“Japanese Design Today 100” Exhibition


【Academic】 Spiritual Features of Japanese Design

Speaker: Zhang Fuye

Date: 2016.12.10

Venue: Hall 1, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art (RMCA)


About the lecture: On December 10th, 2016, Professor Zhang Fuye gave a speech before the opening ceremony of the “Japanese Design Today 100” Exhibition.

About the speaker: Zhang Fuye:Professor of Academy of Arts and Design of Tsinghua University. Ph.D. supervisor.  

Some features about Japanese design: I think that Japanese design can be concluded as eclectic and good at learning from the past. In addition, there is another characteristic about Japanese culture, art and design --- multi-elements co-exist and develop harmoniously. In overall, modernJapanese design takes an approach of parallel-tracking. Traditional and modern design can develop harmoniously and parallelly without conflicts. Also, from the perspective of culture, art and design, Japan as a whole is flourishing --- whether it’s traditional or modern, localized or international, imperial or civil --- all styles are competing while co-existing. Japanese have very unique aesthetics. For example, they pursue silent, simple, incomplete, subtle and even insipid beauty.

The inclusiveness of Japanese culture: the reason why Japanese culture is eclectic is rather complicated. We can roughly sum it up to the several factors. One is that Japanese culture has many patterns and types, making it necessary to be eclectic. They hope that there won’t be one cultural system or type crush on another. From certain perspective, Japanese history is a long and continuous process of taking in the essence of foreign culture, turning it into a part of its own.

The reason why Japanese culture can connect with modern culture smoothly lies in the following determining points:

1.The basis of traditional culture belongs to the folk, not the noble.

2.The single race basis of Japanese culture makes it possible to become the national culture beyond social class barriers.

3.Japan values community and collective more than individuals. Thus, Japanese culture can be both active and consolidate.


Different religions and historical periods have essential influence on Japanese design:

1.Traditional belief in god and the worship of nature and ancestry contribute to Japanese preference to natural style and

the ethnic habit and cultural characteristic of tidiness.

2.Japanese people’s belief in the exotic Chan Buddhism develops their simple, pure and natural culture as well as the aesthetics of incompleteness and irregularity. That is the incomplete beauty as I just mentioned.

3.Japan was in Edo times between the 17th and 19th century. At that time, commercial culture was highly developed in Japan. Civilian urban culture was formed and Japanese people also became to love luxurious graphic decoration.

4.During the American occupation after World WarⅡ, Japan was deeply impacted by American mass culture. And this has contributed to the trend of consumer society in Japan. Japan’s economy has grown rapidly since the end of Korean War. And Japanese developed their love for high technology.


【Academic】 Features and Development of Japanese Design

Speaker: Kawakami Noriko

Date: 2016.12.10

Venue: Hall 1, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art (RMCA)


About the lecture: On December 10th, 2016, one of the curators Kawakami Noriko gave a speech before the opening ceremony of the “Japanese Design Today 100” Exhibition.

About the speaker: Kawakami Noriko: Journalist. The associate director of 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT. She used to work in the editorial board of magazine AXIS, which is about design. From 1944 to 1996, she took part in the Japan- Italy cooperation as the editorial director with Domus Academy. From 2007, she became the associate director of 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT. She was famous for Realizing Design, which was published by TOTO, and co-authored the book Looking Out at the World from the Inside with Satou Dai, which was published by Nikkei Business Publications,Inc. She also edited the book Tendo Mokko, which was published by Japanese Fine Arts Publishing House and so on. 

About design: We think the most important thing about design is to have a good mode, which means to make a survey and research first, and then discuss our design among team, after that display it, and at last discuss it, make a conclusion and think about it again. Design is the fruit of human wisdom and everything has something to do with shape design. By taking the perspective of shaping and using thought of shaping, we can connect the fields that are independent of each other before.

About features of Japanese shape design: integrate things that seem to be opposite, thus give full play to both their features, like the integration of traditional craft and advanced technology. I think the keys words for Japanese shape design are: cute, humorous, handcraft, exquisite, and concentrated——concentrated on both human and environment.

Taking MUJI as a typical example for transformation of conception: As is well know, MUJI was founded in 1980 when Japan was suffered in economic bubbles featuring by mass production and excess packaging and decoration. Instead of following the trend of excess packaging and decoration, MUJI did the opposite by conceiving and developing its own distinctive products from a different perspective. The designers at that time all cared about excess packaging and decoration, while MUJI cared about what consumers really wanted. MUJI didn’t put money in excess packaging and decoration but in producing good products, so its products were good qualified and affordable. When MUJI was founded, it only produced 40 kinds of products, but now it produces about 7000 kinds of products. MUJI’s success can be ascribed to transpositional consideration. MUJI thinks in consumers’ stand, cares about what consumers really need and collects consumers’ advice. All these are very important.


Onstage Question

Audience: In the age of information explosion, designers may often feel confused. How could designers find their inspiration and features in a world filled with all kinds of information.

Kawakami Noriko: As designers, we should keep our feet on the ground, but also need to look into future and think about who we design for. And at the same time, we should make designs from the perspective of culture and future.



【Academic】Mono-no-aware and Ukiyo – Extreme Elements of Japanese Design

Speaker: Wang Shouzhi

Date: 2016.12.18

Venue: Hall 1, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art (RMCA)


About the speaker: Wang Shouzhi: Expert of Design History. Head of Cheung Kong School of Art & Design

About Japanese appreciation of beauty: one of our national characters is slope, which means “more or less” is our standards privately. However, Japanese finish one piece of work on a degree of 100%, which need to cost enormous time and vigour. I found that Japan is the most difficult country to be written, because it’s apparently like western countries, with the fact that it’s a pure nation and country, yet both national and international.

In ancient times, Nara was the cultural center of Japan and Japanese artists valued and worshiped “Sincerity” of their culture, which means doing things with honesty. It is still crucial in Japan today. “is it real or faked?” Japanese won’t ask the question when they buy things in Japan, because they will never fake things. So using authentic materials is the foundamental principle of Japan’s design. They won’t use anything faked to replace the real materials.

When it came to “Heian Period”, Japanese art and culture produced its second character, “Mono No Aware ”,that is “one should be move by what he or she sees”, with “Mono No” referring to “what one sees” and “Aware” referring to “to be moved and feel sad”. And the third character is “Elegance”, with being phonetically called “Ya”. The fourth character is phonetically called “Cha Ji”. 

“ C h a ” m e a n s a p p r e c i a t i n g t h e imperfection, which is incomplete thing. In my opinion, it’s the special point in their national culture. It has six effects: First, simplicity; Second, silence, because it needn’t to be noisy; Third, humbleness, because it itself is not perfect and incomplete; Fourth, nature-worshiping, because nature is not complete; Fifth, coquetry, that is pornography and showing the human body; Sixth, “Acerbity”, phonetically called “Se” ,in Japan’s appreciation of aesthetic, which is one of Chinese tastes and is difficult to be recognized by western people.

Several new characters about Japan’s contemporary design: it’s about the Japanese pursuit of practical functions, having nothing about philosophy. First, Japan’s territory is small, so it can’t be as luxury as large countries and it needs products to be designed with high portability. The concept of “portability” emerged in the early period of Japan. Second, it is with multifunctionality. Multifunctionality is related to portability. In Japan, people thought one product with one function was worse than that with several functions.

Third, it broke the individual sections of art for it is produced in batches. 

Ruth Benedict wrote The Chrysanthemum And The Sword, but he had never been to Japan. This is the way for foreigners to get to know about Japan. We make our summary about Japan and it’s acknowledged by Japanese themselves. But that whether we have got the soul of Japan still requires further investigation. Thus, to watch this Japanese Design

Today exhibition is very meaningful.


【Academic】Interpretation of Japanese Design

Speaker: Zhao Jian

Date: 2016.12.30

Venue: Hall 1, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art (RMCA)


About the lecture: Echoing the steps of civilization and national believe. Be in accrodance with life demand and reality of resource. Responding the criterion of quality and value of culture.

About the speaker: Zhao Jian: Scholar in Japan. Ex-deputy Dean of The Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

About the designer’s thinking logic: Although what designers work with is tangible material with different shapes and weight, they need to create something beyond it, something irrelevant to luxury and style, which is about simpleness and conciseness with something surprise and reasonable. 

A designer’s thinking logic will be revealed in his accurate and unexpected connecting types , from which we can see whether the connection among different design factors is closed or not. In China’s industries, we did our design in a great amount, but hardly did we focus on how to make them perfect in some details. As a matter of fact, design is about the essence not the luxury. In the term, Japanese designers did the better jobs than we did. They tries to remove unnecessary parts and tries their best to make the essence in the perfect and precise situation.

Decoding about Japanese designs: In China, we usually pay attention to handle the shape of the materials, forgetting a big project of the design——research on human cognitive behaviors. It’s critical for us to understand that design should be applied to human’s life and it shouldn’t amuse designers only. Nowadays, we lay stress on design for the afraid of mutual-connection; Today, we pay attention to originality for the afraid of technology; Now, we focus on speciality for that we are frightened by cross-border; And we emphasize foundation, but with the coming of new age, it will collapse quick.