Blessed with an easy laugh and an earnest approach, Singgih Kartono (the name is pronounced “SING-ee”) says his main interest is in sidestepping the crasser manufacturing and construction techniques that frequently accompany new electronics on their way to market.

“I have tried to redefine ‘what is design?'” he says.

I’m not using any coating on the product. I want the user to touch the wood. In my concept, the beauty of the product depends not on the product itself but on how the user handles it and protects it.”

The speed of modern marketing can be a culprit in this, he says. “Every new technology is also an investment. There’s this need for payback. The equipment becomes part of this, and the industry tries to force to the market a new product” quickly, cost-effectively — and maybe, he’s saying, without regard to how that product might have been constructed for a more personal, meaningful and eco-friendly appeal.”I have started by trying to make a product that’s good for people. And by that, I’ve come to know that technologies that are good for people — such as multi-functional capability — sometimes means that the materials are not as good.”

“I have tried not to follow this trend,” Kartono says, because it is not good for life. “I have tried to ask, ‘Well, then, what is good for people?’

“I have tried to make a product that has a good relationship to the people, to the user.”

His use of Indonesian ebony wood from his central Javanese region is being enhanced by the tree-planting efforts of a Kandangan school called Mountain Sumbling. Some 1,000 trees have been grown from seed as a nursery has been created around the production of the radio, part of Kartono’s goal to employ as many people as possible.

“I want to sensitize us with Nature,” he says, “the way it was in the past” but in the modern context of electronics and the consumer economy.”

You find a key to the deep connection Kartono feels to his design and its local implementation in his writings about wood on his site.

“Wood is a kind of material that draws its beauty from its history,” he tells us. “How it grows is an amazing process. It records its age lines. It records good and bad times. The beautiful texture and grain actually tell a story of its life. Wood is a kind of perfect material, perfect cause of its imperfection. Its characters teach us about life, balance, limits.”

With such eloquence underlying his thoughts about his design, Kartono then wants to transfer to his customer for each radio — there now is a large and smaller personal model — a kind of mandate to handle and think about what it represents.

“I’m not using any coating on the product,” he says. “I want the user to touch the wood. In my concept, the beauty of the product depends not on the product itself but on how the user handles it and protects it.

“I think people find that the longer they have the Magno radio, the more personal it becomes to them. They don’t want to lend it to anyone.”

That personal connection to something you care for, yourself, and come to know for its wood’s special character — “no radio is like the next, thanks to the wood, which is both soft and hard” — is what Kartono values, as he works to develop a personal economic support system for his base of operations.

Designed by
Singgih S. Kartono Indonesia.


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