British-Japanese artist and designer Sputniko! is challenging the finalists of Lexus Design Award 2021 to captivate and innovate in the creation of their solution-led prototypes.

As more emerging designers focus their lens on sustainable practices to overcome local and global issues, the Lexus Design Award calls upon young creative talent from around the world to “Design for a Better Tomorrow”. By providing crucial funding for finalists to build their dream prototypes, and in providing the expert guidance of world class mentors, Lexus hopes to encourage designs that go beyond form and function — finding solutions that anticipate, innovate, and captivate. This year, as one of four mentors, artist and designer Sputniko! is guiding the designers of tomorrow in developing their own imaginative solutions.

With the expertise of Sputniko! and the other mentors, six finalists, each seeking to impact the world in a positive, forward-thinking way are building prototypes to tackle a variety of pressing issues, from water, energy and waste to mental healthcare, through the power of design.

“I'm very impressed with the finalists and their projects and I love the direction they are taking. But I hope they can add an element of punk-ness or craziness in their work,” says Sputniko!. “As a mentor, I give them advice and I see that they really listen – that’s a good thing – but I also want them to surprise me,” she adds.

With a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Imperial College, London, plus a Master's degree in Design from the Royal College of Art, Sputniko!, whose real name is Hiromi Marissa Ozaki, has over 15 years of experience both studying design interactions and working as an artist. Her education and experience leaves Sputniko! well poised to guide each finalist in pushing the boundaries of their designs.

In her own work, Sputniko! combines art and technology to create works which raise questions in society and incite change. She has worked as an assistant professor at MIT Media Lab, presented her film and multimedia installations in exhibitions around the world including at MoMA in New York and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and is currently Associate Professor of Design at Tokyo University of the Arts. Working in speculative and critical design, she challenges what the future looks like by exploring topics ranging from gender issues and female health to global concerns including the human impact on nature. Known for working in the mediums of music, performance and film installations, Sputniko! channels pop culture to highlight critical and sometimes uncomfortable questions describing her own work as part-activism-part art. “If I want to design for debate, if I want to design to create discussions, then why not use this amazing media tool where people can see the work and talk about it? Because I'm an activist-artist, I always think about how I can spread my message most efficiently, or how can I impact society in a more meaningful way,” she says.

Designing for a better future is the premise of Lexus Design Award and something Sputniko! is keen to instill in each of the finalists. “I completely feel that designers should really be responsible and think about the best tomorrow in all their designs,” she says. Each of the six designers is trying to tackle an important social or environmental issue from their own world view and Sputniko! believes it takes courage to highlight these problems and find viable solutions. “If your design solution doesn't work, then it's just a glorified, beautiful-looking thing that only pretends it solves something,” she says. “I'm very impressed by the finalists. If they see a problem, they are all able to change direction very fast.”

For Sputniko! the future of design should impact the way society sees things and further investigate the possible consequences of different kinds of technology. “Get technology wrong and what could be utopia for one community might be dystopia for another community, so I have always felt that perspectives on different futures are very important,” she says. Sputniko! believes that platforms, such as Lexus Design Award and the innovators who create the work, open up the conversation to new viewpoints. “It’s a good experience for me, seeing how they view things and how they try to solve the world’s issues right now,” she explains. “The most important thing that we should be challenging is for design to open people's minds and shift people's perceptions.”

To learn more about the Lexus Design Awards, and Lexus’ commitment to designing a better tomorrow, visit Lexus Design Award 2021.