We asked Shunichi Kayano, who worked on the ASICS "GEL-KAYANO" series, to tell us a lot about the behind-the-scenes stories behind the creation of "GEL-KAYANO."
---What does it feel like to have the shoes you make transcend time and attract attention once again in the form of "sports style"?
I don't think it was a mistake.
I think it's true that if it's a functional design, it's likely to be passed down forever, but aren't sports shoes just plain?
Since it is a consumer product, it is something that changes every year.
What I focused on was that functionality and technology are important, but trends and emotional aspects are also necessary, so I always make sure that the shoes I create have a unique design theme. There is.
Since we have created designs that connect these things, from the customer's perspective, ASICS had a unique story to tell during this era.
I think that's what people appreciate.
If you just say, ``These shoes are functional and actually have good cushioning,'' you'll end up saying, ``Yes, that's true.'' If that's all there is to it, it's not fun.
I'm very happy that in this day and age, products that I worked on 20 or 30 years ago are being evaluated in such a way for their design stories, and I think it's a great blessing to be a designer and a developer. I am.
I look at it with great emotion, and I am always happy to help if there is any consultation about reprint product planning.
There were quite a few people at the company who said that the story was probably something that Mr. Kayano added to the story afterwards, but that's not the case.
However, when I was doing design development at the time, when I told them that I was making something with a story like this, I was often told, "Are you an idiot?"
That is what is being evaluated now. Times have changed, and I'm really happy that I can now talk about this naturally within the company.
What were you thinking at that time? That's what I was told. It was an athletic company.
It is now famous that the Gel Kayano trainer has a stag beetle motif, but it was not well thought of in the past.
I'm very grateful for this in this day and age.
---Is there anything new you are working on regarding the functionality and design of ASICS in the future?
As a museum archiver, I have been looking at the company's history from the past to the present.
I am particularly interested in trends such as design, technology, and functionality, and I think it is well known that there are currently three major brands of ASICS. Each one has a different world view, and performance is still focused on functionality.
Speaking of heritage, it is Onitsuka Tiger.
I think sports style is somewhere in between.
Each person has their own worldview, so I think there are probably parameters for whether to prioritize function or design.
For example, how will the design and functional balance of Onitsuka Tiger brand products change? There is definitely a sense of expectation, the same goes for the sports style, and the same goes for the performance.
When it comes to performance, I think we will continue to pursue more functionality.
I think design will be superimposed on research and development that closely resembles human movement. In a sense, this is a fundamental part of our DNA that has been inherited since the days of Onitsuka Tiger, so it's only natural.
Sports style actually places a lot of emphasis on appearance. I think it will continue to evolve as we add more functions to it. The word "function" is a bit too formal, so the word "ease of use" may be more appropriate.
We will continue to release reprinted products, and we may also release originals.
However, all ASICS manufacturing is fundamentally about performance.
However, if even the small emotional aspects that emerge from the functional design that emphasizes function can lead to satisfaction for the players and customers who use it, then it will remain unchanged forever. I think this is an important point that we should continue to express.
As a custodian and creator of the history of the relationship between functionality and design, I believe that one of my current roles is to pass on that DNA to young creators within the company. .
---What do you think about the fact that a product like GEL-KAYANO, which is loved by runners all over the world, is now being accepted for purposes other than running, such as on the street and in fashion?
I have some mixed feelings.
That's because I was in charge of Kayano 1 to 13.
As I have said many times before, sports shoes are naturally focused on functionality, but they are also emotional.
Uniqueness is necessary. From 1 to 13, I'm the producer and creative for all of them, so they all have a certain theme.
Like a praying mantis or a sports car.
However, since then, I have focused more and more on the functional aspects, so the theme has actually become diluted.
Functionality is eating away at theme.
When creating products, the targets and the positions we focused on changed depending on the direction of the company, so that was inevitable.
I feel that current Gel Kayano shoes are more like gear for runners and running geeks.
*GEL-KAYANO1 and GEL-KAYANO13
As for what it was like from 1 to 13, I was able to produce fairly freely, and I was responsible for everything from planning to design and development.
There are places where we create products that are designed to be used by general health-conscious consumers.
Well, the way of thinking is a little different now than in the past. It's not that I'm particularly disappointed, I understand that we have to change with the times, but I have mixed feelings about it.
When you compare the first generation Kayano with the current Kayano, you may find it a little difficult, such as, ``They look completely different,'' or ``Can this really be worn around town?''
However, the functionality is great. I think it's really great. What is right and what is wrong changes with the times and values. That is a matter for the company to make a management decision on.
---I heard that you are most fond of the design of the first generation KAYANO TRAINER that you have worked on, but could you tell us about any other designs that particularly left an impression on you?
Well, if there's anything that stands out to me, it's Kayano's number 6.
I'm in charge of everything from 1 to 13, but if you keep going from 1 onwards, your sales will steadily increase.
In that case, management will take action. In order to make it even better, we need to put more effort into planning, design, and development.
In particular, functionality must be nurtured with great care, and for Kayano's 6th product, our ASICS Sports Engineering Research Institute will also be participating in manufacturing.
From the 6th point on Gel Kayano, we are changing from manufacturing that has been based on emotional usability to a more scientific functional design.
There was a huge conflict there. According to research, the answer to 1+1 is definitely 2.
But I wanted 1+1 to be 3 or 4.
However, as a researcher, I am not satisfied with a design that does not function properly.
Mr. Kayano said that this is not a functional design.
There was a little mental battle and conflict there.
That's why Gel Kayano Trainer is the most memorable product, but Gel Kayano's 6th product is one that I have a lot of fond memories of and had a really hard time with.
But because of this product, GEL-KAYANO is what it is today. This product clearly marked a turning point.
It is a product that created a guidepost of functional, quantitative, and scientific design that led to the current Gel Kayano 29.
After all, I have a very particular personality, and I'm a pretty free-spirited person, so the products numbered 1 to 13 have hidden characters here and there that people don't understand.
It's what you might call an individual's sense of fun.
For example, Kayano's number 12 has the number 12 written on the outsole so that it is not obvious. It's like a hidden Mickey. w
There are times when I make something that I enjoy as well.
For example, Kayano's No. 5 has been reprinted, and the ASICS spiral mark is included in the midsole.
---That's right? ! w
That's actually not very good. If I said that at the time, it would have been an absolute no from the company's perspective, so it's still a no now...lol
Since you don't actually see the outsole from the outside, we secretly put the name of the material on it.
I tried putting numbers like 10, 12, 13, etc. It's really wrong to make it your personal property. w
If you're going to go to the trouble of making it, I think it would be a good idea to include that kind of personal playfulness in a way that doesn't make it obvious. I had a lot of fun.
---I heard that the 14th generation and later models have been inherited by younger designers and developers, but if there is a model among them that you like, please let us know.
I moved to the global product strategy department, so I'm not involved in 14, but I'm involved in 15 to 18.
Among them, the one I have the most fond memories of is number 18, and this is the product that became the foundation of the sustainability movement that ASICS is currently strongly promoting.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT have set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20%.
This is a product that took on the challenge of thinking a little about the shape, such as using plant-based plastic and simplifying the pattern.
It's more of a strategy than a figure, so I'd like to use something like this as a direction.
A major goal is the global environment. MIT has a quantitative method for how to reduce this by 20%, so model 18 was released in collaboration with MIT.
That's the feeling I have about Gel Kayano.
---Do you have any thoughts or messages for young people who are aiming to become shoe designers?
First of all, there are various sports such as people's feet, so it's better to study those sports and the movements of the people.
Rather than getting into it based on looks, it's better to first learn about your feet.
The feet are made up of various bones, so I feel it is necessary to study the types of bones there are, their shapes and functions, and other things.
You will be taught how to make shoes once you join the company, so I would like to tell them to start by loving feet and sports.
I'm saying this because I wasn't good enough. w
I think it's better to like sports after all. For that reason, it is important to carefully observe and understand the movements of athletes' legs and bodies.
It's from there.
Drawing and painting are something you learn at an art university, art university, or vocational school, so that's fine.
If you're aiming to become a designer at a sports manufacturer, you'll definitely want to study feet thoroughly.
Also, the opinions of the players.
The key is how to listen to players' opinions and use them to improve and evolve.
There are very important hints hidden in such places, so study them anyway! That's right there.
Afterwards, I was in charge of the sports shoes, and if the shoes I was entrusted with were running shoes, I would always try them out myself.
I don't go to any tournaments though.
Even when I was jogging or in charge of basketball shoes...oh, I didn't play basketball. I was not good at it...lol
There was a time when I was in charge of tennis shoes, so I played tennis, and the same thing happened when I made baseball cleats. When it comes to the sports shoes I'm in charge of, I always start by learning about the sport.
You have to use yourself as a test subject and notice what's wrong with you.
If I don't move and play sports and notice the problems with the sports shoes I'm currently using, I won't be able to create a product that I'm satisfied with. This is a very important point.
---There are many things you won't understand until you try.
Just one last thing. What do "shoes" mean to Mr. Kayano?
I wonder if it's a ``vessel'' for self-expression. A vessel that allows you to express your hobbies, sense of fun, and roots.
I think that what I studied at university, my knowledge, and my experience are useful industrial products.
Ever since I was a child, I've admired things that were strong and fast, and I liked mechanical things.
For example, it's a superalloy toy. w
I still like robots that look bulky and can combine and transform. lol
Surprisingly, the concept of these shoes is very similar to that of sports shoes, so I think they were a good match.
From a customer's perspective, they don't want to buy it unless it looks cool, and they don't want it unless it's fast and has a lot of functions. I think that kind of thing was a hobby and I was able to put it to good use.
I thought that these sports shoes were a "vessel" that was easy to express, and I felt that they had something in common.
Oh, and it was also an environment where it was easy to incorporate playfulness into the design. It may have been because most of the employees at the time were athletes and weren't too picky about design. lol
It was busy, but I also enjoyed my work.
It was a ``vessel'' that allowed me to express myself...!
Mr. Kayano, thank you for your valuable talk! !
I think it was an interview where I was able to hear a lot of history.
We look forward to seeing ASICS in the future!
The first designer of ASICS' GEL-KAYANO TRAINER running shoes, released in 1993.