Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design

sketch / image
  • 2014.10

An exhibition organised by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and held at the National Design Centre in Singapore.
We were placed in charge of overall design supervision, including selecting the exhibition themes, and choosing pieces for the exhibits, and designing the exhibition space.While interest in Japanese design overseas is on the rise, the understanding of such tends to be slightly one-dimensional and superficial – considered minimal and refined, or characteristic of the once booming ZEN style. So we decided to focus on the attitude and intent that lies at the heart of Japanese design, and to intentionally feature the hidden side of it all.Rather than ignore what can’t be seen, we would pay special attention to it and treat it with sincerity.We felt that this approach would bring out the true nature of Japanese design and lead to a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and the Japanese spirit.And so we chose three keywords to guide our introduction of Japanese design.

Pieces with design or functional aspects on the back or bottom. Placing functionality on the back can increase usability, and making the back appealing can call for new uses or even call extra attention to the beauty of what lies in front.These designs have paid special attention to what lies behind, in a place that cannot be seen without being turned over, or have implemented ideas that result in a reversal of front and back.

When the inside is imbued beautifully with art or functionality, its exposure can lead to new uses.
This includes beauty or functionality manifested by taking advantage of an element that lies within the material. It contains designs that either make you take notice of something that is held within or hide that existence from you, designs made possible by characteristics of base materials that you would not normally see, and clothing designs with characteristics on the inside of the material.
Beauty and functionality brought to light by reassessing the relationship between inside and out.

Designs with features that remain hidden until the moment they are needed, having taken inspiration from the idea of anticipation. They anticipate a certain state or phenomenon and maintain a certain appearance until it occurs. Or they can be manipulated, altered, or rearranged by the user afterwards, or use materials or manufacturing methods chosen with their disposal or reuse in mind.
Package design that gives attention to ease of opening or the opening experience is also considered to belong to this category.

They say that design in the West is about addition while Japanese design is about subtraction, calling to mind images of a methodology that involves removing any and every inessential element. In reality it is not about removal, but rather a casual and skilful condensing of various elements, making one thing more attractive through the act of hiding another.

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Photographer : Masaya Yoshimura (01-12)
Akihiro Yoshida(13-16)