TOKYO DESIGN WEEK
This year’s Tokyo Design Week has just come to an end. Next year, we should give you a comprehensive review of all the goings on, but for this first installment, an overview of its past and its current state.
Tokyo Design Week is sort of an umbrella term for several events grouped around the same time. When I first came to Tokyo, I saw its origin with a one day event called, Design Saturday. Over the next 30 years, its popularity consistently grew as it evolved through different organizations in several incarnations. Happening, Designer’s Block, 100% Design, Design Tide, to name a few. Some of these events were motivated by an altruistic passion for design. Others were simply for self promotion and profit, but interesting all the same. It was a joy to be here to participate every year. However, I am sorry to say that from my perspective, Tokyo Design Week is now past its prime.
A few years ago, it was a very dynamic situation. So many visitors from overseas, so much innovative work to see, and of course – a lot of good parties. Things have calmed down much since then, and is no longer the place to visit for the world’s design audience. Of course, the Japanese, and global economy is a big factor in this. But it is also because of the failed attempt to properly connect major brands, and manufacturers to the design community. Milano Salone is the best example of successfully handling this. This is due to the lack of vision, strategy, and support by the Japanese government, corporations, and the media.
This year, there were three major venues as well as many satellite events peppered throughout the city.
The main event is appropriately named Tokyo Design Week. This is the largest venue, and lasts for ten days. It seems that the organizer’s idea of expanding every year is somehow a sign of success. It is essentially a combination trade show / exhibition, but to grow, they continually added more components. Among other things, there is now a craft market, live music, student work, etc. It is intended to open the event to the broader public, and to be family friendly, but it has lost any focus. It is not clear what the theme, or direction of Tokyo Design Week is anymore. The most egregious thing is the overall standard of the design on view. Sadly, a very small percentage is worth seeing. There is little, if any, judging process to accept exhibitors as long as they can pay the exorbitant participation fee. On top of this, the visitor’s entrance fee of US$25 is among the highest in the world for any such event. To continue over the next few years, I certainly hope that they will see these flaws, and raise the overall quality of the show by editing it down to a reasonable scale with a clear concept. Feel free to see more here:
Showcase was a straightforward exhibition organized by various players in Tokyo’s design community. This year was a mix of Japanese designers, and artists. Each piece on display was personal, and exploring it’s own theme. Some were in progress, and experimental. The name / theme of this year’s show was “Stands”, which I don’t understand, and I couldn’t perceive a general thread through all of the work, but each piece was good to think about. View here:
The best event in my opinion by far was Any_Tokyo. It was located in an amazing space commandeered from a 600-year old Buddhist temple, albeit a little out of the way. This show had a clear vision, and was judged properly. Every design on display offered something original, and was thought-provoking – which are the qualities that every event should try to attain. I sincerely hope that Any_Tokyo will expand for next year’s design week. See what they had here: