From Design Fair to Design Festival: Tokyo Designers Week 2013

TDW2013 Design Festival

Is a Design Week relevant to the everyday viewer who may not know the intricacies of the design industry? Tokyo Designers Week will make you think twice. To the Japanese, Tokyo Designers Week (TDW) has become a fun, engaging and creative festival for all ages!

Tokyo Designers Week, which has been held in every autumn in Tokyo for the past 28 years, started as Designers’ Saturday in 1986, mainly accommodating furniture designers. It was renamed as Tokyo Designers Week in 1997. Today, TDW has extended into an international design event that covers the areas of architecture, interior, product design, graphic design and art; it gathers designers and art professionals from all over the world.

The 2013 Tokyo Designers Week (TDW 2013) was held in Tokyo, at Meiji-Jingu Gaien Kaigakan Mae, from October 26th to November 4th 2013, organized by Design Association NPO with support from Tokyo Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The spatial designer Kimi Hasegawa (of VELVETA DESIGN) was the event’s Show Designer. With ‘Design Fes’ as its theme, TDW 2013 evolved from a design fair into a design festival that attracted all sorts of creativity into a creative festival.

Adopting a successful strategy of TDW 2012 which used music and arts programs to draw high level of attendance, TDW 2013 added more nightly music events and art exhibitions, e.g. Music Street Live, Fuji Rock, TDW ART, traditional Japanese festivals elements as well as a larger selection of food suppliers.

One of TDW founders Kenji Kawasaki commented this at his interview with a journalist from Japan Times, “if 100 people come for the music, then 10 people will come for the art and one will come for the design”. In his view, design, art and music are part of one field which shall not be separated. By involving music, arts and other festival elements, TDW 2013 had successfully created opportunities for everyone to experience and enjoy design and art. It achieved a new record leave of attendance of 109,518 visitors.

Though colored by many festival elements, TDW 2013 still held design as its core. One of the highlights for TDW 2013 was Asia Awards, directed by architect Toyo Ito and art director Katsumi Asab. The Asia Awards attracted young creative professionals from Asia and around the world and enhanced positioning Tokyo as the Asian hub of design. Beside Asia Awards, the exhibition TRY Market was another popular platform for young designers to gather and share creative ideas and market their design products.

At the event’s two exhibitions, Design Next and Container; some exhibits revealed a new emerging design movement which promoted design for ordinary Japanese lives.

Mamoris chair is designed to double as a helmut

Mamoris chair is designed to double as a helmut

Mamoris”, a jointly developed work by POPLIFE and znug design, which was displayed at Design Next exhibition, is a seat that can be worn as a helmet in emergency situations. The name comes from the Japanese words mamoru, meaning “protect,” and isu, meaning “chair.” The unique shape of mamoris is the advantage of the mamoris as a helmet covering not only the head but also the neck and back area. The dual-purpose design also saves the trouble of finding a place to store the helmet. The product is an excellent example of design for the lives of Japan, where people live with constant threat of earthquake.

Slack Circuit

Slack Circuit

Another work created with a similar approach was a beautiful installation, Slack Circuit, by Studio_01, which was displayed in a shipping container at the Container exhibition, a highly popular venue that utilized cargo containers and where many of TDW’s installations were housed.

Slack Circuit, night view

Slack Circuit, night view

In response to the exhibition theme “future living” (未来のくらし), two designers from studio_01, Akinori Hamada and Alex Knezo, created the work using a number of hanging steel wires, that covered three surfaces of the interior and fixed along a diagonal path at the ceiling with two movable chains along the container’s walls. Visitors raise or lower the chains manipulate the shape of the hanging wires to create individual areas or “rooms” within the container. The wires move both actively by visitor interaction and passively by the wind, creating a light, airy environment which blurs the separation of space as they divide, yet still connect the entire space. With their different backgrounds, Akinori and Alex’s design aesthetic reflect Japanese and Western elements of design. Living in a small apartment or house is common for many Japanese today, particular for the young people; Slack Circuit seems a ‘solution’ for those living in small spaces. It’s exciting to see a young generation of designers using their creativity to design products that are relevant to our daily needs.

Slack Circuit / 連環する糸 @ Tokyo Designers Week 2013 by studio_01 from Knezo Design Studio on Vimeo.

The TDW 2014 is fast approaching. With 10 days planned with over 20 programs and events from October 25th to November 3rd 2014, this year’s TDW will continue developing as a design festival. With a focus on the four themes of Design, Art, Fashion, and Music, TDW 2014 is sure to continue to gather the support of all creativites to make the event a diverse and creative festival. We are very much looking forward to seeing the outcomes of TDW2014!