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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

ON DESIGN

Design Week in Tokyo; Good Design Award


Design Tokyo's Eight project by the Bolon company
100% Design Tokyo's Eight project by the Bolon company

It's that time of year again, when design takes over Tokyo and assumes a high-profile position in the trendiest parts of the city — Aoyama, Harajuku and Shibuya — with exhibitions galore. Tokyo Design Week, which runs Oct. 31-Nov. 4 (and some events a little longer), is almost upon us, bringing together four major design exhibitions over the course of a week. Here's a look at what is on offer this year.

TDW is synonymous with the Design Association's similarly named Tokyo Designers' Week (www.c-channel. co.jp), which will again hold most of its various components at the Jingu Gaien grounds in Aoyama (nearest subway station is Gaienmae on the Ginza Line). As with most years, you can expect their professional and student showcases (more than 600 works from more than 60 schools) to be accompanied by the always popular "Container Ground" exhibition, in which various designers and companies creatively fill ship containers.

But not everything planned is just a retread, with this year featuring the introduction of two new exhibitions: Akasaka Zero, a project held at Akasaka Ark Hills, which will bring attention to designers under the age of 40; and "SANGAKU," an exhibition held within the "Container Ground" area in which students collaborate with companies on various practical and experimental projects that cross different mediums.

For the past two years, an important component of the event has been the Tokyo edition of the U.K.'s 100% Design (www.100percentdesign.jp), where top interior companies from around the world preview their latest furnishings and home accessories. Don't miss the Designboom Mart, organized by the popular online design portal (www.designboom.com), in which international designers sell their creations.

Alphabet project's letter B
Alphabet project's letter B

Now in its third year, DesignTide (www.designtide.jp) is again playing a major role in the week's festivities, this time under the theme of "PLAY = COMMUNICATION." The theme is meant to inspire a more conceptual take, with projects that explore various forms of visual and interactive design. Instead of Harajuku, where it was held last year, this year's DesignTide is at the gymnasium of the National Olympic Stadium, putting it closer to the Tokyo Designer's Week grounds.

In addition to the main Design Tide Exhibition, which features more than 40 participants, and Tide "Super" Market, which is similar to Designboom's mart, there will also be Tide Extension, at least 50 DesignTide-related events and exhibitions spread across venues throughout Aoyama, Harajuku and Shibuya (and a few in Roppongi too). Finally, the special Tide Think group show includes the Alphabet Project, in which 26 designers were each asked to design one letter which will be sold as T-shirts.

Swedish Style (www.swedishstyle.net), the annual design showcase organized by the Embassy of Sweden, returns for its eighth year. The event has scaled down a bit, covering fewer days (still, it runs till Nov. 8) and hosting fewer exhibitions, but expect the same creative Swedish take on culture and design. Not to be missed are the "Fashion Sweden" exhibition at the embassy itself, with the country's top fashion brands; the "Young Swedish Design 06/07" exhibition at the Marunouchi Building's Maru Cube hall; the Swedish Pavilion at 100% Design; and the DesignTide "We Are Going Underground" installation, featuring the work of eight Swedish designers in "rough surroundings" (at DesignTide's main site).

For more info on TDW-related events, pick up the various guides that should appear in shops and cafes around the city. Simple advice, but remember to wear comfortable shoes — to get the full TDW experience, you'll be doing a lot of walking — and bring a hefty tote bag so that you have somewhere to put all the flyers, pamphlets and brochures you'll no doubt pick up.

Design Times' Tone kids chairsby Leif. Designpar
Design Times' Tone kids chairs by Leif. Designpark

Best of design, virtual or real

The Good Design Award (www.g-mark.org) selections for 2007 were announced earlier this month, with the usual collection of prizes that span a few categories and mediums. Taking a look at the "BEST 15," some of the prize winners certainly came as no surprise, such as media-hogging products like Tokujin Yoshioka's Media Skin cell phone — I couldn't resist getting one myself — and Nintendo's groundbreaking Wii game console.

It's nice to see a nod go to Sanyo's Eneloop series of clean energy batteries and chargers, bringing eco concerns to the forefront of the design world. In the "Architecture and Environment Design Category," the well-deserved STYIM condominium complex from ASCOT CORP. proves that apartment buildings need not conform to the standard conservative layouts — the 55-unit building offers 18 different floor plans.

If there's one selection that I find myself disagreeing with, it would be the inclusion of Linden Lab's Second Life (in the "Communication Design Category"). Although it is true that the mainstream press has given massive coverage to virtual online worlds in the past year, it feels out of place as a Good Design Award winner — the virtual setting is more like a preview of things to come, rather than a sound product.

A complete list of this year's winners is online at www.g-mark.org/english/ archive/2007/ Jean Snow keeps an active eye on Tokyo design at his Web site www.jeansnow.net


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