Toshiyuki Kita

Japan & Italy

Industrial designer Toshiyuki Kita was born in Osaka, Japan in 1942. Kita studied at the Naniwa Design College in Osaka (now the the Osaka University of Arts), graduating with a degree in Industrial Design in 1964. He worked in product development for an aluminum company before deciding to establish his own design firm in 1967 to focus on his real passion—seating design. His sculptural Saruyama Chair (1967) for Moroso echoed natural forms—icebergs, canyons, and mountain—which were then manipulated to cradle the human form.

In 1969, Kita relocated to Italy, where he worked as an industrial designer for Italian brands such as Bernin, Bilumen and Cassina. In 1980, he designed the versatile and playful Wink Chair for Cassina, perhaps Kita's most well-known design. This multifunctional recliner could be adjusted into various positions, and featured a removable and replaceable cover to change with the season.

Kita’s designs focus on the dichotomies between the East and the West, and the past and the future; creating truly distinct and individual pieces. He combines technologically advanced design with traditional and sophisticated Japanese decorative arts, using natural materials such as Washi rice paper and Urushi lacquerware.  Iconic designs by Kita include the Kick table (1983) for Cassina which was intended to complement the Wink Chair; the Multilingual Chair (1991)—designed for the World Exposition in Seville, the chair was equipped with an audio system of recordings in three different languages; the reclining K10 Dodo (2000) for Cassina; the K06 Aki Biki Canta Series (2000) for Cassina; Aquos LCD TV (2000) for Sharp; and Wakamaru, the first humanoid domestic robot (2002) for Mitsubishi Electrics.

Kita’s work remains in permanent collections at several international museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. He is also the recipient of the Japan Interior Designers Association Award in 1975, the Product Design Award in 1983, Spain’s Delta de Oro Award in 1990, and is just one of three non-Italians to have been awarded the prestigious Compasso d’Oro International Career Prize in 2011 from the IDA. Kita is also the author of several design books, including Exploration of Design 1969—Why I went to Italy to Design (2012) and Toshiyuki Kita: The Soul of Design (2001), among others.

A Professor at the Product Design Department of the Osaka University of Art since 2003, Kita has also curated many exhibitions in Italy and Japan. Kita currently dedicates himself to traditional crafts and developing artisan industries.

*Images courtesy of Toshiyuki Kita, except where otherwise stated