Taking the best technology to create new tools that are not only useful but also appealing on an emotional level—this has been Honda’s intention and policy whenever it creates original power products, such as the four-stroke marine outboard, the hybrid snow thrower, the sine wave inverter-equipped generator and many others.
Designed as a personal gardening assistant for hobbyists, the Pianta runs on household-use butane gas canisters. It’s the latest tiller in Honda’s lineup of highly original “new tools."
A Honda power product is a tool that performs a single function—tilling soil, removing snow, generating electricity and so on. For this reason, the designer must completely integrate the design and the function of the product from the start. In charge of Pianta design, Koichi Azuma had previously worked on marine outboards and was undertaking the design of a tiller for the first time. Just as a marine outboard designer must spend a great deal of time in the harbor and a snow thrower designer must likewise be where snow is abundant, Azuma had to put himself in the place of tiller owners to fulfill his mission.
For Azuma, this meant visiting fields close to the R&D center and spending time tilling the soil. Using a tiller makes the soil much softer than a hoe or a plow can make it. Such soil has a fresh feel when trod upon, and it can help vegetables grow big and strong. Experiencing this difference helped Azuma understand that a tiller isn’t just a tool for use by a professional but is also something a hobbyist can use for greater enjoyment and convenience. Azuma wanted to help more people access this enjoyment and convenience with a design offering excellent ease of use, utility, and cute, approachable appeal, and he began his work with these goals in mind.
In creating the Pianta, we worked with a completely new design concept, that of a tiller with such visual and tactile appeal that, even after their work was done, users would unconsciously want to continue touching and holding the machine.
We had an excellent chance to avoid preconceptions and imagine we were designing a tiller for the first time.
First, we developed a soft white, similar in color to soybeans, and we designed the engine and mechanical parts to fit within a round, appealing form. Such design elements had never before been used in a tiller, since they carried no associations with tilling the soil.
Once we fully covered the mechanical parts of the tiller, however, these design elements helped enhance users’ peace of mind when they operated the product, while the Pianta’s left-right symmetry produced an enhanced sense of stability.
Although until now red had been an important part of the visual branding of Honda tillers, we chose white for the Pianta to make it stand out in the field and appeal to a greater number of people. For this same reason, we place a large, highly visible Honda emblem on the front to indicate a level of premium quality previously unknown in the tiller market.
We also wanted the Pianta to present an ideal balance between “head” and “body” when viewed from the front, with its overall height twice that of its “head.” We wanted the Pianta to look like a personal gardening assistant, not like a machine solely for a professional, and its appearance was just as important as its actual tilling performance.
Normally, the engine of a tiller is exposed to the air to facilitate cooling, but, in the case of the Pianta, the engine is fully covered. We worked closely with the engineers who designed the engine of the Pianta to create a pathway for air to travel efficiently, thus solving the problem of excess heat.
We added a detachable two-tone, black-and-white case for the butane gas canister. The user simply removes the case, inserts the gas canister, and then slides the case into its slot on the device.In making this usability upgrade, Honda took care to preserve the friendly appeal of the Pianta’s overall design.
We put Honda’s many years of tiller design know-how to work, ensuring that the Pianta would have the qualities that all Honda tillers must have: safety, reliability and excellent tilling performance. At the same time, we feel that people will immediately perceive that the Pianta embodies a completely new approach to tiller design.
Although compact in size, the Pianta weighs 20 kg. At that weight, a person could pick up the tiller and carry it alone, but we aimed to put as little strain on the user as possible. For this reason, it was necessary to design a tiller that was enjoyable to use and whose weight the user would not notice in the first place. The Pianta therefore includes a removable wheel for transport to and from the field and a carrying handle that protects the gas canister while making it easy for two people on either side of the Pianta to pick it up and carry it.
We also created a special tine cover that allows the user to stow the Pianta in a vehicle without soiling the cargo area. Without picking the Pianta up, the user can put the cover in place simply by rotating the tines a half turn and snapping it on.
We derived the soft, round form of the Pianta from that of a planter, creating models with cardboard to ensure proper functionality and size.
In order to create products that offer both advanced technology and ease of use, we go to where users will actually use the product, literally getting our hands dirty to create the perfect design.
With an appealing design that makes users want to touch and hold it, the Pianta turns the image of the for-pros-only tiller on its head. Easy to transport and maneuver, the Pianta makes transporting and storing fuel easy, too, while offering peace of mind and ease of use during actual operation. For the hobbyist who wants to enjoy gardening, we feel we’ve created the ideal tiller design.
Going forward, we will continue to meet the challenge of creating “new tools” like the Pianta by valuing Honda’s origins, which have not changed since founder Soichiro Honda first helped people access power to make their lives easier and more enjoyable.