Isao Hosoe has a bachelor of science and master's degree in aerospace engineering, and is a professor of Industrial Design at the Politecnico of Milan and the Universita degli Studi, La Sapienza of Rome.

Isao Hosoe Design focuses on consumer, equipment, lighting, research, environment, furniture, office, and transport, but uses no single design philosophy. There is "no Hosoe style."

— from www.ihd.it



  • IHD philosophical approach to design.
  • Design as F = f(culture, evolution, bricoleur, political economy, noise, vizdimezzo/the way of the middle, gesture, 4D, nomadism, sun)
  • Introduced projects: Mamma, Nuvoletta, Pallino, Portacenere Kartell, T1 Integral, Hebi, Onda, Tama, Dune, InterAct, Momotaro, Swing, Tacit Chair

Main Points

  • Design is explained to mean different things for different cultures. What is design for Italy may not be the same for Canada. Design will depend on the culture itself and will show up as different products and services with different styles and meanings.
  • From Hosoe's online published article, Design as Abduction, he describes design as American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce's abduction . There are three ways to implement abduction: bricolage, play/games, and the exercise of folly.
    • Hosoe explains how instead of traditionally "designing" the Hebi lamp, his curiosity in different materials helped him combined ready-made objects into a new product. \A bricoleur doesn't invent anything, but immediately understands that if he puts something he's found next to another one of his discoveries, then this will produce an interesting relationship? (Design as Abduction).
    • The second type of abduction depends on simple rules and may be explained as mental exercises associated with corporeal movements. Repetitions sometimes leads to mistakes and these incidents can become opportunities for abduction.
    • Folly, the last kind of abduction, is thinking so far outside of the box that the box appears to be a dot in the horizon. By doing so, something new and truly novel may arise.
  • Like the "Italian Design Process" other design firms promote, in which deadlines are not emphasized but the quality of work and satisfaction are, Hosoe also suggests that it is difficult to see the arrival of the end of a project. In any case, one must enjoy the process and be aware that such problems exist for novel kind of work. To innovate takes time.
  • Referring to the InterAct office desk system. Meaningful design now extends to consider psychological or cultural needs. Only through ethnographical research may these needs, which often appear small and ordinary, be observed and noted to have significance to the potential users. Design is not simply something that has visual aesthetics and functionality, but runs deeper past the human conscious into the subconscious.
  • The design process must include not only the rational thought and traditionally established design steps, but be open to emotions, memories, and experience. In some ways, this is distancing design from a science discipline and bringing it closer to the field of arts, where an artist is inspired by and begins from human feelings and thought.


Isao Hosoe is a designer interested in the philosophical side of design. His process includes seeing innovation as a form of Abduction, understanding design as an art, and focusing on users' idiosyncratic needs.


No Absolute Design [clip 1]

First of all, design is a very relative thing. It depends on the culture in which it is consumed. Absolute design, there is not. No design is absolute. All design work is relative. So it depends on the culture and that's I think the fundamental thing to understand about design. So there is no absolute design. Design is only relative to the culture in which it is consumed.

Design as Abduction: Bricolage, Play, and Folly [clip 1, 2, 3, 4]

If you have to invent something, if you have to do something which has never existed before, you can not use always the continuity of thinking. And you need to jump. But where do you arrive. Reach. You are not sure. You have to do it. That part of inference is called abduction.

...what bricoleur is, is a person who makes a bricolage. This is also one of the abduction methods and a very strong tool for design. This is called the Hebi lamp. Hebi means snake in the Japanese language. 1 meter and 50. In reality I have never designed this. I mean I have no technical drawings or sketches of this lamp.

...Play is a very banal word but is not so banal. You don't know why we play for example. You don't play for necessity, for example. You don't play to get money but you play? not only children? you need to use your body for example to make this kind of movement. When I'm in difficulty to find out something, to invent some new concept. I take the principle and begin to go around without thinking. Then this becomes very rapid, rapid, more rapid, and what happens is you may make some error.

Italian Design [clip 1]

How many time we have to change, we have to modify the project, that is the very difficult side of this kind of novelty work. Because you don't know when you arrive and you don't know how to break this kind of process. So it's one of the very practical problems. It is not so easy to preview the time necessary, the money you have to ask, etc. etc. In any case, you enjoy in doing so.

Meeting Psychological Needs [clip 1]

One of the team went out to the city and knocked on a lot of company office doors asking the workers what is lacking. 'What do you need for your office ambient?' And many people replied, 'we need windows.' 'But you have the windows here.' But we can not open it when I want. And it is true. In very high skyscrapers, there is no technically possibility to open it, or as you like to interact with the opening and closing of the window. And air conditioning is very democratic, the same condition for all the people. If you feel it's warmer or cooler---no. Very democratic. So probably there is not a physiological necessity but some kind of psychological or cultural necessity,to open or to feel the exterior. The air. Just to touch the air. The possibility to open it. It's a small thing physically.

Design as Artist [clip 1]

If you need to discovery something, a new combination or to find out something never seen, you need to use not only the rational side of your capacity, thinking capacity, but also the emotional, also the experience of your memory, the far memory, using all human capacity. This can be called tacit knowledge. So it is not explicit knowledge where you can write. Etc. but tacit knowledge not always can be described in a rational way