PILOT and Wacom Are On A Quest Seeking Endless Possibilities For The “Writing Instruments of Tomorrow”

PILOT and Wacom Are On A Quest Seeking Endless Possibilities For The “Writing Instruments of Tomorrow”

A Long-Standing Stationery Manufacturer Is Setting Sail Into the Digital Ocean

Founded in 1918, PILOT has been one of the supporting pillars of Japanese writing culture for more than a century, ever since it succeeded in manufacturing fountain pens entirely in Japan for the first time. Its founders, Ryosuke Namiki and Masao Wada, were former mariners and aspired to be navigators leading the stationery industry on a grand voyage towards better and better writing instruments. With this in mind, they re-named their company PILOT, a maritime profession ensuring the safe passage of ships, in 1938 – 20 years after the company was founded.

PILOT is known for its innovations in introducing cutting-edge writing technologies onto the market ahead of the competition. The most notable of which are perhaps the “Dr. Grip” product line, which features an extra-wide barrel designed to reduce stress when writing for hours at a time, as well as the “Frixion” with gel ink which can be erased by friction – to name just a few. PILOT’s technologies and the tradition established over its long history of manufacturing fountain pens continue to greatly impact the market and have been a driving force for new writing cultures.

When it comes to analog writing instruments, PILOT is second to none. Nonetheless, the company has been keenly following the trend towards digitization in recent years and is ready to take up the challenge “to set sail into the digital ocean.” In this era of increasing digitization in every corner of society, which encompasses the tools we use every day, analog writing instruments cannot escape the trend. The joint R&D process, which began inside the venue of Connected Ink 2020, may have been a necessary step towards bringing the company up-to-date with current trends.

Acoustic Aspects – A New Approach in Recreating “the Experience of Writing With a Pen”

PILOT and Wacom are currently working together to discover “the effects of sounds on the feeling of writing.” Mr. Junichi Iwami, General Manager of Industrial Materials Sales Department at PILOT, recalls how this joint research came about.

“A casual discovery at Connected Ink last year gave us an initial starting point for this study on writing sounds. Without this input, we would not have come up with such an idea within our corporation. Such a new perspective is one of the many positive results of our hybrid cooperation between the analog (= PILOT) and digital (Wacom) worlds.”

One of the joint R&D themes is to support those who are “writing or drawing for more than eight hours.” Both of the cooperating partners contribute their expertise gained on their home turf of either analog or digital instruments. They are making great progress in developing a new product in their joint search for digital pens designed for users working for more than eight hours (which reflects the typical daily working hours of creators). The first thing they set their sights on was the sound: namely the sounds produced by writing on letter-writing paper with a fountain pen, sketching on drawing paper with a pencil, and painting on a canvas with a brush. When you think of individual writing instruments, your mind automatically conjures up a certain sound specific to each. So it’s not hard to imagine that sounds can heavily influence the comfort and mood of creators at work. Their joint study aims to illuminate “the relationship between sounds and the feeling of writing.” Sounds produced by analog writing instruments are basically unique to them and are therefore not interchangeable. A multitude of samples may be required to compare all combinations of writing instruments and their sounds. And that is hard to realize with analog instruments. By contrast, one single digital instrument can produce many different sounds simply through software control. It is also possible to digitally reproduce the sound of analog writing with high accuracy. Furthermore, unconventional combinations can be easily reproduced and may result in unexpected discoveries.

Moving Freely Around the Analog and Digital Worlds

Mr. Shigenori Nomura, who is in charge of marketing new products in a team led by Mr. Iwami, feels positive about the discoveries and possible benefits which could arise from combining analog and digital technologies:

“PILOT is looking for ‘the ultimate writing feel,’ which is subject to change with the passing of time and social transformations. You may say that finding only one ‘the ultimate writing feel’ common to everyone is an illusion. And this is where the synergy of analog and digital instruments comes into play. What counts in the analog world is the (physical) object itself: here, the value of things needs to be properly conveyed and appreciated. On the other hand, people are the main focus in the digital world, whereby data in all combinations of parameters are gathered to provide solutions which best cater to people’s needs. Thriving in the digital world has its own unique set of requirements, which PILOT alone cannot master. Our partnership is truly complementary, with both parties contributing their own strengths for maximum synergy. So far, we have mainly been concerned with ‘how to reproduce the quality of analog tools’ in digital form, but we will soon move on from mono-directional feedback. New insights generated by our study in the digital field could possibly come to benefit analog products in the future, such as our flagship products – fountain pens.

Who knows what the end result of our ongoing research could be? We could possibly create a ‘dream writing instrument’ one day – a magic tool that can optimize its sound to adapt to health conditions, moods the working habits of individual creators as well as production phases.

“Our Creations Inspire Creativity”

PILOT redefined its purpose (as a mission statement defining its corporate role in society): “Our Creations Inspire Creativity” in April 2022 as a firm foothold for its business operations. This short yet powerful phrase reflects a move to reinterpret the corporate culture matured over a century to adapt to the context of the present day.

“Our corporate tagline used to be ‘Supporting the Writing Culture’,” says Mr. Iwami. “This year, we expanded our horizons to reach beyond the realm of writing to deliver intellectual fulfilment and cultural experiences. That’s the idea behind our newly defined purpose.”

The main questions being asked at Connected Ink this year are: “Have Humans really evolved since their origins?” and “How do Wacom's technology and tools contribute to human creativity?” When asked about PILOT’s answer to these questions, Mr. Iwami replied with these words: “We hope to contribute to human creativity by always seeking solutions to help people solve their problems.” PILOT loves to help people unleash their abundant creative energy. Its close cooperation with Wacom, which originated at Connected Ink, may provide a hint as to which direction they should be heading towards in order to “inspire creativity,” the very thought of which sparks our hopes of finding a writing instrument of the future yet to be discovered.

editor / text _ 川上主税(Chikara Kawakami)