Tokyo Design Week 2016

Tokyo Design Week was attended by Senior Industrial Designer Terence Kwan, Industrial Designer Rayyan Toh, and Graphic Designer Amal Chandaria. This is part of a #moonwalk series, where LUNAR employees attend conferences and workshops to seek inspiration and refresh or improve their skills.

Tokyo Design Week is an annual event that attracts more than 100,000 visitors for 12 days devoted to the latest in the world of design. Our team was intrigued by the variety of displays showcased at the event, from architectural models to interactive art, but most notably the focus on amazing user experience for the customer and end user. This was evident through a number of interesting ways that popped out to us during the trip, both in the convention and out around the city.


User experience, through our observation of Japan’s world renowned design aesthetic, is exemplified in the following four ways.

Craft + Detail
There is an extreme level of appreciation and focus on large and small details being realized and precious. This can be seen in objects, cuisine, space, fashion, the city, and ecosystem—everything is thoughtfully crafted in how it feels and how it’s perceived. Such examples are seen in the fine details of a product or a triptych of an object, in a space such as Japanese design studio Nendo, and just walking around the city too.

‘Unprinted Material’ by Nendo

A stroll through Aoyama

Exploring the alleys of Shibuya

Interior + Retail Space Design
Spaces are thoughtfully crafted and show a true appreciation of a thematic point of view. A store’s personality and aesthetic is thoughtfully curated and brought to life in every way. One such example is Itoya, a stationery store in Ginza, which used simple physical displays to create something that was both engaging and memorable.

Paper sample wall display at the Itoya stationery store in Ginza

A shoe wall display at Dover Street Market in Ginza

Presentation + Packaging Design

This aspect of the user experience was exemplified at the ‘Design Anatomy’ exhibition at a gallery called 21_21 that broke down the elements that went into seemingly mundane objects like a chocolate bar and a carton of milk, showing a shared brand language for the snack industry.

There was a consistent and meticulous attention to typographic, graphic, and product design in each snack item that was displayed. It was also inspiring to see how packaging manufacturing and clever ways to streamline the process was explored—for example, they had made small little paper cutouts of each and every department and channel involved in the creation and final delivery of a candy bar.

The 21_21 gallery in Minato

Some of the large scale models of packaging elements at the 21_21 Design Sight exhibition

A landscape model from a chocolate bar packaging illustration at the 21_21 Design Sight exhibition

An exploded view of label design elements at the 21_21 Design Sight exhibition

Public Transportation + System Design
Transportation in Tokyo is quick and always on time. The maps thoughtfully arranged by color and a repeatable scalable system that even a foreigner can understand, and apps like Google or Apple Maps work to fully support all of the transportation methods now. Apple Pay for the Suica card to pay for your fare is seamless—something that makes San Francisco’s Clipper card feel a decade behind.

It was pretty incredible to see the thought that goes into even the most microscopic components of a product presented in such a prominent way. This seems to be a cultural hallmark of Japan, as we noticed this attentiveness to the minutia of interaction in a variety of ways during the trip, whether opening a sake bottle or paying for a simple item at the convenience store. Tokyo is truly an incredible city, with unique user experiences wrapped into every moment and interaction.

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