YD takes on The Good Design Awards 2016 in Japan!


The Good Design Awards isn’t just any awards program for designers. It’s a pilgrimage that takes you through the mind and soul of Japan, arguably one of the world’s most landmark locations for design.

Now while that’s a completely surreal experience, it comes with one pretty large drawback. I’m so mesmerized by what I saw and learnt, I’m scared I won’t be able to do justice to it with my words! So as you read this account, know that I try my best to portray the Good Design Awards in the most appropriately grand light… and that if one ever gets the opportunity; Japan in general, and the Good Design Awards in particular, is the epicenter of one of the most pure and highly evolved design scenes on this planet.

Becoming almost a hive for the best minds in design across Japan and the world, the Good Design Awards are organized by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP) every year around October. Most designers spend their lives toiling away for a chance to lay a hand on the Good Design Award and gain the coveted ‘G’ Mark that would then decorate their product for the years to come. What sets the Good Design Awards (GDA) apart, and on a pedestal is its strong link to society and how design can have a positive and lasting impact on the community, not just in Japan, but abroad too. After all, said the Chairman of the GDA Kazufumi Nagai, no matter how different communities are, we all are slowly but steadily moving towards securing the same future for everybody everywhere.

With that outlook, the GDA kicked off this year, having three aspects to its awards program and exhibition. The most well known Good Design Awards would be held at the Grand Hyatt ballroom, while the exhibition and showcase would go on at the Tokyo Midtown Atrium. These awards would commemorate new designs every year for not just their innovativeness, but also their ability to bring about change. The next aspect to the GDA was the Long Life Awards. These were reserved for products and designs that stood the test of time, having dominated the market and our lives for more than a decade. In a world where there’s a new laptop or phone being launched almost every month, it takes a special something to stick around for 10 years or more, and the Long Life Awards celebrates just that. The third and most interesting component of the GDA was what the Japanese call the Sonaeru Design Exhibition. Sonaeru in Japanese means to prepare, and the projects in the exhibition aim at one of Japan’s most prime focuses in design today. Disaster Management and Aversion. Everything showcased at the Sonaeru Exhibition was done so to reward the efforts designers put in to prepare the community for any natural disaster.

The Good Design Awards and Exhibition

The Good Design Awards event was nothing short of glamorous. Dressed in their best (with even a red carpet!), people gathered at the Grand Hyatt to witness the awards ceremony, and to see which of the 6 shortlisted finalists would win the highly reputed Grand Award. An exhibition of all the top entries was simultaneously held at the Tokyo Midtown for design enthusiasts and the Japanese public to see.


Designers gather at the Grand Hyatt to get a taste of the GDA hype!


Vice Chairman of the GDA, Fumie Shibata takes the stage to speak about the year gone by.


Awardees gather for a group photograph with their certificates.


Jury Members and Awardees vote for Grand Award entry


A close call between finalists Authagraph World Map and Yanmar YT3 Tractor


Finalists Yanmar (Left) and Authagraph (Right) await the results


The Authagraph World Map is crowned winner of the Grand Award of the GDA 2016 Edition!


Authagraph re-imagines the globe as we see it, creating a dimensionally accurate representation of the Earth. Click on the image to know more!


Chairman Kazufumi Nagai and Vice Chairman Fumie Shibata get together for a quick photograph


Jury Member and Designer of the Tokyo Midtown Exhibition, Jo Nagasaka poses in front of his work

Making good use of binder clips and minimally cut plywood, Jo Nagasaka put together the entire exhibition.

Making good use of binder clips and minimally cut plywood, Jo Nagasaka visualized the entire exhibition.




The Tokyo Midtown Exhibition held the top 100 designs from all categories.


Anyone remember the Samsung Serif TV??





A refreshingly new speaker, the Lyric Speaker flashes the lyrics of the song you’re listening to, giving you an audio-visual treat. Standing beside the speaker is the lead designer.


Designers of the Roppongi Halloween Trash Bag pose with their beautiful product! The trash bag converts streets of garbage into beautiful Jack O’Lanterns on Halloween!


The Yanmar YT3 Tractor, a finalist, makes farming luxurious and aspirational.

Long Life Exhibition

Located in uptown Marunouchi, the GDA Long Life Exhibition features a collection of the most memorable and indispensable products and services from decades back. These designs have achieved the iconic status and have constantly stood for beauty and quality. Among the awardees were Johnson & Johnson’s Band Aid, and Pocari Sweat. Products that changed the market more than 20 years ago, and are still the standard for comparison in their domain.







Sonaeru Design Exhibition

Honestly, I got chills when I heard the way the Japanese spoke about natural disasters constantly being a threat to their existence. There is concern within them, but without fear. Just a determination to strive, to overcome. They honestly see design as a tool to protect, rehabilitate, and hold society together. That’s probably what makes the Japanese such masters at design.


The biggest exhibit at the Sonaeru Exhibition, was the Paper Partitioning System. Designed to be easy-to-assemble, quick and lightweight, these structures provide private spaces for refugees.




A refugee camp before the Paper Partition System


After the Paper Partition System, the entire camp looks wonderfully live-able, giving refugees a proper space to stay.


The Sonaeru Exhibition in Shibuya Hikarie held a wonderful collection of products and graphic media aimed at educating, protecting, and rehabilitating people in the event of a natural disaster.




The Life Armour looks like something from a Sci Fi film! It houses one human and can protect him/her from virtually any disaster.

The Good Design Awards are held towards the end of the year, every year. Reminding people that the mark of a Good Design is its ability to inspire change in a society, this awards ceremony always ends the year on a wonderful, warm note. The GDA may be ticked off my designer’s bucket list, but it only makes me wonder “What next?”. I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds in store for design!

All images courtesy of Yanko Design and JDP