Is it possible to create an original black from Japan–a country with a historically cultural reference to the color?

Unlike in other countries, the color black is often viewed as a misfortunate color. However, black is known to be a particular color in Japanese culture. This color symbolizes "wabi-sabi" (a traditional Japanese philosophy of appreciating the beauty of transience and imperfection), calmness, and depth beyond negative images. Japanese culture includes black in places where the highest level of tranquility is required. For instance, Buddhist robes, Senrikyu black tea bowls, to black lacquerware. As Japan has established itself as a technologically orientated country, industries such as automotive paint businesses also enhanced the technology for black over time. Even in modern fashion, influenced by Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo's "black color impact", it is also one of the most critical colors in Japanese beauty.

After consultation, we decided to create a new black using carbon nanotube (CNT) technology that is owned by the major Japanese paint manufacturer "Toyo Ink Group." They had advanced in creating dispersion technology that dissolves into various liquids already. The underlying technology of CNT is the same technology as VANTA BLACK, which later became a hit worldwide. 

Coincidentally at the same time, we had drawn out a branding strategy of Echizen lacquerware, Japan's largest lacquerware production area. The local industry is full of challenges that affect our near future such as a decline in sales, and lack of successors. With aging artisans, it is necessary to revive the industry with technology and continue the tradition for the future.

We realized that there might be a chance to create a future for the color black and keep traditional craftsmanship with these two matters. Thus the project of producing Japan's world-renowned black from the fusion of ancient times began.

黒は日本文化にとって本当に特別な色です。文化的には「忌色」として見ることが多 い他国とは違って、日本文化における黒は、ネガティブなイメージを超えて侘び寂びや静けさ、深遠さの象徴として扱われてきました。仏教の法衣、千利休の黒楽茶碗、あるいは漆の黒に見られるように、最上の静けさが要される場所に、つねに黒が出現してきました。また技術で立国してきた近代の日本もまた、自動車の塗装産業に代表されるように、黒の技術を時間をかけて高めてきました。現代のファッションでも、ヨウジヤマモトや川久保玲の「黒の衝撃」に代表されるように、現代でも日本美において黒は最も重要な色と言って良いでしょう。

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。



Aiming for the world's blackest black, we recombined technologies from other fields, and gave it a new name.

We first decided to give this worlds' top-level black a name that can express the depth and its indication in Japanese culture. After searching for dozens of words, we finally chose the name "ZEN BLACK." It holds the meaning of "black Zen" and "entirety of black."
The logo is a combination of carbon hexagons and the symbol of "enso"–a Zen calligraphic technique when drawing a circle with one stroke.

As the first project of ZENBLACK to be displayed, we received a commission from Shenzhen Design Week to build a centerpiece at the entrance, where we decided to pay attention to the manufacturing industry. 

ZENBLACK GARDEN is an installation using the world's blackest paint "ZENBLACK" that utilizes carbon nanotubes, as a "Kareisansui" (a traditional Zen garden with stones). It is a charcoal that is made of the same carbon atoms, highlighting the pure blackness effect of ZENBLACK, despite being the same black.
The ZENBLACK stones resemble a similar shape of an expanded grain of charcoal, which was then placed in mid air, as if neglecting gravity, giving a sense of tension throughout the entire space. ZENBLACK, which had just been released, was featured on various media platforms in China, making significant progress in Japan's technology for international export.

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。


ZENBLACK GARDENは、カーボンナノチューブを活用した世界トップレベルに黒い黒色塗料「ZENBLACK」を用いた、世界で最も黒い石を持つ枯山水です。全面に敷かれているのは同じ炭素原子で出来ているはずの木炭であり、同じ黒にもかかわらずZENBLACKの黒さを際立たせる効果を発揮しています。

We were inspired by the stone garden of Ryoanji Temple (an iconic Zen temple), a "Kareisansui" (a traditional Zen garden with stones). We created this with charcoal, replacing the natural rocks with  ZENBLACK pieces and displayed this in a Japanese-style. The exhibition received much recognition and grew popularity after being featuring in various Chinese newspapers. 

Furthermore, we proposed for our second project, a new black by fusing the technology of CNT dispersion with the lacquer's craftsmanship. However, we realized that despite being soluble, the viscosity is high therefore not mixing well. After various experiments,  we were able to produce a lacquer that combines both veneer and CNT. It is safe to say that the new varnish created from ZENBLACK is the blackest lacquer since it was introduced to Japan 1200 years ago. We decided to create a green tea bowl which is similar to the Kuroraku tea bowl used dearly by Senrikyu with this new lacquer. 

One year after the start of the project, ZENBLACK became one of the key developmental projects of the Toyo Ink Group as a result of these challenges. The plan of creating a new black is still underway. 





We are currently developing underlying technology to take on challenges for the world's blackest black.

Toyo Ink Group is one of the largest ink makers in the industry that studies various colors. Thus we consulted in exploring more technologies and techniques together. We proceeded the project with members from Toyo Ink Group and discussed how this black could be the world's top level. We found that we could produce an extreme black not only from carbon nanotubes, but also with other materials. ZENBLACK is not a single color, but a color that refers to nine different types of the "blackest black in the world" owned by Toyo Ink Group. Major Japanese companies have begun recruiting and preparing projects to develop applied intellectual property.

In addition, Tachikawa introduced the possibility of an internal black such as applying it in the Alma telescope to Steve Pompea, an American astronomer whom he met personally. 

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


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 Direction
NOSIGNER (Eisuke Tachikawa)
Space Design
NOSIGNER (Eisuke Tachikawa, Ryo Itoigawa, Daichi Komatsu, Sui Fujikawa, Ryusei Noguchi)
Graphic Design
NOSIGNER (Eisuke Tachikawa, Ryota Mizusako)
Product Design
NOSIGNER (Eisuke Tachikawa, Niyen Lee)

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