TRAVEL & CULTURE
INSIDE THE GOOD DESIGN AWARD Our managing editor visits Tokyo to attend the 2014 installment of Japan’s biggest design exhibition By Amanda Koellner
In Japan, 90% of the population recognizes the winning symbol of the country’s Good Design Award—the “G-Mark”—as an indicator of excellence in design, which is particularly amazing when considering most other country’s lack of such a marker, the United States included. Established in 1957, the exhibition and awards have granted that little red symbol to more than 40,000 outstanding designs ranging from industrial products, architecture, intangible designs such as applications, and more. In 2014, 1,258 of the total 3,601 entries received a Good Design Award—100 of which demonstrated “the best chance of future breakthrough,” and nine of which were nominated for the Grand Award. Photo by Amanda Koellner
The theme of this year’s exhibition (which takes place in various venues across Tokyo and brings in an estimated 250,000 visitors) was “a sense of comfort.” “The Japanese call it kokochi,” says Good Design Award chairman Naoto Fukasawa after unveiling the grand prizewinner back in November. “It’s a quality of interaction or something that feels nice. It’s a good comfort.” He and the various members of the jury, which includes product designers, curators, lighting designers, project managers, interior designers, architects, and more, kept this theme in mind as they evaluated the myriad of submissions across different categories or “units.” Here, DB chats with jury vice chairman Taku Satoh, who first became involved with the exhibition and award more than 15 years ago. How have you seen the Good Design Award and exhibition change and progress over time?
Since I joined the jury, there have been remarkable developments in IT and other technologies, and because of this, the nature and quality of communication between people has changed. We now have to not only design articles or goods or physical things but we have a need to design events and activities to develop local communities. Aside from that, about 20 years ago, the designs were dealt with only in a very superficial manner, and recently, we’re evaluating more on a fundamental level and thinking about what the intrinsic measure is—what the design is in its true sense. Where do you think the Good Design Award will go in the future?
The first thing I want to say is that there is nothing in the world that has no connection to design. It’s needed in all scenes of the world: politics, economy, medicine, education— everything needs designs. There are obvious fields where design is everything, such as industrial, product, and
graphic design. Those fields are continuing to pursue how they can do more. But, there are other fields that typically have not used design heavily, and I hope those other fields will start using more designs and partaking in the award. The Good Design Award is trying to become international. What do you think is the biggest challenge for Japan to reach that goal?
It’s important to make sure that people from other countries are interested in sending their entries so that the Good Design awarding system can evaluate them. It’s also important for us to consider the differences in culture and customs from various countries. For example, think about a chair. The function of a chair is common: it’s a thing for people to sit on. However, depending on the region or country, the customs may be different, so the key is how we can understand these differences and share the Good Design Award across borders. a