“Good Design Exhibition 2011″

by Mio Yamada

Staff Writer

Design Hub, Tokyo Midtown
Closes Nov. 13

Most people associate good design with stylish hit products, such as the Olympus third-generation Pen digital camera. Retro-styled on the brand’s original 1959 Pen 35-mm film camera and equipped with all the mod cons of a high-tech SLR, the Pen is a beautiful piece of work, which is why it’s up for the 2011 Good Design Award.

Some of the other candidates for this year’s awards, however, serve as a refreshing reminder that “good design” is not only about making aesthetically pleasing objects.

Last year, the association focused on products that “enriched” lives, with the Grand Award winner being Dyson KK’s Air Multiplier bladeless fan. This year, the key word is “reasonableness,” a shift in response to the March 11 disasters. Hence the lineup of candidates on display at the “Good Design Exhibition 2011″ includes a number of ideas aimed at supporting Japan’s social infrastructure, saving energy and protecting the environment.

There are the predictable big names, such as Olympus, Sony, Honda and Toshiba, as well as a number of interesting initiatives, including the Joboji Urushi Workshop, designed to revive the dying art of urushi lacquerware, and the Municipal University Osaka’s plans to restore old houses into modern homes.

Nominations run the gamut from simple applications to complex high tech — from a Heavy Ion Irradiation System/Particle therapy facility to Dekimasu-tags, simple color-coded labels that can be printed onto sheets of A4 and used to identify people who can be summoned to help in times of disaster.

There are also some remarkably mundane items redesigned into beautiful objects, such as DesignFarmTools’ hoe, which not only looks sleek but also tweaks the design of a professional farming implement into something easy to use for ordinary backyard gardeners.

It might be tough to choose the best of Japanese design from such an eclectic range of candidates, but the “Good Design Exhibition 2011″ asks visitors to do just that. You can vote for your favorite products during the exhibition period and your nomination will go toward determining the winners of awards, which will be announced on Nov. 9. (Mio Yamada)

Design Hub is on the 5th floor of Tokyo Midtown and is open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m., admission free. For more information, visit www.designhub.jp.