Final Judging Report

The KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD reaches its 15-year milestone
The Grand Prix goes to "Eatool", a design that achieves a great leap forward to a new product genre

The Final Judging for the KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD 2017 was held at the Aoyama Spiral on January 18, 2018. Having passed the initial judging, ten finalists from out of 1,326 entries (880 from Japan, and 446 from abroad) gave a presentation in front of the judges, and a Grand Prix winner and three Merit Award winners were chosen.

This year's theme was "NEW STORY". KOKUYO's Representative Director of the Board, President and CEO Hidekuni Kuroda, talks about the intention behind the selection of this theme. "As the KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD reaches its 15-year milestone, we want the company itself to continue changing as well. So, we selected this theme in the hope of discovering designs that have the potential to create new product genres and appeal to people's instincts, in addition to offering functionality and convenience."

In response to this call, we received an even greater variety of designs than we have in other years. The number of entries from abroad has increased, and among them, two designs, one from Taiwan and one from Spain, were selected as finalists.

The trophy was inspired by the theme, "NEW STORY". The moment a key unlocks a door that leads to a new world has been given form through acrylic.

'Snacks' become pieces of stationery

At the Final Judging, each finalist gave a 5-minute presentation and then answered questions from the judges. This year, Mr. Oki Sato (CEO & designer of design office nendo) and Mr. Masashi Kawamura (CEO & Executive Creative Director of PARTY NY) joined us as new judges, and the judging was carried out based on criteria such as the innovativeness of the concept and idea, perfection of the design and production, potential for commercialization, and how well the design responds to the theme, "NEW STORY".

As a result, the "Eatool" (nyokki: Daisuke Kakinoki / Haruka Mitani / Yuki Yawata) received a large number of votes and won the Grand Prix. Its designers examined afresh the value of office "snacks", and positioned them as "tools" for improving work efficiency, just like other office supplies and stationery.

The three members of nyokki talk about the intentions behind the design. "In other countries, they have a culture of eating and drinking freely during work, even when they are in a meeting. But in Japan, eating snacks in the office is not viewed very positively. We wanted to breathe fresh air into the office culture by changing the value that is attached to snacks, and giving them more appropriate places to be located."

The three members of nyokki giving their presentation at the Final Judging. The concept was explained in a straightforward and lucid way with an interesting video.

Just like how we use different items of stationery for different purposes, for instance, a pen to write with and a pair of scissors to cut with, the designers came up with a way for us to easily take in the elements we need, like sugar when we feel tired, and caffeine when we need a wake-up call. The three snacks are all bite-size; each has a different shape according to its constituent element and the image it conjures up. They also designed ways in which the snacks can be used, such as sticking them on the office wall. Edible samples were distributed during the presentation, giving the judges their first chance to "evaluate with taste" since the award began.

nyokki also proposed ways in which the "Eatools" might be provided in the workplace. They can serve as a communication tool if they are stuck on the wall.

Some of the many positive remarks in the post-presentation review included, "The idea of using food as stationery is an interesting one", "The notion of changing the way people work is very much in line with the KOKUYO award", "It's a proposal that can create a new product genre". On the other hand, some concerns were expressed: "There are many types of functional foods out there already. I don't know if these would sell even if they were commercialized", "Isn't it a little too groundbreaking?"

Indeed, food is a new genre for KOKUYO. As "commercializing the award-winning designs" is one of the major features of the KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD, choosing "Eatool" as the Grand Prix winner certainly presents a big challenge for KOKUYO as well. However, we live in an age when ideas about the way offices should be and the way people should work are being fundamentally challenged, and so the unlikely idea of "considering how we work from the viewpoint of food", and the pragmatic approach of proposing situations in which the products can be consumed during work were rated highly, giving the design a push to victory in the Grand Prix.

Review remarks from the judges

"I think it's interesting that it doesn't belong in any single existing genre, but is rather a mixture of genres, and I think that's where a new story is born. It aligns perfectly with the theme, NEW STORY." (Ryosuke Uehara / CEO, Art Director & Creative Director of KIGI)

"I like the way the idea expands beyond the basic concept of stationery. The fact that it can be defined as either stationery or as food goes with the trend these days for ambiguity in terms of categories." (Masashi Kawamura / CEO & Executive Creative Director of PARTY NY)

"The impression I had of "Eatool" during the Initial Judging changed drastically in the Final Judging. If it is contributing to making work feel comfortable, you could well say that food makes for fine stationery. It seems like a taboo, but it may in fact have picked up on a fundamental truth." (Oki Sato / CEO & designer of design office nendo)

"It actually tasted good. I felt that the act itself of putting it in my mouth had the power of magic. If stationery is a tool to move things, then "Eatool" has the presence of a tool that can move people." (Yasuhiro Suzuki / Artist)

"I went for this one because it embodies a genre that I had never thought of before. I would personally like to use them if they are commercialized with consideration for health using select ingredients and materials." (Yoshie Watanabe / Art Director & Designer of KIGI)

"I was interested in "Eatool" since the Initial Judging. Creating movement among working people is something that KOKUYO has long worked to achieve. Although the medium is food, this proposal in fact sits right in the mainstream of what we are trying to do." (Hidekuni Kuroda / Representative Director of the Board, President and CEO of KOKUYO)

Remarks from the award winners

At the Awards Ceremony, the three members of nyokki expressed their joy at winning the award. At the talk event later on, the presentation given at the Final Judging was given again, and the designers received a huge round of applause from the audience.

The presentation given by nyokki, the Grand Prix winners, at the Final Judging was given again at the talk event.

"We were worried that the fact it involves handling food would make it a taboo. I thought that we would either get no votes or all the votes, but we believed in our idea and went through with it." (Mr. Kakinoki)

"This is the fourth time we have entered the KOKUYO DESIGN AWARD. I think we have gradually got better each year. I'm so glad that we have finally been able to win a prize because we will be finishing graduate school in March." (Ms. Yawata)

"Looking at it objectively, we wondered whether we could really make it happen, and as we proceeded, we really tried to think how this could change people's work styles. I'm so glad our idea got through to you all." (Ms. Mitani)