ORIGINAL LEXUS DESIGN AWARD GRAND PRIX-WINNER ENCOURAGES OTHERS TO SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR SUCCESS
- Hideki Yoshimoto, Grand Prix-winner of the Lexus Design Award 2013, commends the competition as a fantastic opportunity for young creatives
- Yoshimoto has established the successful design studio Tangent and seen his winning lighting concept Inaho become a fully marketed product
- Entries now being invited for the Lexus Design Award 2020 through to 14 October
Many young designers from around the world have been able to use the experience of participating in the Lexus Design Award as a springboard for developing their craft and building their profile. As entries continue to be welcomed for the 2020 edition of the competition, its first winner is using the example of his success to encourage others to seize the opportunities the award offers.
Designer and engineer Hideki Yoshimoto was the Lexus Design Award Grand Prix winner in 2013 for Inaho, an imaginative lighting concept designed to reflect the elegant swaying motion of rice in a paddy field (inaho means ‘golden ear of rice’ in Japanese). Today he is the founding director of Tangent, a London-based studio that has collaborated with major luxury global brands all over the world.
Inaho itself has been developed from a concept into a fully marketed product, included in the Crafted for Lexus collection of luxury items and featured in The LOFT, the award-winning airport lounge presented by Lexus and Brussels Airlines at Brussels’ international airport.
Yoshimoto’s achievements exemplify the aims of the Lexus Design Award to nurture up-and-coming talent and promote the way in which good design can improve people’s lives – the goal of ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’.
“The theme for the 2013 award as ‘motion,’ and that is what first caught my attention,” Yoshimoto explained. “When the call for entries started, I was a doctoral student at the Royal College of Art in the UK and was writing my thesis on ‘Pulse and Rhythm’. Since my research revolved around how to incorporate reciprocating motion and repeated movements as design elements, the theme was perfect.”
He added that the fact the award finalists have their work on public display, hosted by Lexus at Milan Design Week – one of the most prestigious dates in the international design calendar – was another significant attraction. “As a student, the possibility of being endorsed by a well-known global brand offered a huge opportunity. But what was especially meaningful was the fact that the things Lexus believes in as a brand, I value as a designer as well,” he said.
The distinguished mentorship provided for the award finalists is an important element in the Lexus Design Award and in 2013 Yoshimoto was able to develop his ideas for Inaho into a working prototype under the guidance of the world-renowned designer Sam Hecht.
“This was my first experience of interacting with a designer in a practical way, so it was a truly invaluable opportunity. He worked with us less like a teacher or famous designer, but more like a member of the project team. He was constantly pushing and challenging us to explore ideas and wider possibilities. There were quite a few passionate discussions, and all this made for a huge growth experience for both the team and Inaho.”
His advice to any young designers thinking about entering the Lexus Design Award is emphatic: “Just do it, look what it has done for me! It has unlocked possibilities, driven my personal and professional growth in so many ways and boosted my career. And my relationship with Lexus is strong and ongoing.
“If anything, it offers you an unbelievable opportunity to showcase your brand on a world stage. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.”
Looking ahead, Yoshimoto sees immense possibilities and no limits to materials or scale in his future work and he is particularly keen to use his engineering background to explore how hidden technologies can be used to unlock new design potential. “Taking the seed, crafting a concept and a narrative around it and collaborating to bring the concept to life, that’s what excites me,” he said.
Entries for the Lexus Design Award 2020 are being accepted through to 14 October 2019; for more information and details of how to take part visit LexusDesignAward.com.
Q: Your work brings together design and technology in very clever ways. Do you see a strong relationship between these two different disciplines?
I originally studied aerospace engineering and artificial intelligence, so one could say I have a strong technology background. However, for me, the use of specific technologies is never an end in itself. I look at different technologies as different tools.
Designing and carefully establishing the concept of your artwork is of greatest importance. Technology plays a huge role in helping creators refine, communicate and realize their design vision. When properly used, technology can simplify, even help humanize design.
The relationship between the two is not only strong. It is essential.
Q: What approach do you take with your creations?
With any of my designs, the starting point is always the concept. I think first of the narrative behind it.
I also like to make use of memories or connections with formative human experiences such as interactions with nature. I feel that designs elicit a more immediate and stronger connection with an audience when they are linked to experiences that have shaped them as an individual in some way.
Metaphors are likewise important, with the art of ‘borrowing’ carrying special significance. For example, by using metaphors and ‘borrowing scenery’ that already exists in people’s minds, such as ears of rice swaying in the summer breeze, we are able to increase a design’s expressive potential.
Q: How did you discover the Lexus Design Award and how did it peak your interest?
The judging criteria for Design Award 2013 focused on the theme of ‘motion,’ and that caught my attention.
When the call for entries started in autumn of 2012, I was a doctoral student at the Royal College of Art in the UK, and was writing my thesis on the topic of ‘Pulse and Rhythm.’ Since my research revolved around how to incorporate reciprocating motion and repeated movements as design elements, the theme of ‘motion’ was perfect.
The fact that the announcement of the Grand Prix winner would take place at the very prestigious Milan Design Week and that the winning creations would be exhibited under the Lexus brand sealed my decision to enter the competition.
As a student, the possibility of being endorsed by a well-known global brand offered a huge opportunity, but what was especially meaningful was the fact that the things Lexus believes in as a brand, I value as a designer as well. Lexus is not a Japanese brand. Rather, it is a global brand whose values, rooted in Japanese culture, shape its identity and the uniqueness of the experiences it delivers to different markets across the world.
In the same way, a blend of Japanese and European cultures has shaped me as a designer and a brand. It is my hope to be able to connect with people through the experiences I design as well.
Q: Your winning entry, ‘Inaho,’ is an interior lighting creation, which you say was inspired by “a golden ear of rice.” Where did this idea come from?
INAHO, which means "ear of rice" in Japanese, was designed to create the feeling one gets when they take in the scene of golden ears of rice slowly swaying in the wind. It is made up of LEDs housed in these golden tubes, which are fixed to the end of three-millimeter-wide carbon fiber stems. Tiny perforations in the tubes distribute the light in luminous dots, while movement sensors within the base of each stem draw the golden tips in the direction of people passing. The vision in my mind was that of a rice paddy field on a quiet evening at the end of summer.
Japanese people carry a deep admiration and respect for nature and I am aware that I am a part of nature. There is an endless feeling of awe about this that continually inspires me to ‘borrow’ the overwhelmingly transcendental power of nature to connect with people through my artwork.
Q: How has Inaho evolved in the years since you won the award?
You are presenting Inaho as part of Tangent’s first solo exhibition at the 2019 London Design Festival, how would you describe the interpretation of the version you are showing there?
The first evolution of Inaho took it from prototype to production stage. The team at Tangent radically redeveloped its technical elements and structures to ensure a high level of performance and durability.
At this year’s London Design Festival, a version of Inaho with 39 stems and that measures about 5.7 meters wide will be on display along with the version that is part of the Crafted for Lexus line. While the overall appearance has not changed, this is our biggest edition ever.
Recently, we created an expression of Inaho as a chandelier. By extending its basic concept of elasticity to recreate natural form and movement, a different expression of Inaho was conceived. Just like the floor version makes use of carbon fiber’s elasticity to create a natural bend in the stems, the chandelier version uses the carbon fiber’s elasticity and gravity to create the natural bend needed to give the chandelier its form. The chandelier incorporates a mirrored surface creates a reflection of its 32 stems, giving it a more condensed appearance, much like how reflections on bodies of water can change an overall scene.
In both expressions, our desire was not so much to replicate nature as an object, more to replicate the natural feeling or experience associated with it.
Q: Winning the 2013 Lexus Design Award gave you the opportunity to work with world-renown designer Sam Hecht. What was that experience like and how has it impacted you?
Working with Sam was my first experience interacting with a designer in a practical way, so it was truly an invaluable opportunity. While he was there to mentor and teach, he interacted with us less like a teacher or a famous designer and more as a member of the project team. It always felt as if he was on same level with the rest of us.
Continuously pushing and challenging us to explore countless ideas, wider possibilities, that was Sam. There were quite a few passionate, high-energy discussions especially when we had to sell him on something we strongly believed in. All these, put together, made for a huge growth experience for both the team and Inaho. The result was a prototype that was more refined and that evolved nicely beyond its original design concept.
Q: What are your personal design ambitions? What does the future hold for you and Tangent?
The future is unlimited.
We are not limited in terms of materials. Our focus is not solely on lighting or carbon fiber or chairs or sustainable products and processes. We are open to all those and more.
There is also no limitation in terms of size. I would love to build systems or even do an installation the size of an entire city some time.
This flexibility of object and subject is great in itself. What supercharges that is a team of individuals that offer quite a unique blend of design and engineering backgrounds, Japanese cultural roots and close to ten years of immersion in European culture. I’d say this leaves us open to a wide range of possibilities.
Given the opportunity, I would like to get involved in something such as a year-long advanced technology research projects that take advantage of my serious engineering background. There are many hidden technologies, especially in Japan. It would be great to work side-by-side with other engineers or scientists, take some seeds of technology and unlock some new potential. Our engineering background would enable us to speak in the same language and our design experience and mindset offers a different perspective.
Taking the seed, crafting a concept and a narrative around it, and collaborating to bring the concept to life, that excites me.
Q: What is your advice to young designers who might be considering taking part in the 2020 Lexus Design Award?
Just do it! Look at what it has done for me.
It has unlocked possibilities, driven my personal and profession growth in so many ways, and boosted my career. The relationship with Lexus is strong and ongoing, and as you can see, it has continued way beyond the design award.
If anything, it offers you an unbelievable opportunity to showcase your brand on a world stage. What you do with that opportunity is up to you!