Japan Design Foundation

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(established 1981)

Since its inception in November 1981, the Japan Design Foundation has become a key organization for the promotion internationally of Japan as an important centre for design debate, discourse, and exhibitions, particularly the Osaka International Design Competitions held biennially from 1983 onwards. From 2003, when the chosen theme was ‘Rethink Consumption’, arrangements for the competition were reorganized, particularly the final stages of the adjudication process that involved industrialists, designers, and finalists as a means of bringing about new business opportunities.

After a sustained period of economic growth in Japan, which began to gather pace during the 1950s, the importance of design as a significant factor in product development was increasingly recognized both by private industry and the state. The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) played a key role in stimulating such interest in design over several decades. In the late 1970s its Design Promotion Workshop for Export Promotion and Design Promotion Council proposed the mounting of a major international design competition as a means both of demonstrating Japanese design achievements to the world and of strengthening cultural exchange. It was soon decided that this would take place biennially from 1983 in Osaka, the site of the 1970 Japan World Exposition (which had explored the theme of global harmony and 20th‐century industrial society) and one of the first cities in Japan to establish a design centre. An organizational committee was set up in October 1981 and officially sanctioned in the following month by MITI as the Japan Design Foundation (JDF). From 1982 the JDF mounted a series of design conventions as a means of promoting, under the umbrella title of the International Design Festival, Osaka, the linked developments of the International Design Competition, the International Design Award, and the International Design Exhibition. The International Design Competition embraces all fields of design practice including graphics, architecture, product, and environmental design and is sanctioned by ICSID, ICOGRADA and IFI. From its inception it regularly attracted over 1,000 entries, a very high percentage of which have been drawn from overseas, attracted both by the prize money of $80,000 and broad‐based themes such as ‘gathering’ (1983), ‘interaction’ (1985), ‘water’ (1987), ‘fire’ (1989), and ‘earth’ (1991). International Design Awards made by the JDF have included those to Margaret Thatcher (1983, for her design promotional activities as UK prime minister), Pentagram (1983), Maria Benktzon and Sven‐Eric Juhlin (1983, see Ergonomidesign), Bang & Olufsen (1985), Douglas Scott (1985), Kenji Ekuan (1987), Norman Foster (1987), the Dutch Postal Telegraph and Telephone Services (1987), Otl Aicher (1989), Yuri Soloviev (1989), Antii Nurmesniemi and Vuokko Eskolin‐ Nurmesniemi (1991), the Department of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1993), Arthur J. Pulos (1995), Hans Wegner (1997), and Issey Miyake (2001). In 1993 the JDF established the Asian Pacific Design Network, building on its Pan‐Pacific Design Exchange Programme (initiated in 1990) in order to encourage a greater mutual understanding of traditions and cultures in the region. In order to assist in this programmes for Design Study, Design Cooperation Promotion, and Information Exchange were set in place. In 2002 the JDF published Design for Every Being: History of JDF 20th Anniversary and expanded its website (launched 1997) to provide much fuller information about the organization and its activities as well as an e‐mail news service.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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