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Plus Minus Zero, the Japanese company co-founded by the master of minimal design Naoto Fukasawa, just released its fifth collection. Consisting of a table clock, a thermometer, a timer, a card case, a fan and an electric water kettle, the latest exudes a sense of austerity that, somehow, only Japanese design achieves.

The success in Fukasawa's designs stems not only from a rigorous paring of excess, but from calculated development decisions. Consider the "2.5R" series of products (below right). The dimensions, 58.5mm x 58.5mm x 29.3mm, have been systematically appraised to be the ideal for holding in one's hand. The corners of each object have a radius of 2.5mm. The company literature explains: "A long time ago, the corners of wooden furniture and fixtures were not rounded; the corners were planed off, and this "chamfering" relaxed any excessive sharpness. Since the size of this chamfering translated into an R of 2.5mm, 2.5R is a roundness of the corners that feels comfortable to the touch."

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Unfortunately, Plus Minus Zero has yet to develop a distribution channel here in the United States. Although previous collections (which included such products as a glossy, donut-shaped humidifier and a pop-colored space heater) were widely praised, there remains little indication that these minimal wares will hit Bed Bath & Beyond anytime soon. For now, you can buy a few select items through gadget retailers such as Dynamism and Compact Impact. Or, as an alternative, get your Japanese friends to check an extra bag on their next return flight.

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