LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE
Many brands champion forward-thinking and considered design, but KINTO takes that a step further. Built on the idea that the products we use every day are an integral part of our wider lifestyle, KINTO has a definite sense of commitment to making the everyday exceptional. Even if it’s just a coffee mug. In an exclusive interview with their design team, we find out why life is better in the slow line...
How was KINTO established? What’s the story behind the brand?
"KINTO was established in 1972 as a wholesaler of porcelain and ceramic tableware in Shiga, Japan. From the mid-1980s to 2000, we imported and distributed European tableware and glassware in Japan. But from around the mid-1990s, we began developing our own line of products having recognised a growing demand for tableware that fit into the modern lifestyle. We aspired to deliver our own interpretation of products to enrich the everyday life, sensibly integrating Japanese tradition and the changing needs of everyday life.
Since 2010 our products have been exported worldwide and, in Europe, a subsidiary was established in 2016. Ranging from tableware and drinkware to interior accessories, we have continued to work on delivering products that inspire and give fulfilment with every touch and use.
KINTO aspires to ‘enrich everyday life and embrace a thoughtful yet casual lifestyle’. How does this translate into your products?
Rather than something very ornate or decorative, we seek to create products that can be used casually, which are simple yet meaningful. In product development, we spend a lot of time seeking the balance between usability and aesthetics. We believe that products that are easy to use are comforting to all of the senses, and let you be mindful of the small things—for example, the beauty of nature in the change of seasons and the delightful moments in savouring a good meal with close family and friends. Our products are designed with simplicity and subtle elegance in order to integrate harmoniously whilst adding a unique touch to a conscious lifestyle.
What influences KINTO’s designs? (a particular Artist, Architect, Movement etc.)
Inspirations come from a wide range of fields such as food, interior design, and fashion. We always have a great passion for discovering inspiring spaces, restaurants, cafes, and different lifestyles. It’s about finding moments and experiences that bring us joy and comfort, then finding a way to translate it into a product to share it with the world. Our designs are often rooted in the Japanese tradition of craftsmanship as well; for example in the nuanced shapes, colours, and details that are carefully considered in order to make sure the product satisfies the user.
What’s the KINTO design process? How do you achieve a balance between usability and aesthetic?
Ideas for products originate from small realisations in everyday life. Drawing from actual moments and experiences, the product development team develops concepts around a lifestyle that we wish to propose. We think about the feeling of enrichment and comfort we wish to convey through different forms, materials, and textures.
In order to give shape to a product concept, the product development team collaborates with outside designers or draws the design themselves. We study various materials, forms, plus necessary and unnecessary details to achieve the balance between usability and aesthetics.
How do you try and make the brand relevant to people’s lifestyles? You have an online journal which shows people recipes, shops, cafes etc.
The online journal was created from our passion to share what we truly enjoy. Along with our products, we want to share inspirations and ideas for making daily life richer and more comfortable. We try to capture and communicate the lifestyle we imagine through many visuals. We are continuing to update and improve the website, hoping to share more stories and information that would help people get to know more about KINTO.
How did the SLOW COFFEE STYLE come about? Why did you want to develop it?
The SLOW COFFEE STYLE collection was born from our desire to bring people the joy of a slow, relaxing passage of time with pour over coffee—watching freshly ground coffee beans bloom and feeling their rich aroma fill the air. In Japan, there is a rich culture of coffee brewed by hand and we were inspired to reinterpret this in a way so that it can be enjoyed in our modern day-to-day life all around the world.
What did you have to consider in order to make the series work?
Balancing usability and aesthetics is always key for us. Just to give a few examples, with the SLOW COFFEE STYLE glass servers and jugs we worked on the arch of the handle so that your wrist does not feel stress as you pour, and we decided to use simple dots instead of numerical measurement scales so the products feel more like interior items rather than kitchen tools. With the mugs, we carefully considered the thickness around the cup rim so that it feels smooth on the mouth. We also evaluated various textures and colours so that the mugs add a warm and elegant touch to the coffee scene.
You collaborated with potter Yusuke Kido on the SLOW COFFEE STYLE S01 series. Can you tell us a bit about that?
ONE KILN is the tableware brand by Yusuke Kido, and he has a line of products that uses clay from his hometown of Kagoshima and glaze that mixes minerals and ashes from the local Sakurajima volcano. These products have a bold appearance, and yet still have a sense of warmth which intrigued us. With Mr Kido, we found that we shared many values such as respect for craftsmanship, contemporary vision, and careful attention to detail. This became the basis of our collaboration.
Why do you feel the SLOW COFFEE STYLE is superior to other pour-over coffee makers?
We do not believe that our products are superior to those of other brands, but we think that SLOW COFFEE STYLE appeals to people who are looking to enjoy pour over coffee not just for the taste but as a part of their lifestyle. Our products are designed so that they can be used comfortably on a daily basis, and also so that they would integrate well with interior spaces and other objects that have been thoughtfully tended or designed.
What’s the perfect coffee for SLOW COFFEE STYLE? (Bean, Origin, Roast, Flavour Notes etc.)
We believe that using high-quality beans freshly ground just before brewing is one of the keys when making coffee. A lot of KINTO members have been into single origin light roasted coffees as of late because lighter roasts bring out the unique flavours of a coffee such as fruitiness. While we do think the actual quality and taste of the coffee is important, ultimately, our greatest wish is that people can find joy in the slow and relaxing passage of time while brewing coffee.