Balmuda – The Japanese Brand Designing Happiness

22 October 2018

Balmuda turn every-day home appliances – the humble toaster, the lamp, the humidifier, the kettle – into sexy, aspirational products that bring joy to people’s lives, win countless awards and drive one hell of a premium. Looking at their products, we can’t help but be reminded of Dieter Rams and his famous ethos: ‘Less, but better.’

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Based in Tokyo, Balmuda was founded in 2003 by CEO Gen Terao. But it really became the product design brand it is today in 2010 with the release of The Green Fan. Visualising a fan that produces a truly natural feeling breeze, the team took the most basic of products and, with an intense attention to detail and a sleek Japanese minimalist design, created something utterly innovative. It was a real feat of design and engineering, and phenomenal attention to detail. And it catapulted Balmuda as a company, who now boast sales of 8.9 billion yen (68 million euros).

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‘How can we make people happy? That’s all I think about,’ says Terao. His approach to design is based on the belief that happiness is the little moments of pleasure in your day that put a smile on your face ( a very Japanese thing indeed). And Terao’s mission is to create as many of these little moments as he possibly can. A good night’s sleep on a hot summer night. A kettle that feels profoundly at home in your hand. The perfect slice of toast to start your day off right.

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It turns out people value happiness – and are willing to pay for it. Balmuda are proof that intelligent design and clean branding can drive a major premium if it brings pleasure to people’s lives. Take the humble toaster, for which Balmuda charge a whopping €180. Terao went to his team with one instruction: ‘to design a toaster that makes the best toast in the world.’ Six months, one barbecue epiphany, a steam-based revelation, a whole team of engineers, a purposeful appeal (through minute details like the sound of the timer and the way the heating elements light up) to all five sense, and 5,000 slices of toast later, and what do you have? You have something that utilizes truly innovative technology, but humbly hides it in a simple and functional design. You have something that is timeless. You have turned the humble, boring toaster into an aspirational product.

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Where Balmuda will go from here seems to be unclear even to their CEO. ‘Right now our main products happen to be appliances. But ten years from now it could be anything.’ The ethos behind the company, he assures, will always remain the same though: ‘to create one thing – memorable moments for the user.’ However, with their European output exclusively in Germany and their product line limited to just a few items even there, we hope that that future involves a further expansion into the European and International markets.

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