Founded by Gen Terao as a one-man-company, Balmuda changed its name to “Balmuda Co., Ltd.” in April 2011 after the success of its premium electric fan “GreenFan” and has since introduced home appliances with unique features and restrained aesthetics. Balmuda products go beyond merely serving as simple tools.
They serve as a medium to reproduce and convey pleasant experiences and improve users’ quality of life.
Welcome to the 57th edition of magazine B.
Looking back to twenty or thirty years ago, I remember how rare it was for my family members to gather around together outside of mealtimes. The few occasions this did happen, it was usually because of some new electronic device or appliance. We weren’t a talkative bunch, but install a new TV in the living room, or a towering new air- conditioning unit next to the sofa, or a versatile new oven in the kitchen, and suddenly we had a lot more to say. Even if the new contraptions weren’t the easiest to operate, and even if it took some time to figure out their countless functions, we never complained. As far as we knew, all machines were that way — unwieldy, intricate and somewhat temperamental. We bent over, kneeled down and performed with compliance whatever labor was required for their operation. This was the only way to get them to do what we wanted. We had to adapt to their needs. And even then we weren’t guaranteed smooth and reliable operation. In this way, one by one, these appliances began to occupy the spaces in our home.
Things are different today. Our mobile phones have become “smart” phones, household appliances are as stylish as designer furniture, and we can even control our appliances from outside our homes. We hear enticing claims that advances in AI will mean fewer household chores for us. In short, our devices have begun adapting to our needs. In this edition, B looks at one of the brands at the center of this shift, none other than the Japanese home appliance brand, Balmuda. Launched in 2003 as a one-man computer accessories operation, today Balmuda is an oft talked-about maker of fans, toasters and air purifiers, among others. Unlike its big-name, large-scale competitors, Balmuda is not after quantity. After all, its entire line only includes some ten products. Instead, the company has focused on making maximum impact with minimal means, and no other brand today does it better. Balmuda’s products make a lasting impression, not because of their size or multiplicity of functions but because of their unique sensibility. They capture the feeling of being in the wide outdoors, with a gentle breeze grazing your cheek. They recreate the taste of the freshly baked bread you had at that one bakery you happened on by chance during your trip overseas. The vase-shaped humidifier, for example, is designed to let the user pour water directly into it, with no separate water compartment to remove, fill and replace. Filling the humidifier feels like watering a potted plant, and so this simple action becomes immensely enjoyable. The material of the device, the design, the finish and other details only heighten this enjoyment. It’s no wonder that users describe Balmuda products as being more like furniture than appliances.
Balmuda has made a name for itself on the strength of more than just its appliances. The functionality and technology behind its products are merely a means to an end. What really drives the company is the question of the value that technology brings to our lives. President Gen Terao explains that Balmuda does not develop technology just for technology’s sake. The company engages in repeated research and experimentation only when there is a clear goal to create a certain kind of product. In terms of marketing, Balmuda is similarly focused. They forego the wordy descriptions of the products’ specifications and complex underlying processes. The products essentially speak for themselves, eliminating the need for elaborate marketing or promotional strategies. It’s the same dynamic we see when people fall in love. We can list off every quality we want in our ideal partner, but when we actually meet someone who makes us swoon, we don’t have the words to explain why we love them.
In the course of getting to know Balmuda’s products and talking to the people who use them, I was reminded of the items I love to use every day. And I realized that my fondness for them depended not on their price or their label but on the experiences I’ve accumulated with them. This is the kind of attachment that lasts.
Eunsung Park, Editor-in-Chief
Discovering Balmuda at Tsutaya Electrics Store
Satoshi Wada, CEO of SWdesign
The five products in the Air Solution category
Unpacking the design and technology of the Air Solution category
The three products in the Kitchen category
Putting the Kitchen category products into action
Sukwoo Lee, CEO of SWNA
How Balmuda products are used in commercial spaces
Four appliance designers give their take on Balmuda
Moonkyu Choi, power blogger
The spaces and lifestyle philosophies of Balmuda users
The small businesses shaping Japan’s premium appliances market
The birth and growth of Balmuda
The brand’s creative process as documented on its social media
The diverse partners that collaborate with Balmuda
Balmuda’s creative team on the design process and work culture
Gen Terao, President of Balmuda
Balmuda’s past and present in numbers
Understanding design trends through Balmuda’s design prize wins
- Publisher Suyong Joh
- Media Director Myungsoo Kim
- Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
- Senior Editor Heather Yoo
- Editors Jaewoo Seo, Yeongmin Adriana Kim
- Intern Editor Sol Lyu
- Guest Designer Gyeongtak Kang
- Filmmaker Sukwang Baak
- Marketer Hyunjoo Kim
- Sales & Distribution Sanghoon Kim, Suyeon Kim
- Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Nari Park (London), Lena Shin (LA), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Jeewon Lim (Milan), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris)
- Publishing JOH & Company
- 行こう,どこにもなかった方法で Let’s Chart a New Path
- バルミューダ 奇跡のデザイン経営 Balmuda: The Business of Miraculous Design
- Less and More; Braun: 50 Years of Design and Innovation
- AXIS, Volume No. 186
- Brutus, Volume No. 816