Case Study – NEC Crystal Mu Screen

TKO has built up a reputation for its award-winning designs for international clients. It has established firm links in the Far East, particularly in Japan, and its involvement with the Tokyo Design Network led to a collaboration with NEC to create Crystal Mu, a transparent LCD screen.

Andy Davey, TKO partner, explains the whole project would not have been possible without respect and empathy for Japanese culture. He stresses, despite stereotypes of British groups imposing British views, TKO has successfully integrated into the Far East market to the extent that ‘we are probably better known in Japan than we are in the UK’.

Junko Misawa, who headed the project for NEC Design, commissioned TKO to create the hardware for the transparent LCD software.

“From the first stage I was comfortable that TKO understood my concepts,’ says Misawa. ‘It’s the first time I’ve worked with UK designers and I thought the design quality was very high, as was communication between TKO and us to run the project. TKO has a good sense of relationship. Collaborative work is essential to produce new products.’ She adds the distance was not a problem. ‘We used e-mail almost everyday and Andy came to Japan often.’

‘She didn’t want a box or computer, she wanted the hardware to complement and enhance the magic of the technology,’ Davey explains. ‘The technology looks like ice and we wanted to use materials to reflect that,’ he says of the display unit which combines clear acrylics with aluminium.

As the Crystal Mu technology had been inspired by ‘shakkei’, a traditional method of Japanese landscape gardening, Misawa was keen that TKO understood and incorporated the same ‘pleasure of harmony between nature and artefacts’, within the design.

Misawa comments: ‘Andy showed deep understanding of our concepts of Crystal Mu in creating an innovative form. He made a beautiful half-transparent display, realising our ideas of transparency and shakkei.’

‘Understanding between client and designer is really essential,’ stresses Davey, who explains that further development of the Crystal Mu concept is likely. ‘UK designers do have a sensitivity and flexibility which is important when you’re working abroad.’

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