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Is it possible to create a new black from Japan; a country that has historically respected the color black?

Black is a  special color in Japanese culture. Unlike other countries, which are often viewed as "indigo" culturally, black in Japanese culture, beyond having a negative image, has been historically treated as a symbol of joy, quietness and depth. Black has always appeared in places where the highest level of tranquility is required, as seen in Buddhist robes, Senrikyu black tea bowls, or on black lacquerware. 
Also, modern Japan, which has established itself as a technologically orientated country, has also enhanced technology for black over time, as represented by the automotive paint industry. Even in modern fashion, black may be said to be the most important color in Japanese beauty, represented by the “black color impact” of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo.


At that time, we decided to go forth consulting about a new black, using carbon nanotube (CNT) technology owned by the major Japanese paint manufacturer, "Toyo Ink Group". The basic technology of CNT is the same technology as VANTA BLACK, which became a hit topic in worldwide, where Toyo Ink had advanced already, already creating dispersion technology that dissolves in various liquids.
At the same time, NOSIGNER had drawn out  the branding strategy of Echizen lacquerware, of Japan's largest lacquerware production area. The local industry is full of challenges that affect our future, such as a decline in sales, and increasing lack of successors. With the aging of the craftsmen, in order to be able to continue the tradition in the future, it is necessary to create a new industry that utilizes technology.

With these two points together, there may be a chance to create the future for the color black to remain in Japanese history. This is how this project to produce Japan's world-renowned black from the fusion of ancient times started.

そんな折、日本の大手塗装メーカーである「東洋インキグループ」が持つ、カーボンナノチューブ(CNT)の技術を含めた新しい黒色のコンサルティングをすることになりました。CNTの基本的な技術は世界的に話題になったVANTA BLACKと同じ技術であり、さらに東洋インキにはそれを様々な液体に解く分散体の技術があるという点で一歩進んでいました。


Aim for the world's blackest black by recombining technologies of other areas, and giving this technology a name

We first decided to give a name to the world's top black that did not have one. We were able to express the depth of the color black in Japan, and after searching for dozens of words that could be understood even by foreigners, we finally came to the conclusion of "ZEN BLACK". This word holds the meaning of "black Zen" and "entirety of black". The symbol mark is a "hexagonal phase", which draws the circular phase of the Zen to the shape of a carbon hexagon. As the first project of ZENBLACK, we exhibited the installation at the factory in the world, Shenzhen of China, where we decided to pay attention to the manufacturing industry. This was because there was a sudden request for NOSIGNER to exhibit as the main installation at the entrance of Shenzhen Design Week.

名もなき世界トップレベルの黒に、まずは名前をつけることにしました。日本における黒の深遠さを表現でき、外国人にも伝わる言葉を探して数十案を検討しながら、最後に「ZEN BLACK」という名前にたどり着きました。この言葉は「禅の黒」「全ての黒」という意味を持っています。シンボルマークは、禅の円相を炭素の六角形で描く「六角相」としました。そしてZENBLACK最初のプロジェクトとして、世界の工場、中国の深センでのインスタレーション展示をしてみて、製造業の関心をはかることにしました。なんとタイミングよく、スタート間もないタイミングでNOSIGNERに対して深センデザインウィークの入り口にメインのインスタレーションを展示をしてくれないかという依頼があったからです。

We were inspired by the stone garden of Ryoanji Temple (an iconic Zen temple), a "Kareisansui", which is a Japanese dry landscape garden with stones. We created this with charcoal, and on top of this, we suspended a mass of ZENBLACK, in replacement of a stone, displaying this in a Japanese-style. The exhibition received high favorability and was featured in various Chinese newspapers, becoming well known to many people.
In addition, as the second project, we have started to propose a new black by fusing the technology of CNT dispersion with the technology of lacquer craftsmen. However, the viscosity of lacquer is high, and although it has a dispersion, it does not mix well. After many experiments, we were finally able to produce a lacquer that combines lacquer and CNT. It is safe to say that the new lacquer created from ZENBLACK is the blackest lacquer since it was introduced to Japan 1200 years ago. Using this lacquer, we decided to create a green tea bowl called ZENBLACK, which is similar to the Kuroraku tea bowl used dearly by Senrikyu.
Only a year after the start of the project, ZENBLACK is positioned as the key developmental project of the Toyo Ink Group from these challenges, and projects creating new black is under way today.



We are currently developing foundation technology. The challenge for the world's blackest black, continues.

Toyo Ink Group is a one of the largest ink makers that studies various colors. Therefore, there was a possibility that many black technologies were left untouched within the company. Therefore, we proceeded the project with the members of the Toyo Ink Group on how much this black could be the world's top level. We found that we could produce extreme black not only from carbon nanotubes, but also from other uses. I found that I had a lot of black. ZENBLACK is not only a single color. It has become a name that refers to the 9 types of the "blackest black of the world's top level" that Toyo Ink Group owns. Recruitment to major Japanese companies has begun, and projects to develop applied intellectual property, are steadily being prepared. In addition, an astronomer representing the United States who met personally with Tachikawa, introduced Steve Pompea who develops internal black colors such as the Alma telescope, where we are gradually beginning to challenge the height black colors.

The challenge for the world's blackest black, born from the connection of timeless traditions and innovation, continues.

東洋インキグループは様々な色が研究される、巨大なインキメーカーです。それ故に、社内にもたくさんの黒の技術が眠っている可能性がありました。そこで私達は、世界トップレベルと言っていい黒がどれくらいあるのかを、東洋インキグループの皆さんと洗い出しながらプロジェクトを進めていくと、どうやらカーボンナノチューブだけでなく、他の用途の黒においても極めて黒い黒をたくさんお持ちであることがわかりました。ZENBLACKは一色ではなく、東洋インキグループが持つ9種類の「世界トップレベルに黒い黒」を指す名前になりました。日本の大手企業への採用が決まり始め、応用知財を開発するプロジェクトも着々と準備が進んでいます。また、太刀川と個人的に知り合ったアメリカを代表する天文学者であり、アルマ望遠鏡などの内部の黒を開発するSteve Pompea氏などをご紹介し、さらに高みの黒への挑戦が徐々に始まっています。


Art Director: Eisuke Tachikawa (NOSIGNER)
Space Designers: Eisuke Tachikawa, Ryo Itogawa, Daichi Komatsu, Sui Fujikawa, Ryusei Noguchi (NOSIGNER)
Graphic Designers: Eisuke Tachikawa, Ryota Mizusako (NOSIGNER)
Product Designers: Eisuke Tachikawa, Niyen Lee (NOSIGNER)

NOSIGNER™ : social design for evolution.

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Black on a molecular level. One of the blackest substances on Earth, “ZENBLACK.”​​​​​​​ With the spread of ZENBLACK, we wanted all designers to b Read more
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