with the latest LED technologies. The benefit of LED is that we can design the light source itself according to the design. Not like the past when we bought a lightbulb at the shop. 

 Arihiro Miyake's first lamp for Moooi was the Miyake launched in 2010.

Arihiro Miyake's first lamp for Moooi was the Miyake launched in 2010.

How involved do you get in the manufacturing process, is this an important part of the design process for you?

There is always better and more advanced knowledge from the craftsmen’s experiences and understanding of technologies than my experiences. However, my role as a designer is quite often to break the conventional understanding or rules. So I feel the innovation and significance of the products does rely on my communication skills. 

What do you enjoy about working with manufacturers, what are some of the key things you have learnt?

The importance of sharing the idea, then I can take the best from each person involved in the project.

In the case of the lighting objects I design, we really study the LED parts to realise each design because that is the core interest of my ideas...
— Arihiro Miyake, Studio Arihiro Miyake

What is your favourite stage of a project?

To see the first prototype model in my hand. In product design development there is a limit to foreseeing all of the facts on paper or on the computer. Seeing the prototype is the moment you know how far the design is from the result you are aiming for so it is an exciting, but also a nervous, stage for me. It is also the big moment when the whole team – design, marketing, communication, research and development – can share the idea.

What is one thing that you haven’t ever designed but would love to?

A lotto winning produce! No one knows what it will be… It is not only about comical value, but also a cultural value which affects the whole world and our lives. Like a camera, TV, washing machine, smartphone… more like inventions. Otherwise, my own house for my family… I haven’t designed that yet. 

Thank you Arihiro-san! 😊


The Coppélia Chandelier and Miyake Lamp are manufactured by Moooi, available exclusively from Space – Australia – and Space – Asia

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