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Design in aid of Tohoku

by Jean Snow

The design world lends its artistic hand

As Japan struggles with the consequences of the Kanto-Tohoku earthquake, this month’s column takes a different format to highlight some of the ways the design community has come together to provide relief and support.

Architect Shigeru Ban is no stranger in bringing his design skills to relief efforts. His innovative and cheap prefab temporary housing solutions have been used in disaster-stricken areas before, and he was quick to announce the design of a special Paper Partition System that can be used to divide large spaces, such as the gymnasiums and school halls that are currently being used as shelters for refugees. Donations to help produce the systems can be made via Ban’s website.

Graphic design can play a vital role during disasters, and Good Design Company’s Manabu Mizuno has produced a series of pictographs that can be used to clearly identify supplies and aid being distributed to those in need. The series, which is available for anyone to use, can be downloaded as a PDF .

In the art world, though many exhibitions and events had to be canceled or postponed, some galleries have been quick to re-open and begin raising money for aid efforts. Taka Ishii Gallery, for example, has launched a “NOART”show until April 28, which, as the title suggests, has no art on display. Instead, a donation box replaces the artworks, with proceeds going to Japan Red Cross.

As executive director of PechaKucha, I’d like to also highlight our efforts as a global design/art and architecture community. Partnering with the nonprofit organization Architecture for Humanity, we are currently organizing an event involving our close to 400 PechaKucha Night cities to raise funds for reconstruction efforts in northern Japan. See pecha-kucha.org for more information.

Ways to donate and show public support

Donations are, of course, the most direct and convenient way for people to help. However, designers and artists are finding other ways to encourage people to give money.

Several art galleries have been donating sale proceeds and holding charity auctions, including 3331 Arts Chiyoda, whose charity auction takes place on April 2, 3. The Nakamura Keith Haring Collection is also selling tickets online for ¥800, instead of the usual ¥1,000, with all proceeds going to its Tohoku Earthquake HeArt Aid fund to be donated to relief organizations.

Some artists and designers are selling special products and giving the proceeds to disaster relief projects. Below are some of the items that designers — based in Japan and elsewhere — have contributed to help raise funds.

Several posters have been produced; two of the most popular so far are Wieden+Kennedy’s Max Erdenberger’s “Help Japan” and the “Japan Tsunami Appeal” poster from Daniel Freytag’s Editions of 100. Amsterdam-based designer Luis Mendo is also selling editions of his illustrated one-sheet poster-size Tokyo City report.

Tokyo-based designer Ian Lynam has not only decided to donate all proceeds from sales on his Wordshape online store — which sells design/typographic goods — he has also designed a new deck for his OPEN Skateboards company, specifically to raise funds. For more information, visit the OPEN Skateboards site or wordshape.com.

The creators of Art Space Tokyo — a beautifully produced guide to some of Tokyo’s best art galleries — are also donating all proceeds from sales until April 3.

Osaka-based T-shirt maker Sweatshop Union was quick to enlist the aid of an international lineup of designers to contribute designs for a special series, with all proceeds going to Japan Red Cross. And, in a similar manner, Tomodachi Calling, a charity web shop created in response to the earthquake and tsunami, has brought together a group of artists, including Alexander Gelman (whose design is featured on the right) to create logos for T-shirts, tote bags, pin badges and more — all proceeds of which are also being donated to Japan Red Cross.

Recovery from a disaster of this scale takes time and long-term continued efforts. Even if you have already donated, please keep an eye out for other ways to participate in the future.