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The 2011 Good Design Awards

What can you get out of this?

This aim of this article is to show you some noteworthy, creative and modern design coming out of Japan. The following artists have all pushed the boundaries of what we expect from a website, a building design, a personal calendar and brand identity.

Presenting, the 2011 Good Design Awards:

What’s the deal with these awards?

Every fall, Japan releases the Good Design Awards. Despite the less than enthusiastic name, this organization seeks to discover not the “good” design but the “great” design. The Good Design Award G (pictured above) is an icon that receivers of this award get to smatter wherever they like upon winning.

(Fine print: It’ll cost you a couple thousand dollars for the usage rights. Ouch!)

The Good Design Awards have been given out in a huge variety of categories since 1957. To date, nearly 40,000 awards have been distributed. Being awarded in such quantity doesn’t exactly quantify elitist bragging rights, but it does have its significance in Japanese culture in that it’s highly recognized. It exudes quality and professionalism to your customers and/or users.

The 2011 Awards

This year, the organization has granted 1,255 individuals (out of about 3,000 applicants) this noble merit.

Pretty good odds huh?!

Of the winners, 87 percent of them are Japanese, some of which I’ve featured below. If you’re in the Tokyo area, you can visit the exhibit at Tokyo Midtown’s Design Hub until November 13th (2011). As it usually is, admission into the Design Hub Gallery is free and you’ll find 73 of the top-evaluated designs—at least the ones that can fit into a room.

The following are some notable designs from this year.

Check them all out at this database of award winners:

Photopresso website (Canon Corp.)

photopresso website graphic
This website is incredible. The amount of interaction, animation and creativity is endless. Head to the site and experience how awesome it really is.

Meiji Chocolate Company Facade (Taisei Corp.)


Taisei Corporation designed the Facade of the Meiji Chocolate factory in Ibaraki to look like the brick of chocolate itself. Awesome. As it’s built over a steel frame, it’s too bad there aren’t any windows. I suppose it only makes sense that being inside chocolate would be so dark.

Morning Garden Stationery

morning garden manga spread
Morning Garden is a design firm based in Tokyo. They’ve developed two calendars/agendas/journals that are based around manga (Japanese comics). Inside, there is no dialog. Instead, each frame is assigned a date and you’re to use it like a daily planner.

Wish I’da thought of that!

morning-garden-manga-sample
It’s hard to say how well it’ll do with smartphones, cloud services and organizing your schedule just by talking (id est Siri), but there’ll always be people with a love for pen and paper.

Ren 1919

ren ikebana logo

Ren 1919 is a traditional flower arranging company. They focus on “ikebana”, the art of flower arrangement: of which they’ve been doing for over 90 years. Unlike many ikebana practicers, Ren focuses more on the traditional aspects of flower arranging: keeping the flower healthy for longer while using it in a way that is appropriate for its type.

I chose to feature this one because of the identity. The logo is stunning. I love how it’s not completely cleaned up, the petals are off-balance, the lines aren’t totally smooth and the forms and shapes aren’t completely consistent. However, the balance is good and so is the overall form.

Moving from the image to the logotype, I love this font. It’s top-heavy, just like the flower logo is. That beautiful arch in the “N” reminds me, conveniently, of a leaf or petal. It’s modern, like the company’s new identity and it’s clean, like the company’s art.

Signing Off

Despite both reviewing the site and heading over to the exhibition, I still (after hours of browsing) haven’t even begun to skim the surface of amazing work. Check out the Good Design Awards official site and tell me which work you think stands out the most!