The two types of Japanese quality

japenese quality.001

Came across these two beautiful Japanese words today thanks to Kevin Hale’s talk on Building products that people love. The Japanese define the quality of a product in two ways:

One is atarimae hinshitsu - the idea that the product will work the way it is supposed to. It’s the basic functionality of the product. The other is miryokuteki hinshitsu which refers to the enchanting quality of the product.

When it comes to a pen, its ability to write is the minimum expectation or atarimae hinshitsu. But the weight of that pen in your hands, the way ink flows out if it when it touches paper, what the viewers of the handwriting imagine the pen to be, are all miryokuteki hinshitsu. 

Isn’t it admirable that the Japanese have articulated these two types of quality, so that enchantment, soul, personality are not mere afterthoughts but clearly articulated expectations from a product? These aesthetic principles are are so deeply engrained in their creative culture that it’s hardly surprising that the world looks up to Japanese design. This has just raised the bar for me. And now, let’s put this in practice..