Designer Mike He likes to create things that make people happy. Inspired by fairy tales and stories, his designs maybe playful and a bit irreverent at times, but never fall short of being functional.
Once upon a time there was a designer who wanted to create things that would make people smile. He took his ideas from everyday life, from his own experiences and from the popular fairy tales and stories that make up our childhoods. The result? A brand that consistently creates happy products that are not only charming to look at, but also functional and thought-provoking.
Meet Mike He, creator and founder of Pistacchi Design, a design brand based in Taiwan. He (He Ren Wei) was born in 1980 and studied art and product design. From 2005-2015, he worked with Acer Computer Co., Ltd. as a product designer and developed a niche for product design in the technology industry. Now, at Pistacchi Design, he focuses on designing simple and practical lifestyle products. His goal is to deliver positive feelings through his designs, helping people to experience their life again – in a fresh way.
He approaches design through the lens of comics and cartoons, making the humour evident immediately and to all; even those not familiar with the story.
One of the first products he designed was a pencil sharpener inspired by the fairy tale Pinocchio. The pencil becomes the nose of Pinocchio and because this is “Honest Pinocchio” (as opposed to the lying version of the fairy tale whose nose grows longer with every tale he tells) the ‘nose’ becomes shorter and shorter.
The Once upon a Time series has other similarly-themed products. The Kingdom, for instance, is a range of ceiling lamps that look like castles. The contemporary designs and colour make it a quirky addition to a modern household. Little Red Hood is a layered food container set that incorporates the concept of nesting dolls with a twist.
Here, bowls with lids are designed to fit in with the story of Little Red Riding Hood, her grandmother and the wicked wolf. The nesting lids open to reveal each character which, to me, is such a charming idea. Use the bowls to store food or as a decorative item by itself.
He turns the story of the ‘Honest Axes’ into a side-table where the three axes form the base of the table with a clear top representing the river water into which the axes were thrown. The Lively Trunk is a vase/watering can that gives new life (literally) to what seems like a dead tree trunk in the forest.
The artificial tree trunks in various colours can be used as vases (therefore making it seem like it is bursting with new growth) or as a watering can through a spout on its side (which can also be used to hold flowers). If this isn’t happy enough, get your happily-ever-after ending with the Happy End necklace which will surely put you in a cheerful frame of mind.
Moving on from fairy tales, his Comma Stool/Chair is a good example of how he takes a classical element and deconstructs it into something totally different yet identifiable and useful. The Comma Stool/Chair (made from marble, wood stone horn, foam) is inspired by the comma.
Like the punctuation mark, this piece gives users a reason to pause, to take a break. The Comma was designed to be a functional public sculpture that is visually attractive and also allows one to use it as something to lean on. The design can easily be changed to a chair with backrests or a highchair using other materials like wood, metal or plastic.
The 1,2,3 Blocks Chair is a children’s chair (also a stool) that “provides a small triangular world in which everyone can create his/her own version of a rural landscape.” The chair has building blocks that represent the iconic images of Taiwan and allows children to get imaginative with their play.
The soothing colours, rounded edges and multiple possibilities for play make this a functional toy of sorts. As He says, “The discovery process is as simple, natural, and interesting as what we feel about Taiwan – a promised land full of wonders.”
Talking about his AnimoSphere series – the word AnimoSphere is a combination of Animo (animal) and Sphere, which can also be pronounced similar to Atmosphere, to bring out the fact that human beings and animals co-exist and share this planet equally.
The ‘Good Old Days’ lamp range from this series has wall-mounted animal heads with halos around their heads. Here He wants to remind humans that the planet is as much for the animals as it is for humans.
Similarly, the Gotcha! Table Lamp makes a playful comment on traditional lamps that use “glorified” animal or human figurines as décor. “Once you look closer, you will find that the dog is peeing on the pole, a chameleon is in the transition of blending in with the shade pattern and cows are getting sucked towards the light,” says He.
It is exactly this irreverence that makes He’s work memorable. His use of the classical element to make new objects relatable to consumers ensures that his designs will be seen in the right context and continue to create magic and produce smiles on the faces of all those who experience them.
Text By ChryselleD’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer