7 Japanese aesthetic principles to change your thinking

Garden Exposing ourselves to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideas — notions that may seem quite foreign to most of us — is a good exercise in lateral thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. “Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perception,” says de Bono. Beginning to think about design by exploring the tenets of the Zen aesthetic may not be an example of Lateral Thinking in the strict sense, but doing so is a good exercise in stretching ourselves and really beginning to think differently about visuals and design in our everyday professional lives. The principles of Zen aesthetics found in the art of the traditional Japanese garden, for example, have many lessons for us, though they are unknown to most people. The principles are interconnected and overlap; it’s not possible to simply put the ideas in separate boxes. Thankfully, Patrick Lennox Tierney (a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007) has a few short essays elaborating on the concepts. Below are just seven design-related principles (there are more) that govern the aesthetics of the Japanese garden and other art forms in Japan. Perhaps they will stimulate your creativity or get you thinking in a new way about your own design-related challenges.

Seven principles for changing your perception

Kanso (簡素) Simplicity or elimination of clutter. Things are expressed in a plain, simple, natural manner. Reminds us to think not in terms of decoration but in terms of clarity, a kind of clarity that may be achieved through omission or exclusion of the non-essential.

Enso Fukinsei (不均整) Asymmetry or irregularity. The idea of controlling balance in a composition via irregularity and asymmetry is a central tenet of the Zen aesthetic. The enso (“Zen circle”) in brush painting, for example, is often drawn as an incomplete circle, symbolizing the imperfection that is part of existence. In graphic design too asymmetrical balance is a dynamic, beautiful thing. Try looking for (or creating) beauty in balanced asymmetry. Nature itself is full of beauty and harmonious relationships that are asymmetrical yet balanced. This is a dynamic beauty that attracts and engages.

Shibui/Shibumi (渋味) Beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Direct and simple way, without being flashy. Elegant simplicity, articulate brevity. The term is sometimes used today to describe something cool but beautifully minimalist, including technology and some consumer products. (Shibui literally means bitter tasting).

Shizen (自然) Naturalness. Absence of pretense or artificiality, full creative intent unforced. Ironically, the spontaneous nature of the Japanese garden that the viewer perceives is not accidental. This is a reminder that design is not an accident, even when we are trying to create a natural-feeling environment. It is not a raw nature as such but one with more purpose and intention.

Yugen (幽玄) Profundity or suggestion rather than revelation. A Japanese garden, for example, can be said to be a collection of subtleties and symbolic elements. Photographers and designers can surely think of many ways to visually imply more by not showing the whole, that is, showing more by showing less.

Datsuzoku (脱俗) Freedom from habit or formula. Escape from daily routine or the ordinary. Unworldly. Transcending the conventional. This principles describes the feeling of surprise and a bit of amazement when one realizes they can have freedom from the conventional. Professor Tierney says that the Japanese garden itself, “…made with the raw materials of nature and its success in revealing the essence of natural things to us is an ultimate surprise. Many surprises await at almost every turn in a Japanese Garden.”

Seijaku (静寂)Tranquility or an energized calm (quite), stillness, solitude. This is related to the feeling you may have when in a Japanese garden. The opposite feeling to one expressed by seijaku would be noise and disturbance. How might we bring a feeling of “active calm” and stillness to ephemeral designs outside the Zen arts?

LINKS
Read more about The Nature of Japanese Garden Art by Patrick Lennox Tierney at Bonsai Beautiful dot com.
Japanese Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia).
Enso: Zen Circles of Enlightenment (book)

from presentation zen

Kamishibai: Lessons in visual storytelling from Japan

Kamishibai_1940sKamishibai is a form of visual and participatory storytelling that combines the use of hand drawn visuals with the engaging narration of a live presenter. Kami (紙) means paper and shibai (芝居 ) means play/drama. The origins of kamishibai are not clear, but its roots can be taced back to various picture storytelling traditions in Japan such as etoki and emaki scrolls and other forms of visual storytelling which date back centuries. However, the form of Kamishibai that one thinks of today developed around 1929 and was quite popular in the 30s, and 40s, all but dying out with the introduction of television later in the 1950s. Typical kamishibai consists of a presenter who stands to the right of a small wooden box or stage that holds the 12-20 cards featuring the visuals that accompany each story. This miniature stage is attached to the storyteller’s bicycle. The presenter changes the card, varying the speed of the transition to match the flow of the story he is telling. The best Kamishibai presenters do not read the story, but instead keep eyes on the audience and occasionally on the current card in the frame. It’s difficult to appreciate kamishibai unless you see it in action. The clip belowis of kamishibai performer Master Yassan. Even if you do not speak Japanese, this will help you get a sense for how the presenter uses visuals and narration to connect with the audience.

This clip on Youtube gives you a feel for kamishibai from 1959, a time when most gaito kamishibaiya (kamishibai storytellers) were decreasing in number as TV was becoming popular in the home.

Visual, simple, & clear
Kamishibai_1959Although Kamishibai is a form of visual storytelling that originated more than eighty years ago, with roots that go back centuries in Japan, the lessons from this craft can be applied to modern multimedia presentations. Tara McGowan, who wrote The Kamishibai Classroom, says that Kamishibai visuals are more like the frames from a movie. “Kamishibai pictures are designed to be seen only for a few [moments], so extraneous details detract from the story and open up the possibilities of misinterpretation.” It’s important to design each card, she says, “…to focus the audiences attention on characters and scenery that are most important at any given moment.” If your material includes a great deal of detail that can not be eliminated, then Kamishibai may not be a suitable method to tell your story, McGowan says. But if “clarity and economy of expression are the goals, it would be hard to find a more perfect medium.” It’s easy to imagine how we can apply the same spirit of kamishibai to our modern-day presentations that include the use of multimedia and a screen.

Kamishibai
Above: Note how the visual fills the entire card yet maintains a level of empty space. Even when text and graphics appear on the the same card, they are for the most part free of clutter. Elements often bleed off the edge which allows the element to appear larger. (Photo by Aki Saito.)

Lessons for today’s presentations from kamishibai
There are many lessons that we can apply to modern presentations given with the aid of multimedia. Here are just five things to keep in mind.

(1) Visuals should be big and bold.
Visuals in Kamishibai are big and bold and easy to see for an audience. Remember: “Design for the last row” is our mantra. This “big and bold” approach is different from picture books which have more detail since they are seen by an individual reader. In the same way, minute visual detail on screen is not appropriate for most presentation contexts as those details are too difficult to see. If you have loads of detail — and if it is crucial that people see it— a handout may be more appropriate.

(2) Visuals may bleed off the edge.
The Kamishibai visuals must not be cluttered. The entire card is used and yet much of the card may be empty which allows the positive elements on the canvas to pop out more. Elements also may bleed off the edge or appear hidden. Our brains will fill in the missing bits which fall off the edge. This makes the images appear larger and simpler than if all elements were crammed in to fit all inside the frame.

(3) Visuals may take an active role.
The visuals are not just an aid, they are a necessary part of the show. The storyteller decides when the focus will be on him and his narrative and when the focus is on the visual. It’s a balance among the visual and the aural from the point of view of the audience, and a balance of telling and showing in a smooth harmonious flow of events from the point of view of the presenter.

(4) Aim to carefully trim back the details.
Kamishibai is different from picture books in the same way that a document is different from a live, visual presentation. The presentation by its very nature omits many visual details and includes only those details which are necessary to tell the story clearly. A kamishibai performance like, say, a TED-style presentation, uses visuals to amplify meaning through simplification.

(5) Make your presentation participatory.
Even though we are using visuals, human-to-human connections are still key. Kamishibai performers of old really got the kids involved in the performance. Kamishibai is not like TV, where you just sit there. A good kamishibai performer elicited responses and totally engaged his audience. Interestingly, some kamishibai masters from the 1950s noted that their young audiences became less engaged and were more passive as TV became popular. Kids became used to just sitting in front of content rather than engaging with it. Today, however, as much as possible, we must aim to make our presentations as participatory as the context allows. This is the real lesson from the kamishibai masters.

LINKS
iPad gives ‘kamishibai’ stories a new lease on life (app).
• Kamishibai in the classroom (in America) video.

from presentation zen

7 Important Communication Lessons from the Japanese Bath

Onsen Looking back twenty years, I had only been living in Japan a couple of months when I found myself sitting in a large Japanese bath surrounded by my naked coworkers. I was at an onsen (温泉), or Japanese hot springs, along with everyone else from my office, as part of our company weekend retreat. The purpose of the trip was not work, but simply relaxation, dining, drinking, and a little fun with colleagues. By getting away from the formality of the office setting, my boss told me, staff and managers can experience more natural communication and build better relationships which will be good for business in the long term. Eating and drinking are part of the onsen experience, and so is communal nude bathing which is thought to strengthen bonds among team members. This is when I first learned of the phrase Hadaka no Tsukiai (裸の付き合い) which means naked relationship or naked communication. My boss informed me that the Japanese bath is an important part of the Japanese way of life, and the ritual itself is also a kind of metaphor for healthy communication and good relationships. Through mutual nakedness we are all the same, he said. When you remove the formalities and the barriers through communal relaxation in the bath, you create a sort of skinship which leads to more honest, clearer communication. At least in theory, then, the hierarchical nature of Japanese relationships begin to ease as one soaks with others.

Connection with nature
Onsen2 The ofuro (お風呂), or Japanese bath, is an integral part of Japanese life. Just as the meaning of Japanese cuisine goes far beyond sustenance, the significance of the bath goes far beyond merely washing. For generations the sentō (銭湯) or “bath house” was a focal point in residential areas and a gathering place not just for bathing but for chatting, meeting friends, and generally feeling connected to others in the neighborhood. Today there are fewer sentō as all modern homes have a private bath, but the significance of the bathing ritual — whether at home, visiting an onsen, or at the local sentō — runs deep in the Japanese approach to life, which traditionally is closely tied to nature.

It may not seem like it sometimes in the ultra modern, fast-paced urban centers like Tokyo or Osaka, but nature, or shizen (自然), also plays a central role in Japanese culture. For many, the bath is a time for relaxation and contemplation and connecting with the natural surroundings outside the ofuro. The famous Zen scholar Daisetz Suzuki (1870-1966) often discussed the deep affection Japanese have for nature and how the yearning for that connection was something deep in all of us. “However ‘civilized,’ however much brought up in an artificially contrived environment,” Suzuki-sensei said, “we all seem to have an innate longing for primitive simplicity, close to the natural state of living.” The bathing ritual is a chance, then, to take some time off the grid of daily life and reconnect to that simple, natural state of living.

Sento.EdoTokyoOutdoorMuseum
ABOVE: An older style of sentō. Although the public bath in the cities usually lacked the beautiful natural surroundings of an onsen, attempts were made to help visitors at least feel a bit of nature through large wall paintings. Fuji-san is a popular subject. (Photo source.)

Onsen3
ABOVE: The water in an onsen is extremely hot. Notice the washing area in the background. You sit on the wooden stools and use a bucket or shower with soap and a washcloth to thoroughly wash before entering the the large bath. The changing area is separate from the shower and bathing area.

Rotenburo_onsen
ABOVE: The outdoor bath —
rotenburo — is a particularly popular style of onsen bath. Here one feels the closest connection with nature.

Private_onsen 
Above:
These are examples of private baths that came with our room at two onsens we visited in recently. The washing areas are just outside the photos. These type of onsen resorts also have large communal baths inside and outside for guests to use.

Home_ofuro 
Above:
It is not uncommon for brand new houses in Japan to have such a beautiful ofuro. Although most home bathrooms are not yet so beautifully designed, the basics of a shower/washing area and a deep bath which are both separate from the changing area is typical. It’s not uncommon for new houses and remodeled homes, however, to included such aesthetically pleasing bathrooms. The showrooms at interior design centers such as Panasonic are packed on weekends.
Checkout samples here. (Bathrooms, remember, are just that: bath rooms. The toilet has its own room unattached to the bathing area, except in the case of very small apartments and hotels.)

Already-naked.001-001
(Keynote slide.)

Seven Lessons from the bath
Onsen_water So what can we learn from the Japanese bath as it relates to communication and presentation? How is a Japanese bath like a presentation. Here are just seven ways:

(1) You must first prepare.
One must take time to thoroughly wash *before* taking a bath. And one must fully prepare *before* taking the podium.

(2) You must go fully naked.
Shorts and swimming suits are not allowed. You must enter the washing area of an onsen or sentō fully nude (save for a small washcloth). Presenting naked is about removing the unnecessary to expose what is most important. Naked presenters do not try to hide but instead stand front and center and share their ideas in a way that connects with and engages the audience.

(3) Barriers and masks are removed.

Removing our clothes is symbolically removing the facade and the walls that separate us. In today’s presentations, visuals are sometimes used as a crutch rather than an amplifier of our message, thus becoming a distraction and a barrier themselves. Visuals in a naked presentation never obfuscate but instead illuminate and clarify. The naked presenter designs visuals that are simple with clear design priorities that contain elements which guide the viewer’s eye.

(4) You are now fully exposed.
Onsen_womenThe best type of bathing is in the roten-buro, or the outside onsen, especially in Fall or Winter. The water is hot and the air may be cold, yet you feel alive. Presenting naked is about being free from worry and self-doubt. Gimmicks and tricks and deception are inconsistent with the naked style. You are now transparent, a bit vulnerable, but confident and in the moment.

(5) You are on the same level as others.
Hierarchy and status are not apparent or important naked. The best presentations are less like a lecture and at least feel more like an engaging conversation in a language that is clear, honest, and open. Don’t try to impress. Instead try to, share, help, inspire, teach, inform, guide, persuade, motivate, or make your audience a little bit better. No matter your rank, a presentation is a chance to make a contribution with fellow humans.

(6) You must be careful of the time. Moderation is key.

Nothing is better than soaking in the hot water, but do not over do it. Too much of a good thing can turn unhealthy. A good presenter also is mindful of time and aware that it is not his time but *their* time. Remember the concept of hara hachi bu. Give the audience greater quality than expected, but be respectful of their time. Never go over your allotted time. Leave the audience satisfied but not satiated (i.e., overwhelmed).

(7) Feels great after you’re done.
TEDx_Tokyo_onsen The bath will recharge you as it warms your body and it will energize your soul. After an important talk, if it goes well, you also feel invigorated and inspired. If we connect with an audience in a meaningful and passionate way that leaves them with something of value — knowledge, insight, inspiration, even a bit of ourselves — then we feel a sense of joy that comes from making an honest contribution. (Photo: with Barry Eisler and other friends at TEDxTokyo after the bath at the Odaiba Onsen, their website is wild.)

Going naked and going natural are the key takeaways from the Japanese bath that, with a little creativity, we can apply to many aspects of our work and daily lives. In this time of ubiquitous digital presentation and other media tools, the tenets of nakedness and naturalness are more important than ever. At the end of the day, it still remains people connecting and forming relationships with other people. And that’s best done naked.

Related
Photo essay of Japanese sentō by my buddy Markuz Wernli Saito

 from presentation zen

10 design lessons from the art of Ikebana

Ikebana1 Though it may not seem obvious standing in the bustling center of Shibuya or Shinjuku in Tokyo, the Japanese perception of beauty is largely based on space, especially space as it is found in nature. Once you understand this, the intricacies of Japanese art and design begin to make sense. In the case of ikebana (生け花) — the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement — space is a central component of design (i.e., of the arrangements). One who practices ikebana sees space not as something to fill in or to use up, but rather as an element to be created and preserved. Proper use of space allows the positive elements in the piece to form lines that are rhythmical and flow, engaging the viewer with the composition. An ikebana artist learns to leave room between the branches to allow the figurative “breeze” to pass through and rustle the branches, just as would occur in nature.

Ikebana4 The principle of Ma
A form of space seen in Japanese art forms, such as traditional Japanese gardens, and Ikebana, is Ma (間). Ma means empty, spatial void, and interval of space or time. Ma does not just mean the kind of empty space that is background; the emptiness is often arranged to be a focal point. Space is emptiness, yet it also has shapes. Ma allows for an energy or sense of movement within a design. Ma may show itself in traditional music in the form of silence or pauses. In Ikebana, the idea of emptiness allows for each flower to breath and reveals the contrasts among the elements, as well as the harmony and balance found in the asymmetrical arrangement. Ma is what allows for implied movement to form in the composition and creates the “space” for harmonious relationships to form. Lack of space leads to clutter and disharmony.

Ikebana_2 In formality there is freedom
To those unfamiliar with the art of ikebana, it may seem like a casual craft with no formal rules, but in fact, there are clear rules governing the art of ikebana. The rules are based on solid design principles and centuries of keen observations of nature by the ikebana masters. While there is a formality governing line and form and materials, and so on, there is great room for creativity within the structure of the rules. And as with all Japanese traditional arts, there are lessons hidden within that we can apply to our own work and to our own creative lives in or out of design. Here are a just a few humble takeaways to think about.

Lessons for your creative life

  1. Empty space is as important as the positive elements. Learn to see space. Learn to create space.
  2. Space allows other elements to “breath,” to move, and connect — with each other and the viewer.
  3. Empty space is a powerful amplifier, helping to create a whole that is more engaging than the sum of individual parts.
  4. Suggestion and subtly in design engages the viewer, allowing her to complete the uncompleted.
  5. Arrangements (designs) should stimulate the imagination of the viewer.
  6. In formality there exists creativity and freedom of expression. No structure, no freedom.
  7. In simplicity there exists clarity, beauty, and meaning.
  8. Asymmetrical balance is natural, dynamic, and engaging.
  9. For the designer (or artist), focus, calm, vision, and gentleness of spirit are more important qualities than raw enthusiasm. Slow down your busy mind.
  10. Careful arrangement of the elements based on solid principles creates beauty and engagement without decoration.from presentation zen

Ichi-go ichi-e & the need to be here now

Tea_houseAllow me to share a simple idea from the art of tea or Sadou, “the way of tea.” You may think that the traditional art of Sadou (茶道) is a strange place to glean lessons that can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives, but the simple practical lessons from the Zen arts run deep and wide. Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea; it expresses the ideal of the way of tea. Roughly translated the phrase means “one time, one meeting” or “one encounter; one opportunity.” In the way of tea we should respect the host and the others in the garden and the tea room and honor the moment as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime gathering. That is, we should cherish every meeting for it will never happen again. Ichi-go ichi-e is a reminder that each tea ceremony is unique even though the elements are familiar.

This moment will never happen again
Ichi-go ichi-e is an expression that reminds me to slowdown and appreciate each “meeting,” especially with my children. So this is why the rate of posts to presentation zen have slowed (and the rate of baby pics to facebook have increased). I have more books in the works and I’ll be sharing as much content as I can more regularly on many topics related to presentations, creativity, education, and so on. Although I am less productive, I thank you for your support and for all your emails and comments over the years. It means a lot. I’ll do my best to get more useful information published on the presentation zen website in a speedier fashion.

Image
Above: My little girl and little boy playing upstairs in my office at home in Nara.

About three years ago, the rate of new blog posts to presentation zen declined. It was not for a lack of ideas; I have folders full of ideas and samples that I would like to share. However, three years ago this April something extraordinary happened (well, extraordinary for my wife and me at least): our first child, a girl, was born in Osaka. And last February, our second child, a boy, was born in the same hospital. It’s a cliché to say, but children change everything. Immediately upon holding my girl for the first time some 36 months ago, I felt as if I had somehow fundamentally changed. This study suggests that perhaps my brain was even changing: “A father sprouts supplemental neurons in his brain and experiences hormonal changes after the birth of a child.”

While my passion for work and keen interest in self-development and teaching and helping others with presentations, etc. did not decline in the least, I found that more and more things — everything, really — took a back seat to the simple concept of just being with my daughter (and now son as well). I still get frustrated sometimes because I do want to work more, but I also do not want to be away from family. One important thing my children have taught me is to appreciate each moment, even the seemingly inconsequential ones.

Ichigo_ichie.057
This slide above with a 16:9 aspect ratio features a photo from this week that tells a story. I was having my morning breakfast while trying to get through some email at home while my then 23-month old daughter, who I already fed, bathed and dressed, was playing nearby. While I was trying to get some work in and enjoy a cup of coffee, my daughter suddenly climbs up into my lap and takes my toast. Do’h! I could look at it as a kind of workus interruptus, but I have learned to just go with the flow and enjoy these moments. Of course, this explains why my email-answering skills have suffered. And yet, c’est la vie.

Forever but never again
This idea of ichi-go ichi-e reminded me of a line from a famous jazz ballad from 1949 called “Again” (Mark Murphy’s Stolen Moments version is my favorite; here are the lyrics). There is nothing “Zen” about the lyrics or their origins, of course, but there is one line from the song that has stayed with me since I bought the Mark Murphy album when I was 16: “We’ll have this moment forever, but never again.” I didn’t understand that line when I was in high school, but it stuck with me. Now those simple eight words are almost a kind of mantra for me; and the meaning is clear and illuminating.

Bondibeach_slide.001

Above: The slide above looks a bit sappy perhaps out of context, something like a Hallmark card (I took the photo a few years ago at Bondi Beach just 20 minutes from downtown Sydney). But the point I am making when I speak in front of this visual is about appreciating the moment of whatever it is you’re engaged in—a concert, a speech, a lesson…or a walk with a friend. And of course, spending time with your children. This is the moment, there are no other moments.

(By the way, the subtitle for the movie “Forrest Gump” in Japanese is ichi-go ichi-e. I suppose this is because the Forrest Gump character appreciated every moment and every chance encounter without a thought of being anywhere except where he was at that moment. See the movie poster in Japanese.)

Wa: The key to clear, harmonious design

Wa_slide

If there is one principle that reveals the essence of the Zen aesthetic found in Japanese traditional art and design — and life in general — it is harmony. The kanji that has been used by Japan for the past 1300 years or so to represent this concept is 和 (wa). Wa is also the adjective used to describe things which are Japanese or in the Japanese style such as Wafuku 和服 (Japanese clothing), Washitsu 和室 (Japanese-style room), Washi 和紙 (traditional Japanese paper), and Washoku 和食 (Japanese cuisine), as I mentioned before. Aesthetically, wa is fundamental to all good design, yet it goes beyond aesthetics. Wa also reads as “gentleness of spirit” (和らぎ), so harmony refers to form but it also refers to an internal feeling or approach to art and to life. The particulars will change depending on the case and circumstance, but the concept is the same: in all things harmony. The idea is since harmony exists inherently in the cosmos and on our planet, we can benefit ourselves and others by learning from lessons found in nature. Wa has direct applications for our personal lives, our relationships, and our whole approach to life and work. Here are just seven things to think about as you strive to bring more wa to your own design solutions.

(1) Embrace economy of materials and means. Traditional Japanese construction and interiors used only natural, available materials, and in art and design too recycling was common. Waste and excess is at odds with wa. Think, for example, of tatami mats that comprise the floor of a Japanese room (washitsu) which were historically made from leftover straw from the harvest. There is a trend now emerging in Japan that embraces the use of more natural and recycled materials under the banner of “eco” or sustainability. How can we bring the principle of economy to our design work? One way is by practicing restraint. Yokusei 抑制 (control, restraint) and setsudo 節度 (moderation) or seigen 制限 (limit) are forms of self-restraint we can practice. It’s hard not to give in to the habit of adding more when less would do; this is where restraint comes in.

(2) Repeat design elements. Repeating some elements not only contributes to unity in a design, it’s a clear consequence of restraint. You made the conscious decision to limit your palette and techniques and still express the message (or solve the problem) within the self-imposed constraints. We need variety but we need similarity too. Repeating selected elements — just as nature does — contributes to harmony and clarity.

(3) Keep things clean and clutter-free. Shintoism has been called a faith of purification, and historically at least, there was a belief that kami (gods) would not enter a house that was unclean or otherwise in a state of disorder. Disorder is at odds with nature. Consumerism since the war has made for many a clutter-filled house in Japan, but there is a trend toward returning to the good parts of the past: less stuff, more space, natural materials. In design, we must do what is possible to pare down and keep things clean, clear, and clutter free.

(4) Avoid symmetry. Symmetry is not bad — and often it is necessary — but in many areas of design it is derided at the easy and boring answer. The natural world — the mountain or the forest —  is full of beautiful asymmetry. Balanced asymmetry is natural, and in the natural world is where spontaneity lives. Symmetrical designs lack the feeling of movement or spontaneity that we find in nature. Creating balance and harmony in an asymmetrical design is usually a more challenging and creative approach.

(5) Avoid the obvious in favor of the subtle. To the Japanese, there is no beauty in the obvious or the overly direct. Indirectness and subtly, after all, is the stuff of poetry. And should not design — like life itself — be the stuff of poetry? The art of suggestion can be seen in many aspects of Japanese art, design, and language. Think of ways you can design with clarity while also including elements that are subtle and suggestive.

(6) Think not only of yourself, but of the other (e.g., the viewer). Harmony in relationships exits when people put themselves in the other’s shoes and think of the greater good of the group. Wa does not exist where one thinks only of oneself. Think for yourself? Of course. Think only of yourself. No. All good designers know this: it’s not about me, it’s about them (or “us”).

(7) Remain humble and modest. Many of us mistakenly feel that strong confidence cannot exist alongside humility and modesty. This is a mistake. True confidence exists only where you also find humility and modesty. Where these are lacking, you see a kind of faux confidence that feels insecure, overly individualistic, and inharmonious. Think of the character Yoda from Star Wars. Yoda embraced all three characters among many others: Humility, modesty, supreme confidence. Be like Yoda.

This slide below contains a quote from The Book of Tea that touches on the importance of humility and other subtle aspects of wa.

Humility_slide

Note: