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Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design

An exhibition curated by Oki Sato aims to reveal the hidden aspects of product design.

Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design


September 24th, 2014

To be held at Singapore’s National Design Centre from 4 to 23 October 2014, Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design will be showing more than 120 products across a wide range of categories, including tableware, furniture, stationary, and fashion apparel.


The exhibition is curated by world-renowned Japanese designer Oki Sato of Nendo, and the objective here is present the perspectives of product design that are often hidden from view, such as the bases, back and insides of an object.


But why the focus on the lesser viewed elements of a design? We pose the question to Oki Sato, who tells us that while Japanese design enjoys worldwide recognition, many still hold “superficial” viewpoints that need to be addressed.

“Many have yet to see and appreciate the ‘philosophy’ or ‘concept’ lying at the foundation of Japanese design. In fact, Japanese design doesn’t end with what is visible, but reaches down to parts of products and craftwork that are not usually visible,” says Oki Sato. “This is the essence of Japanese designs and what gives them such great value,” he adds.


The exhibits were selected based their ability to represent three keywords, namely ‘behind’, ‘inside’, and ‘before’.

Sato explains, “’Behind’ stands for designs that carry something distinctive in design or function on the back or bottom. A design with ‘something behind’ can help people to have close communication with one another, make the product’s ‘front’ even more lovely, or create some other new value. ‘Inside’ refers to some design or functional feature applied to the inside. Reconsidering what the ‘in’ and ‘outside’ mean to each other can lead to new aesthetics and/or functionality. Lastly, ‘before’ stands for preparation and expecting something in advance. A product materialising this keyword hides its functionality until the moment it is required. In short, this concept respects the user’s behaviours and feelings in his/her everyday life. Such a concept brightens up our life.”


Sato hopes that visitors to the exhibition will come away with the realisation that the ‘behind’, ‘inside’ and ‘before’ in Japanese design “do not come from some grandiose structure of planning, but from the designer’s small considerations and twists.”


He adds, “Also, they do not depend on any leading-edge technologies. Rather, many designs come from traditional materials, techniques, and lifestyles. Post-war Japan has been a country of technology. Yet those who design or manufacture products actually give higher priority and meticulous consideration to the user’s behaviours and psychology, than to advanced technologies. Herein lies the essence of Japan’s design and manufacture. Here is the true value of ‘made in Japan’.”

You can visit Hidden – Unveiling Japanese Design from 4 – 23 October 2014 at Singapore’s National Design Centre.

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