We recently introduced you to the intriguing beauty of Japanese gift packaging (yummy!). But, beloved readers, so many of you were nagging in your comments about the amount of waste produced (very true!) that we had to come up with a different approach. So PingMag proudly presents some of the most interesting objects that just nabbed one of the annual Good Design Awards for functional and eco-friendly design. Here we go:
Written by Bianca Beuttel
The Good Design Award, also called G-Mark, is Japan’s most internationally-renowned design prize. This year, 2,945 items were submitted, and over one third of them received an award: 1,043 pieces! But let’s cut back on numbers and focus on some favourites: Since they are all domestic, they might give us some further insight into aspects of contemporary Japanese packaging design.
Initially, Good Design was related to product design only. That’s why the Communication Design category – which includes packaging design – is a recent addition established in 2001. The Good Design Award itself was founded in 1957 to educate the society at large on the new role that design can play.
One Symbol Of Modern Japanese Civilisation
Design can have a great role in terms of functionality. So no wonder that outstanding ideas like the Kikkoman Soy Sauce dispenser received a ‘G-Mark’ prize in 1993. And not before time, considering that this small elegant bottle has become a piece of Japanese design history as well as an integral part of modern Japanese life.
This special dispenser was launched in 1961 when, due to economic growth, many young people were moving from the countryside to work in the cities. Until then, soy sauce had been sold in litre bottles and decanted into a ceramic pot to be used at the table. But for single-person households of this new generation, the new dispenser proved much more convenient, and looked quite pretty on the table.
Is it a good design?
Is it a superior design?
Is it a design that breaks new ground for the future?
Complete Design Concepts
Inside and out, this design connects centuries: outside, a box, defined by simple geometric shapes and bold colours; inside, the pieces of incense seem archaic and mythical in their shape and ornament. The very nature of Issimbow is the wisdom of a 1,000-year-old Japanese medical book which also gave the brand its name.
The three types of incense go with different shapes and colours, various sized boxes, bags and posters. Lovely! No wonder, the entire branding of Issimbow was given a G-Mark.
Sadly, this didn’t win an award – but we love this packaging approach. The “Denshin” brand consists of four different kinds of sake. The different flavours are bottled in different colours: brown, green, white or blue. These colours interact with the label, which is the same on all four types: the characters of the brand name are cut out of Japanese paper, to resemble jagged, edged brushstrokes. The way laser-cutting technology is applied to the Japanese aesthetics here preserves its careful simplicity, but adds a contemporary feel.
Bottle Haute Couture
Next, we get to the ultimate challenge in packaging design: a perfume flacon! Like the creations of the haute couture designers themselves, the perfumes, the packaging and the complete communication design has to come up with something as stunning as the fragrance.
Since perfume is a luxury item enchanting you with its scent, it is linked to art. Like a sculpture, the opaque flacons of “Kenzo Amour” and their curved silhouettes change from angle to angle; like poetry, the theme of “Flower by Kenzo,” a poppy that blooms between the asphalt of the city, is a metaphor for delicate toughness. Both were winners…
“Let the product speak for itself”
As in the past, Shiseido has been an eager submitter – and won again this year. The company has a long tradition of design awareness in its products. Shinzo Fukuhara (1883-1948), Shiseido’s first president, established the company’s design department in the 1920s and his maxim, Let the product speak for itself, became the slogan. Progressive for its time, it is still essential to the Shiseido`s philosophy until today.
Among this year’s winners, the hair care line “Chikara” illustrates this philosophy: The bottle reflects the concept of a super mild shampoo to be used by every member of the family. Its warm, bright and cheerful colour and its details are reminiscent of gentle water drops or soft clouds; in a practical sense, even little children’s hands can open its easy-grip cap, upon which the bottle can stand securely when turned upside down to get at that very last drop. A truly universal design.
Chewing Gum Graphics
It’s about time chewing gum was given the modern graphic design treatment. Here, the O of the product’s name ACUO – typed in Helvetica – indicates where the product has its effect: in your mouth and throat. The green and silver colours define the fresh, clean, and minty quality of the gum. A stylish treat, and a must-have for your pocket.
Spiced with local flavour: The “Yaoki” shochu, a spirit distilled from potatoes, comes in this extravagant bottle made of Arita porcelain. Both products, emblematic of the Japanese island of Kyushu, came together for this utmost stylish (and award-winning) collaboration. Simple geometric shapes and lines fashion the bottle and typography in a way that is both modern and nostalgic: this modernistic shape recalls a 1920s or ’30s design, and also, the product name, “Yaoki,” relates to an old Japanese proverb: Rise eight times after falling seven. Meaning, like a roly-poly doll, it always rises again. The message here would be: Just drink alcohol and you’ll get over it. Or is it: You’ll stagger like this if you drink too much? Actually, no. The intended message is, of course: Never give up!
Sometimes, products can be a bit too talkative…
Functional In Every Situation
…and sometimes they convey too little: Japanese might read the fine prints on the product – “pre-cooked dried rice” and “good for five years” – and conclude that this rice is to be stored and only eaten in an emergency. In fact, the “Eco Emergency Rice” is a submission by a manufacturer in the Niigata prefecture, an area that has suffered several earthquakes in recent years…
The product is adapted to those severe conditions with a stand-up pouch having an important double function: Besides protecting the nourishment inside, it is used as dish for preparing the food – just add hot or cold water – and then serves as a plate for eating. Although the item didn’t receive a G-Mark, it illustrates to us the true importance of design: a worthwhile concept with a good visual translation made into an appealing and meaningful object.
Made of a tetrahedron-shaped film, this package for baby leaf salad accomplishes many tasks: It protects and displays the content; it opens easily; and it reduces the amount of packaging material used. Moreover, it’s almost weightless, allowing easy transport and storage, thus saving energy and resources. The list could go on and on…
However, the unique point is that, after opening, the package remains useful: It becomes a nice boat-shaped dish with its contents ready to serve. An amazing idea with great potential: The awarded concept also received a special prize for “Small and Medium Enterprises.”
Refill Is The Deal
Usually you’d buy a refill when your shampoo runs out… But the B!Road hair care line is only available in packages resembling those very refill pouches! Moreover, instead of pouring the content into another bottle, these pouches – stabilised with a stand and outfitted with a dispenser – can be used directly. Clever!
The concept upgrades economic and environmental advantages of the refill pouches (light, compact, reduced material use) and was appreciated by the jury.
When it comes to food, reuse and refill are delicate matters in terms of hygiene. So, how to make ecological behaviour more appealing in this field? Here we go: Eco-Style Cup Noodles combine finance and fun: For once, refills are cheaper than ordinary cups noodles. Second, the reusable cup can be customised into a cute “My Noodle Cup” with various jackets! Why not?!
These refill cup noodles won an award, of course: Any effort to reduce the huge amounts of disposable polystyrene waste is always welcome.
Cutsie Cute Designs
For sure, charming mascots and sweet little characters are undoubtedly the key to selling products in Japan. Dairy manufacturer Chichiyasu became aware of its cute character Chiibou’s potential. And, as part of a re-branding process, they gave it more importance. It even became the symbol of the company! A concept now rewarded with a G-Mark. But you probably already know that in Japan, there is a whole universe of cutsie cute characters, trying to lure you into buying all manner of products.
Who said trash bags need to be grey or blue?
Though this nice Garbage Bag Art was not submitted to the “Communication Design” category, we still do think that this kind of package is relevant to our discussion about packaging design.
This concept comments on the trash situation in Tokyo by trying to alter the typical scenery all inhabitants are familiar with: Since there are no dumpsters (you just drop your trash bags at the indicated gomi corner), on garbage collection days ugly piles of trash bags grow all over the city. Now these cute bags lighten the situation up a bit. Do a little art happening by accumulating the bags with your neighbours! Okay, just a thought…
Lastly, congrats to all the winners! Have a look at the list in the Communication Design category.
One thing: Good packaging design makes “Good Design” affordable for every budget – and available at any combini.
For more on that, check out the Design Japan: 50 Creative Years With the Good Design Awards compendium, presenting the finest of Japanese product design.
Oh! Something was missing today… Ah, PET bottles, of course! This part of our everyday design will be featured in the lovely next part of this extensive series. Watch out for it…