Nendo’s inventive makeover of a Japanese tuna longliner reminisces ‘life ashore’

Straight lines, unevenness and massiveness inform the design of Shofukumaru to ensure physical and mental well-being of its crew members who spend endless months at the sea.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Apr 29, 2020

Striking graphic patterns by Nendo transform both the identity and the onboard experience of life on Shofukumaru – a tuna longliner that operates for Usufuku Honten fishery in Kesennuma city of Japan’s Tohuku region. The ship weighs 486 tons with a capacity to accommodate 23 crew members.

A glimpse of pelagic tuna fishing vessel, Shofukumaru | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
A glimpse of pelagic tuna fishing vessel, Shofukumaru Image Credit: Takumi Ota

The project is an attempt to relieve the stress of its crew, especially the younger members who spend over 10 months of hard labour at the sea on the lookout for bigeye and bluefin tuna. In the case of these fishes, it is said that seasons pass by without any catch, and sometimes when there is some luck, there is no guarantee that one would get them to the boat. The result, as the company states, is a turnover rate that exceeds 50 per cent among its younger staff.

A close look of the fishing vessel | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
A close look at the fishing vessel Image Credit: Courtesy of Nendo

The project is anchored on the idea of creating a sense of security on ground and ensuring the physical and mental well-being of the crew members. In line with that, the brief to the designers included three keywords - straight lines, unevenness and massiveness.

Graphic identity developed from deconstructing Usufuku Honten’s trademark | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
Graphic identity developed from deconstructing Usufuku Honten’s trademark Image Credit: Courtesy of Nendo

Straight lines and circles have been illustrated as a graphic pattern on the exteriors of the ship created by deconstructing Usufuku’s trademark logo, which comprises Japanese symbols Chigai-yama (mountains), Hoshi (star) and Ichi (one).

The pattern has been replicated in the interiors in various forms and can be seen on the onboard flooring as well. Further, striped joints and rectilinear openings are designed in conjunction with soft curved surfaces to trigger a certain experience for the users.

“The idea was conceived from the notion that our species, not originally accustomed to spending long periods of time at sea, might be comforted by linearity reminiscent of life ashore: the straight lines of buildings, windows, doors, and smartphone and TV screens,” explains Nendo.

  • A pattern of straight lines and circles on the onboard flooring | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
    A pattern of straight lines and circles on the onboard flooring Image Credit: Takumi Ota
  • Designs and patterns scattered at random | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
    Designs and patterns scattered at randomImage Credit: Takumi Ota

Patterns, stripes and various materials come together in a random and moderated way as a design intervention to prevent psychological stress for users, which is often seen in homogenous spaces such as hospitals.

The coming together of the three keywords | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
The coming together of the three keywords Image Credit: Courtesy of Nendo

Lastly, a feeling of massiveness is injected in the scheme to distract users from the state of constant floating. This has been done by creating furniture that is seemingly rooted to the floor, including thicker-than-average tabletops and stump-like stools.

Moreover, the focus on crew’s well-being is reflected in the installation of slopes that help facilitate smooth transition of the catch.

Slopes designed for easy handling of the catch | Shofukumaru | Nendo | STIRworld
Slopes designed for easy handling of the catch Image Credit: Takumi Ota

According to Nendo, Shofukumaru is the first domestic tuna fishing vessel equipped with a wi-fi system and comes with an increased per-person occupancy area and a higher ceiling compared to conventional interiors.

Previous projects by Nendo include a series of self-driving cars for children to access playgrounds, a two-family home in Tokyo with a sweeping staircase, and a wristwatch designed with Japanese minimalism.

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