By Vicki Matranga
Design Programs + Services
Get to know the people behind the stylish products that will appear at the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show in Discover Design. We’ll be posting conversations with exhibitors to give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see in March at McCormick Place.
Headquartered in Shiga, Japan, KINTO was established in 1972 as a wholesaler of porcelain/ceramic tableware. From the 1980s to 2000, KINTO imported and distributed select European tableware brands to the Japanese market. In the 1990s, the company began developing original designs and by 2009, had grown to a full-scale export business. KINTO products are now sold internationally at major retailers such as La Rinascente in Italy, Le Bon Marche in France, Selfridge’s in the UK and the MoMA Store in the U.S.
Today we are speaking with Makiko Minami, international sales manager.
Ms. Minami, where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
From everyday life. Our main products are tableware and kitchenware, so KINTO’s product development team is always trying to find solutions to tiny problems in our life through the design. This is a typical Japanese idea, I would say. We try to make something better and more comfortable, even if it is a very small thing, and our target always is the “best.”
Tell us about how your product development team operates.
We only have three planners, but we launch 10 – 15 new series each year. The team creates various concepts and then market research and internal discussions shape the concepts and product image. Our design staff works with many consultant designers. Together we consider many aspects of the product: the selection of the best materials, forms and characteristics that are necessary or unnecessary. We discuss drawings and prototypes. Holding the mock-up in the hand is so important to sense how it feels and functions. Molds for the ceramic and porcelain items are made after many trials and experiments.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
It depends on the characteristics of the products. However, our basic point of view is that of a user. We are the developer and designer of the products, but at the same time, we are the user. We keep this simple idea always in our minds.
Design is extremely important. For example, we produce a wide variety of cups. The designs of the cups below are all different. The purpose and functions of a cup are very simple and the same; however, different designs give us different meanings, tastes and feelings. These small differences lead us to different lifestyles. We believe that the design is not only applied to the products but to a lifestyle. To move our industry forward, we should offer people a variety of choices in the same product category, such as the example above. We have to show people that the time of mass-production has passed and that there are many well-designed products available at fair prices. Living with low-cost and mass-produced products does not make anybody happy and comfortable. People should choose a product and learn the story behind that item. The industry may move forward when people understand the small joy of choosing one original product for their homes.
Where are your products manufactured?
We make our products in Japan and China.
You exhibited with us in 2013. How did our Show help you build your brand?
As an international exhibitor, attending this Show was very enjoyable. Everything seemed well organized and this was very important so we could concentrate on our business. This Show has many opportunities and helps exhibitors reach buyers and media.
Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?
We’ll be premiering our CAST drink series. This line, especially the teapot and stainless steel saucer, are new for the North American market. The line includes water jugs, glass cups for drinking coffee or soup and drinking glasses for various beverages. The CAST teapot’s lid has a built-in mesh strainer, enabling you to make tea easily without having to insert the strainer. A silicone ring fits the lid snugly and prevents it from dropping off during pouring. And the stylish design of the cup and saucer matches the CARAT coffee series.
Thank you, Ms. Minami, for sharing your philosophy and methods. We look to forward seeing your latest products at the Show.
Visit KINTO in Discover Design in booth S3475. View their range of elegant tableware and kitchenware and cookware at
Discover Design is the premier design destination at the International Home + Housewares Show. Located in the South Building, the invitation-only category features more than 100 exhibitors from around the world. Companies driven by innovation and design present distinctive products and collections in Tabletop, Gift, Textiles and Home Décor categories. The Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, features select products that are entries in the Global Innovation Award (gia) for Design. Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products by checking Housewares Connect 365 at