Tokyo Designer’s Week – the final report

This year’s Tokyo Designer’s Week (TDW) mainly consisted of the 100% design show in a huge tent space created in Jingu Gaien Aoyama, at the end of a beautiful alley of ginko trees. Next to that tent was an independent container exhibition (mainly companies exhibiting), a field of student works (mainly furniture out of recycled materials) and a performance area (for seminars and events).

Written by Uleshka and Kyoko

There were bus tours all around the city to take you to design shops also participating in either TDW or Design Tide. After running from one place to another, one really couldn’t distinguish between them anymore (besides those bus tours felt a little like luring you into design stores with no real difference to normal days).

guests cueing everywhere

Designer’s Week location

Tokyo became a design village, where one ran into the same people at all kind of different locations: design lovers, exhibitors, retailers, afternoon shoppers and tourists from all over the world.

Besides heaps of seminars, lectures and talks, were endless parties and performances, but no matter what everybody seemed to end up at Super Deluxe at the end of the day – everyday! (I found myself partying there 6 nights in a row and now I am convinced to be Sebastian Conran and Luke Pearson’s best friend….)

Here are a few PingMag hand-selected highlights of last week:

100% design

Everybody in Tokyo seemed to be walking around with their round pink 100%Design bags, you could get at the entrance. After spending a few hours at the 100% tent, this bag was about to burst with new flyers, name cards, brochures and booklets.

pink 100% design bag owners

massive chair at the entrance

First thing when you got in was a massive decorative chair – and indeed, furniture was again what was exhibited most. Some privileged people like Michael Young created special 100%design collections and sold those at their stand while most exhibitors were desperate to find producers for their precious ideas and products.

Michael Young at his booth

Michael Young USB stick bracelets

A few steps in the tent and we got dragged into a booth by Korean designer BridgE, who used Ryotaro as a model-on-the-spot, styling him with his extravagant glasses and taking loads of pictures right away. That was funny!

Ryotaro with funky BridgE glasses

BridgE designer and Ryotaro

A few other things I liked, but not sure they will have a big future, were the soccer interiors by Suzukike(maybe a good seller at the world cup in Germany next year?) and the Kurodenwa (black phone) by Rock, Paper, Scissors. I very much liked the esthetics of these old style telephones and the idea of seeing the phone as a sculpture and a desirable object to have in the house. However finding out that these were only painted wood objects was a bit sad…

soccer carpet and chairs

soccer carpet details


Hulger receivers

Another designer called Hulger on the other end of the room seemed to have a similar idea and sold phone receivers to be plugged into your mobile or PC. That is a very nice idea to give the cold Skype talking-into-your-screen-solution a bit of a warm feel, a bit of retro, a bit of the good old days paired with new technology. Great for Skypey-things, but not sure I want to carry an extra receiver around with me only to stick out of the crowd…

Node all-around-socket

Konstantin Grcic chair

What I considered a very well thought through and beautiful design was an all-around-socket designed by Tomoaki Murata from METAPHYS. Besides lots of useless but fun and decorative stuff were some very established designs, like Konstantinn Grcic’s chair (I didn’t know it was actually comfortable). Chairs being the main thing anyway, one could find anything from a funky “Hiding chair” to a very slick white sofa with attached massage chair: TK&Inada sofa.

Uleshka sitting with chair open, chair closed and her perspective from inside

Impressive was a stand for wallpapers by Cole and Son. These richly designed high quality products combine traditional processes with state-of-the-art materials (mainly sold for boutique hotels and upper class bars. lounges etc). “There is a big come back for wallpapers.” I was told. “Seems like even the Germans are getting rid of their good old paper chip solution eventually.” I was very pleased to hear.

wallpapers by Cole and Son

Wallpaper detail

One corner of the 100% design was dedicated to young designers selling their products: designboom. Very happy to see, that Samira Boon, who PingMag interviewed a while ago, was the ultimate hero with people cueing up for her products.

Samira Boon’s stand at designboom

Martin Redigolo’s mobile cards

A project that I liked very much was by Martin Redigolo who thought a bit about mobile phone conferences, and the fact that you can be viewed everywhere – but might not be very happy about this loss of privacy. He designed little images, filters and messages you can pin on your phone in front of the camera to change or influence the background you are in (a red filter for bar atmosphere when actually sitting on the toilet or a key hole to film through). Very nice idea, just wondering if it wouldn’t be more sensible to develop software, like certain “mobile phone video filters” that do the same thing but avoid extra equipment to carry.

Container exhibition

When you get tired of stuffy air, you can get out to enjoy container exhibition and student exhibition outside. For “container exhibition,” using container space, mostly companies and embassies (28 of them) expressed their corporate identities and displayed items.

container exhibition

One of the most popular container was Ascoto container. Collaborating with architect, Makoto Yokomizo and LED light artist, Hiroyuki Morisawa, Ascot container created some kind of comunication space. There are several holes in the low ceiling, and you have to stick your head into holes to see what’s going on up there. When you insert your head, you see blue and yellow lights flashing according to people’s head movement. The light suppose to react with other people’s movement, which I hardly noticed… But hey, it was fun!

when you insert your head…

you see blue and yellow lights

Designers Block from UK had 2 containers. One is filled with tones of cool stuff, such as flashy doormat and jellyfish like lamp by John Wischhusen, which moves up and down, make it look like it is actually floating. And other container was totally devoted to Wheelers by Charlie Davidson. There was gentle slope inside the container, and using small vehicles called Wheelers, you can slide down. It seems like a fun ride, but there were only few people actually try them out. Maybe Japanese audience were too shy to try them out.

glowing praying-carpet by Sonor Ozenc

jellyfish like lamp by John Wischhusen

Wheeler by Charlie Davidson

micro golf by pit green

When I got in the dyson container, I couldn’t remember what container I got in…. tons of red light staps were hanging from ceiling, I got lost in that kind of curtain and wondering if I got into a night club by accident. Then seeing yellow devices all over the wall in the next room, sculptures out of dyson parts….I slowly remembered where I was. The rest of their container space was a rather normal explanatory space explaining the dyson vacuum cleaner.

dyson container entrance curtain

dyson parts sculptures

There were plenty of other notable exhibitions not taking place at the main area, such as the Marimekko exhibition at Spiral and the Fresh Touch exhibition in the same location. (The opening party for that one was just amazing with food everywhere, in ways you do not expect it. Imagine chocolate running from the walls and little treats floating in the air. Schlaraffenland if you ask me!)


Fresh Touch location
Fresh Touch food samples to taste

At Living Design Center OZONE in Shinjuku, 6 design events from 4 countries took place. Borge Morgensen exhibition from Denmark, wien. life. style. form Vienna, 26 Malts and Made in Wales from UK and HOME SWEDish HOME exhibitiond and Swedish Style Annex from Sweden were all in one building. I almost felt like 4 embassies were competing with each other by design.

wien. life. style.

Borge Morgensen exhibition

HOME SWEDish HOME exhibition took a form of a house to display swedish style. Four rooms with red, yellow, brow, and blue represent dining room, children’s room, living room and parents room with baby bed. All made in Sweden products, such as Ikea Funitures, Svenskt Tenn‘s textile, and Ittala‘s table ware nicely combined together and created Swedish atmosphere. Oh, and of course, there are garden with tent and SAAB car on the outside.

HOME SWEDish HOME, red room

HOME SWEDish HOME, blue room

There is another Swedish exhibition, Swedish Style Annex in 6th floor. Unique overhead lamp by Johan Ridderstrale and Mats Broberg devided into 2 part; upper part was candle, and bottom part was lamp. Very simple but it’s fun to look at. Glass Lamp by the Swedes, which made normal drinking glass into lamp was another simple but fun lamp.

Swedish Style Annex, lamp by Johan Ridderstrale and Mats Broberg

Swedish Style Annex, Glass Lamp by the Swedes

Made in Wales and 26 Malts exhibition were right next to each other. 26 Malts project was 26 great writers paired with 26 great designers and created labels for malt whiskies. Some labels looked very cool, but it was very hard to find information such as writer’s name and designer’s name. There need to be work out with information design a bit. And at Made in Wales, I found very cute felt animals, Filzkins (filz is felt in german, and kin is as family) from Sebold’s originals. Because it used 100% pure wools and everything is done by hand, it takes whole day to create one Filzkin. Each Filzkin has character and story behind it, and I enjoyed the fancy details.

26 Malts exhibition

Made in Wales exhibition, Filzkins © Sebold’s originals

Seminars Design UK at Bloomberg

And then, of course, the designers had a lot to say… Straight after the PechaKucha Night last monday, a few of the Great Brits went to Bloomberg at the Marunoichi Building in Tokyo to talk about Design and Business. Tom Dixon‘s speech was about why British design is so strong and famous in the world and how it became Britain’s strongest export goods.

Tom Dixon at Bloomberg

Thomas Heatherwick speaking

I was very happy to see Thomas Heatherwick for 2 days in a row. This time he could talk about his projects in detail, having no time pressure like at PechaKucha Night. I totally failed to write anything down, since I got totally carried away by listening to his speech about his projects. There are so many amazing books about architecture or products, which are great, but have never been built, he said. That is why Thomas Heatherwick’s main apporach in his work is always, to make sure, that “things happen” (and he seems to be pretty successful doing that). I will try my best to get him for a long interview for PingMag and write about his works in detail soon!


On Thursday, Erik Spiekermann and LULU talked about radical communication at the Hillside Terrace in Daikanyama, as part of the DesignLab series. Japanese speakers were Hitoshi Suzuki and Hideki Nakazawa. Most interesting in this session for me was Erik’s concept about the perfect office: a round building with rooms arranged like the skins of an onion. An entrance on one end leading to the central part of the big onion (room 1: for secretary work, reception, fax, copy machine…. the loud work). From that room one can get to the second layer towards the outside (room 2 for business strategies, market research….). Next outer shell would be the creative studio, where designers can work and experiment without being disturbed BUT whenever they want to leave the building they have to walk through room 2 and room 1 to assure, that communication is prevailed between the different sections of a company. (Erik noticed, that the larger the company, the less the different sections interact with each other, which makes it difficult to reach a goal together).

Erik Spiekermann and LULU

Erik’s ideal office layout

Talking to Erik afterwards, he told me, that he is seriously interested in learning Japanese, because those Chinese characters just fascinate him and he is convinced, that he can improve a lot of things in typography over here. More than welcome!

Great Brits seminar

While Uleshka attended the Erik Spiekermann talk in Daikanyama on Thursday, I joined the Design UK seminar at the 100% Design seminar room. Inviting Great Brits desiners Sebastian Conran(Conran & Partners), Steve Lidbury(Steve Lidbury Design), Luke Pearson(Pearson Lloyd Design) and further Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby(Barber Osgerby) they talked about interior design innovation in UK.

Luke Pearson at DesingUK seminar

Hearware by Pearson Lloyd Design

I particulary enjoyed Luke Pearson’s presentation. Last time I saw him at PechaKucha Night, he was too humble to show off his award winning design for Virgin Atlantic Upper-class suites. This time I got to hear some background stories. He said that they tried to reflect outside beauty of aircraft on interior design. And it is the aircraft after all, they had to take into millimeters of consideration. I also liked their research project for The Royal National Institute for Deaf People(RNID). Trying to redefine the the design of acouophone, “Hearware” is ambiguous in its shape (and you cannot tell whether a person is wearing an acouophone or a musical device). Great presentations!

The parties

What would Designers Week be without parties? The opportunity for the designers to let go from heavy duties during the day and for everyone to start a little networking.

ICON magazine party at SDLX

some kind of double-glass-graffiti-wall-for-all

The ICON magazine party at SuperDeluxe on Wednesday was a lot of fun. Some kind of good looking model band was performing, Chivas Regal 18 sponsored the event all week, so another chance to have fun for free. Still relatively at the beginning of the TDW, people were still full of natural energy…

The next day had a little surprise treat for all those who were tough enough to stand enormous cues on the public holiday in Japan: a Cindy Lauper live act paired with Japanese alternative POP star UA. Whow! What a combination!


UA live

Friday night was the in-official big night to party till you drop. For those who prefered and elegant, calm Japanese taste could join the Sempre party with fancy food and drinks in a trendy shop ambiente. The Swedes had their annual special Swedish Style party at the Swedish Embassy with lots of Absolut Vodka (did you know that this stylishly marketed drink is owned by the government?).

“Sempre party

yummy food and drinks for free

All those, who wanted to party hard seemed to gather on a big rooftop in the middle of Shinjuku. Mark Dytham was asked to help Established and Sons in finding a location, which has never been used before – not easy in this city – but he managed! Their massive sound system could be heard from 2 blocks away. Free drinks all night, music by DJ Shinichi Osawa of Mondo Grosso and a funny set up with the toilet in the basement created a fun atmosphere (even in the elevator going up and down all night).

rooftop party in Shinjuku

rooftop party in Shinjuku

The after party again at SuperDeluxe gathered everyone, who was up to give it all to turn this night into the last unforgettable impression of Designers Week.

…and if you want to see even MORE images of TDW go to the PingMag Flickr gallery

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