FROM CONTEST TO MARKET

Word Block

<2015 Grand Prix>

The binder ring doubles as a band, enabling the cards to be kept neatly stacked in a block.
It is a new proposal for word cards which blend into your lifestyle beautifully both when you are using them, and after you have put them away.

  • Word Block
  • Word Block
  • Word Block
  • Word Block
  • Word Block

Introduction video about products : https://youtu.be/w4XFHLcE928(YouTube)

*Only available for purchase in Japan.

FROM CONTEST TO MARKET

"Word Block" was selected for the Grand Prix from among a total of 1,659 entries in the KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD 2015. In response to the theme "Beautiful Lifestyle", this artwork focuses on a form of learning whereby you accumulate ideas as you jot down notes about everyday things you come across. The design team "alab" (Miri Ito / Kyoko Takahashi / Kao Muroya / Minato Yamanaka) sought to capture the advantages of handwriting that can never be replaced by digital methods, and the comforting feel of touching pen and paper. The level of perfection in their model, where they went deep into the detail of fasteners and paper, was also highly rated.

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Members of "alab" making their presentation in the Final Judging (2015)

The process of making the artwork into a commercial product started about half a year after winning the award. However, there were three major issues that needed to be solved in terms of quality, cost and production methods.
Firstly, the material for the front cover. "A beauty found in block-like neatness" created using the same material for both the front cover and the inner paper is a very important point of the artwork. However, there were concerns about cost and quality since the front cover of the model the designers made was 12 sheets of the inner paper bonded together. Considerations were made about using cardboard which is similar in color and texture, or mixed materials of pulp and resin, etc. in order to reduce the number of sheets to be bonded, but ultimately, the conclusion was reached to use the same paper". After searching everywhere, the designers and the development staff were able to find paper in a variety of thicknesses. As such, five sheets of thick paper were bonded together to make the front cover, thus realizing the desired block-like sense of unity.

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KOKUYO development staff prepared a lot of prototypes based on the designers' model in order to review which type of paper and fasteners to use

Secondly, the paper processing method. One of the features of the "Word Block" is that thanks to the r-shaped notch, the paper part and the rubber fastener become one. However, because the front cover was so thick, it was difficult to punch out the notches and jagged edges would remain on the side. This caused the rubber cord to get caught, and at the same time would have been far adrift from the idea of "usability and a comfortable feel" that the designers were so passionate about. After many prototypes,

a smooth r shape was achieved by craftsmen carefully bonding by hand paper which was first punched two sheets at a time, instead of cutting it all with a blade at once.

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(Left) Cutting the entire block one by one with a machine. (Right) Craftsman manually bonding the front cover paper into which the notches have been cut.

The four designers and the KOKUYO staff interacted with each other and looked at actual prototypes every few months in order to progress the project. The four look back; "We knew they were trying many things to solve the issues, but did not know how in terms of technical solutions. Later on, we were showed the photos of a craftsman actually bonding paper manually, and we were really surprised".

The third and the most difficult issue was the molding of the fastener. The fastener of the initial model the designers made was a metal part with a rubber cord attached to it. The designers wanted to hold the block together with just a single rubber ring in order to create a sense of unity between the paper and the fastener; they felt that the less obtrusive the parts were, the better. In order to respond to this request from the designers, the entire faster was first molded in a single-piece of silicon, but the idea was abandoned due to a lack of strength. Then, with the support of the KOKUYO Technical Center, the decision was made to adopt insert molding, a method in which rubber cords were put into the mold and solidified with resin.

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(Left) Validating fasteners made from various materials such as silicon, metal fittings and resin. (Right) Factory craftsmen and KOKUYO development staff

With regard to the rubber cord, it was discovered that the rubber in the core would come out from inside the polyester fiber with repeated attachment and detachment. So, the three thin rubber cords were replaced with one thick rubber cord. Furthermore, the mold shape was designed so that the resin does not protrude through the gap between the rubber and the mold when the resin is poured in during molding. With know-how like this and an accumulation of ingenious inventions by experienced engineers, a fastener that doesn't fall out easily and which maintains its strength was brought to fruition.

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The four members of "alab" chatting away holding the commercial product of their artwork "Word Block." (From left, Kyoko Takahashi, Miri Ito, Kao Muroya, Minato Yamanaka)

In this way, "Word Block" was finally brought to completion after various technical issues were overcome through the course of a year and a half from the start of development. The four designers said; "We were touched by the fact that the KOKUYO development staff gave shape to our ideas with such sincerity. There were a lot of things that we learned for the first time as a result of participating in the manufacturing process, such as about product development that takes customers into consideration, and about the strict nature of quality tests. We would be delighted if it becomes a book that people use for a long time for storing their important ideas". It is a masterpiece born of collaboration between the prize-winners and the development staff. Please take one in your hand and check out the achievement for yourself.