Osaka Brand Committee
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Yasumichi Morita
Yasumichi Morita
Ken Miki
Chiaki Murakami
Ryo Yamazaki
Biolgical field
Water city
Osaka Kaleidoscope
#3 (Design + Manufacturing + Distribution) x Producing = Good Design

Designing is a profession for serving people by producing their pleasures – Chiaki Murata

"METAPHYS" – Designer takes a new approach to distribute his brand and products in his own way

Chiaki Murata has designed and produced a variety of products that have somewhat humorous functions along with simple yet eye-catching design styles. His electric candle, for example, lights up when struck with a match-like stick and goes off when someone blows the "flame" out. A cordless cyclone vacuum cleaner stands up neatly in the corner of the room as if it were a fashionable piece of home decor. A humidifier takes the shape of a kettle and spouts out steam like a real kettle with boiling water. For his own brand, "METAPHYS," Murata skillfully designs his products so that each of them makes its presence clearly known. What is unique about METAPHYS is that its products are not produced by a single manufacturer; with collaboration from a number of supporting businesses, Murata designs, produces, and sells his products on his own, taking a new approach in product distribution.

"Designing is a profession for serving have done your job right only when you have made your public pleased"

The origin of the brand's name is metaphysics, a philosophic term for scholarship that studies basic principles to explain every existence. "I feel like my job as a designer is more like a profession for serving people," laughs Murata. "You've done your job right only when you have made your public pleased." Murata's ideal, "rosy" scenario is that he first creates a good design, which is then merchandised and marketed, and consumers happily buy and use the product, which eventually makes the manufacturer happy as well. In the past 20 years of his career, however, Murata has found that such an ideal as a designer is often unrealistic. He has experienced a number of cases into which he put time and effort to yield the best possible design that in turn never made it to an actual product. Why can't a good design be a good product? It had puzzled Murata for a long time until he came to think whether the existing distribution system might be the cause of the problem. Murata realized that a good product design never reaches consumers unless there is a good distribution system design. He believed if manufacturers and distributors are not able to create a good distribution system, then designers should be the ones who do the job. Based on this idea, Murata established METAPHYS, for which he, as the brand designer, leads the entire process of production from design to manufacturing and distribution. He began with several designs of prospective products, selected a target market for each, and held forums and orientations to recruit manufacturers who might be interested in making these new products. Soon he started receiving offers from manufacturers and distributors throughout the nation, which reversed his position as a designer from the one being chosen to the one who chooses. Since then, METAPHYS has successfully expanded its business nationwide, including its showroom and direct shop in Tokyo.

"Design by action": Observing carefully, discovering daily inconveniences and misunderstandings, and creating solutions

While based in Osaka, Chiaki Murata and his brand, METAPHYS, are far better recognized in the design industry both in Tokyo as well as in the rest of the world. To inspire his creative ideas, Murata again employs a unique method of his own. "For METAPHYS, I use my own designing approach that I call "design by action, which is obviously different from conventional design styles," says Murata. "Generally speaking, visual elements such as shapes and colors are considered as a top priority in the process of designing. Instead, I take a solution-business style approach: my design is defined by how we solve a target issue. The most important thing here is to determine problems, or "bugs," and this requires careful observations. When I make observations and am able to detect a bug, I have finished 80 percent of my work. The rest is for colors and shapes and other visual matters."
Let's think about the case of designing a hanger, for example. When you take off your business suit, would you take off the jacket first or the pants? Most people would answer that they would take off the jacket first. When Murata asked for a reason to those who answered the opposite, they said they would take the pants off first because it is hard to put them on a hanger if the jacket is already on it. This, in turn, indicates that most people who said they would take off the jacket first must be finding it difficult as well to hang the pants after the jacket. Here Murata finds a bug – a daily inconvenience to which nobody has really given thought to a possible solution. For METAPHYS, "design by action" in this case means to create a hanger on which the jacket can be hung first then the pants without difficulty. "My goal is to turn my small discoveries in everyday life to the products that inspire consumers' empathy, by adding a touch of humor," says Murata.

Showing the beauty of Japanese culture with an eco-friendly design: "Floating Lantern Project"

Murata is also known for his activities that concern the protection of the global environment. In addition to his eco-friendly designs, he serves as a director for an NPO called Eco Design Network. "We are using limited natural resources to make and consume things for our daily lives. As a creator and a producer of material things, I am keenly aware that my ethical views and responsibilities are under scrutiny," says Murata. As a future project that promotes environmental protection from Osaka, Murata has been drawing a plan for the "Floating Lantern Project." The project aims to encourage the revival of a tradition of floating lanterns, which has been discontinued and become rather rare nationwide because of environmental reasons. By making lanterns with water-soluble materials that won't harm the quality of water, Murata believes it is possible to preserve a long-cherished custom while protecting the natural environment. He hopes that the beautiful presentation of floating lanterns in the waterfront area will inspire more interest in environmental issues among the people of Osaka and that it also will attract businesses who wish to showcase their environmental concerns. Murata passionately tells us that the project can make a great event for the city's Water Capital campaign scheduled next year. "I believe this is a great way for Osaka city to show the world both the beauty of Japanese culture and our concerns for the global environment," says Murata, as he prepares for a presentation of the project to the city sometime soon.

February 13, 2008
Kana Yoshimi

ムラタチアキ プロフィール

With his motto "one design a day," Murata continues his own designing projects while working with sponsor companies to establish "Creator's Village," which provides presentation opportunities for young creators in Osaka.

Chiaki Murata is president and executive designer of hers experimental design laboratory inc. and METAPHYS.
Born in 1959, Murata worked for SANYO Electric Design Center and established hers experimental design laboratory in 1986. Murata has been actively and widely involved in the design industry, including graphic design and interface design in addition to his expertise area in product design. Murata has received the Good Design Award Golden Prize for the "3-direction shock recorder" (2001) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Prizes for an unmanned kite plane "Rescue System" (2005) and a round partition system "FALCE (by METAPHYS)" (2005). He has worked for international projects as well, including designing a console for Microsoft's Xbox 360 (2005). Murata has been appointed as a part-time instructor at Tama Art University, director of Osaka Sogo College of Design Laboratory, director of Japan Design Consultants Association, member of Japan Industrial Designers Association, and director of Eco Design Network. 

Author Profile
Kana Yoshimi
Yoshimi works as a copywriter and interviewer and runs her own office, Canariya Company. In collaboration with a talent agency, Yellow Cab WEST, Yoshimi just launched a new project, "Bunkajin," to support cultural figures in the Kansai region with their activities, mainly in casting and producing.