Lexus Design Award [pt 1/2] @ Salone Milan 2017

Lexus Design Award [pt 1/2] @ Salone Milan 2017

First launched in 2012 to stimulate ideas for a better tomorrow, Lexus is celebrating the 5th anniversary of this international design competition which supports up-and-coming designers and creators worldwide.

The award seeks to foster the growth of ideas that contribute to society by supporting designers and creators whose works can help to shape a better future.

The Lexus Design Award has a growing history for enticing emerging designers to submit ideas, thanks to highly imaginative award themes.

Lexus Designer Award 2017 finalists, mentors, judges and Lexus representatives

From 1,152 entries from 62 countries, 12 finalists were chosen to present their ideas at the La Triennale in Milan during the Salone del Mobile.

Of the finalists, four were selected to prototype their designs with mentorship from design heavyweights including Neri & Hu, Max Lamb, Elena Manferdini and Snarkitecture

After careful consideration, the winner was selected by the six judges: Toyo Ito, architect; Paola Antonelli, curator; Aric Chen, curator; Birgit Lohmann, editor; Alice Rawsthorn, design commentator; and Yoshihiro Sawa, executive vice president of LEXUS international

With today’s rapidly dissolving boundaries in design, it’s appropriate that more and more design programs are exploring the possibilities in between disciplines.

At the 2017 Milan Design Week, Lexus highlighted their own brand commitment to finding innovation in the in-between spaces.

Arranged on plinths, the displays celebrated forward-thinking ideas, alternative problem solving and, most of all, emerging global talent.

Only one of these prototypes would go on to be named Grand Prix Winner.


By challenging ourselves to combine elements that at first seem incompatible, we are able to ignite our creative potential and explore new frontiers in design and technology.” ……… Yoshihiro Sawa, executive vice-president of Lexus International


In an open call earlier this year, Lexus International’s president, Yoshihiro Sawa, asked up-and-coming designers to ‘create a whole new value and experience by harmonising incompatible elements’.

He asked designers to ‘think “yet” – and challenge the common paradigm.’



The Lexus Design Award is a pro-active mentoring program that burrows deep down into the design process, rather than simply skimming the surface.

Each year, a theme is established and an open call goes out for entrants across the globe – the only stipulation is that they be less than five years in the field.

This provides a unique opportunity for four finalists to work with globally recognized designer as a mentor to create prototypes of their designs, and then exhibit them at one of the design calendar’s most important events.



The Finalists

Since 2013, the Lexus Design Award has presented universally applicable themes on everything from ‘Curiosity’ to ‘Motion’ to ‘Anticipation’.

Now in it’s fifth year, the Lexus Design Award engages emerging designers to consider design as a tool to build a better tomorrow and this year’s theme focused on the theme of “Yet.” – an expression of the possible symbiosis in apparent contradiction.

In Lexus brand terms, this can be broken down into dichotomies like: spacious YET streamlined, emotional YET rational, exhilarating to drive YET environmentally aware.



Lexus Design Awards 2017 Finalists – Jia Wu, Hiroto Yoshizoe, Jessica Fugler and Ahran Won


Lexus Design Award 2017 finalists with their mentors


Shortly before the exhibition space was opened to the public, Lexus International announced the Grand Prix Winner of the 2017 Lexus Design Award at an exclusive event to an audience of prominent designers, press and senior Lexus executives

The Lexus Design Grand Prix winner Award was presented by Yoshihiro Sawa during a cocktail ceremony held at la Triennale di Milano, where the annual design exhibit has been also hosted.

The Grand Prix work was displayed in the LEXUS YET pavilion, together with the other 11 finalist’s projects

Yoshihiro Sawa Hiroto Yoshizoe and Spiros Fotinos


Supported by Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen of renowned New York-based collaborative practice Snarkitecture, Yoshizoe’s forward-thinking lighting design prototype caught the judging panel’s discerning eye, for its manifold practical applications and intelligent embodiment of the ‘YET’ theme

Snarkitecture mentors Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen with Hiroto Yoshizoe ( winner ) and Yoshihiro Sawa ( Lexus )


I’m so surprised and honored to receive this prize from Lexus Design Award. I would like to thank Alex and Daniel of Snarkitecture for all their mentorship, also to all the people who have supported me on this project and of course to Lexus for giving me this amazing opportunity.”  ……  Hiroto Yoshizoe


Lexus Design Awards 2107 winner Hiroto Yoshizoe is a graduate from Musashino Art University. He currently lives and works in Tokyo as an art director, working as a spatial designer for commercial facilities.



Finalists’ Projects



1st Prize Winner


Hiroto Yoshizoe   ( Japan )

Mentor : Snarkitecture

Hiroto Yoshizoe‘s PIXEL, mentored by Snarkitecture, an architectural structure that creates an experience of “light YET shadow.”

Employing a screen of repeating visors, PIXEL combines the digital and physical experience in a unique and poetic way by repeated, internal reflection of colored LED lights.

By pixelizing imagery and translating it onto the screen, Yoshizoe’s project becomes both a screen and a device for diving space and connecting users at the same time.



PIXEL comprises an A-framed building block that disrupts and bends any light source shined upon it, creating a diffused shadow.

Lined side by side, a grid of these units creates a pixelated effect when light passes through it – something typically reserved for digital screens.

Through repeated internal reflection, input images are averaged into square outputs.

By converting light and shadow into a clear and sensible form, viewers can experiences this beautiful fundamental phenomenon.

At once atmospheric and artful – with myriad uses in contemporary design and architecture.

The beauty of PIXEL is also found in its deceptive simplicity.


The project references architectural traditions and precedent like the idea of an architectural screen but does this in a simple way. It also has a strong relationship between digital technology and in contrast, in a sort of analog way, directs the tactile experience.”   ……… Daniel Arsham



“I have aimed to design between the Light and Shadow, believing that when designing the borderline between the two contrasting elements, they can resonate with each other to move the viewer. Through this, you will find that in fact the contrasts are intertwined with each other. Light and Shadow, inside and outside, one side and another this screen existing between these two contrasts can be a device for dividing, transforming and ‘connecting’ at the same time.” ……….. Hiroto Yoshizoe



What you see looks very digital and therefore complicated, but what’s happening is a very traditional, analogue technique of reflection.  Simply put, the light enters the structure, reflects inside and is outputted – appearing digital.”…….. Hiroto Yoshizoe



The magic of ‘ Pixel’ resides in its simple, electricity-less mechanism that uses reflection to divide light into the stackable modules, resulting in mesmerizing colors and pixelated images.

These modules act like building blocks, allowing infinite configurations that can be applied as a self-supporting façade in architecture, or as a room divider in interior applications.

The design involves two contrasting elements that when brought together that resonate with each other to move the viewer. through this, the contrasts are intertwined with each other; light and shadow, inside and outside, one side and another. by existing between these two contrasts, the device itself can be used for dividing, transforming, and connecting at the same time.

The sensations it generates encompasses the competition’s theme as it’s all about creating light yet shadow.


‘ In this world that we live in, everything is mirrored in our eyes with light and shadow. a chandelier sparkling beautifully, mobile phones and cinema screens, morning sunlight pouring into a dark room, a child’s smile reflecting the candles lit on a cake. light and shadow exist as contrasting elements that compose scenes of your daily life,’ …………..Hiroto Yoshizoe.



The advice given from my mentors was very precise and accurate. Their suggestion to test a form that I had not considered in the beginning allowed me to develop this work. They also gave me suggestions on new materials, which led me to a path that I did not expect. I am grateful for their advice.”  ………… Hiroto Yoshizoe



True to his shoji inspiration, Yoshizoe began testing his concept with paper, carefully noting how light reflected and interacted with the surface before he was eventually paired with Snarkitecture as a prototype finalist in November 2016.

Through a series of correspondences and a trip to the Snarkitecture studio in New York, Yoshizoe experimented with a variety of different materials and 3D shapes to fine-tune what would become the final PIXEL prototype.

As well as looking this far into the project’s future, Yoshizoe explains how his seasoned mentors helped him stay ahead of the curve on a day-to-day basis – forecasting any design-minded stumbling blocks.

‘They always foresaw what was to come next – they knew the issues.’

What’s more, the dedicated mentorship from Snarkitecture prepared Yoshizoe for presenting in Milan, offering invaluable insight into defining PIXEL’s identity in potential commercial applications.

Would PIXEL become a consumer product bought off the shelf ?   Would it be strictly reserved for creating art installations?  What about use as an architectural material?


The first idea has to be very strong, simple and unique, otherwise, production and market requirements will change the concept’s characteristics and weaken it. Starting from a strong proposal allows you to maintain your message.” ……………Yoshihiro Sawa

A point that can be seen in PIXEL’s journey from conception to this year’s Lexus Design Award Grand Prix Winner.




Finalist Runner Ups  : –


Players PFlute

Jia Wu   ( China )

Mentor  : Max Lamb

Inspired by her friend, a music teacher’s struggle to find ways to engage her young students, Wu designed a set of tools to transform fruits and vegetables into musical instruments.

A “vegetable YET a musical instrument,” the Player’s Pflute encourages children to create music through a highly improvisational and exploratory instrument-making process.

Not only can children assemble their own musical instrument, but it also lowers the financial barrier of buying a musical instrument to give all children access to music education and play.

Created by Jia Wu and mentored by Max Lamb,  Player’s Pflute’ is a musical instrument made of a vegetable aiming children to explore music.

The modular music toy system connects everyday objects using imaginative invention with musical creativity, encouraging improvisation and giving children the chance to experience music as a familiar and enjoyable activity.




By encouraging improvisation while playing, this toy helps a child experience music as a familiar and enjoyable activity. This creative musician kit consists of different mouthpieces, hole punchers and connectors. Simply by connecting them with various everyday objects, children can assemble their very own instruments and explore different musical tones.” ……… Jia Wu


The kit consists of different mouthpieces, hole punchers, and connectors, that by putting together, children can assemble their very own instruments and explore different musical tones.



Structural Colour

Jessica Fugler  ( USA )

Mentor :  Elena Manferdini

Structural Color by Jessica Fügler is a tile-based architectural system that allows users to change the pattern and color by simply rotating the tiles within the object.

Fügler was inspired by the ways that colors are perceived differently depending on the angle of each cell and the light

Structural Color is a phenomenon occurring in nature, where color is not the result of pigments but instead is created when light is bent by optical phenomena such as interference, refraction or diffraction caused by microscopic structural features such as the cells of bird feathers or butterfly wings.

The project looks to abstractly manifest the sensation found in nature by creating large-scale structures whose surfaces alter based on the viewer’s perspective.

“Static YET changing,” the individual tiles have different colors for each side and by a short rotation, large-scale structures or facades can be altered with little manual intervention.




”  Static Yet Changing is a rug design that has the ability to change with the need of the user. The ever-changing function and aesthetics of the piece addresses the idea of designing for longevity, crating products that evolve over time. ” ……….. Jessica Fugler




Having Nothing and yet Possessing Everything

Ahron Won    ( South Korea )

Mentor : Neri & Hu

Having nothing, and yet possessing everything’ by Ahran Won and mentored by Neri & Hu is a capsule that contains only the essentials needed for a minimal lifestyle.

This modular capsule of individual crates contains everything one would need for everyday living while allowing for optimal mobility.

Stackable and multifunctional, each crate can be allocated to a specific task—cooking, washing, sleeping—and reappropriated as one’s needs shift in a nomadic lifestyle.

The project believes in the power of loving minds and the potential of design to be a positive element for our future –  one object has more than one function

Like a smartphone, the capsule goes beyond its function as just a container.




What is the meaning of objects in our lives? The moving capsule enables simple and minimalist living through its mobility and functionality. One object has more than one function; like a smart phone, the capsule goes beyond its function as just a container “ . ……. Ahran Won





Exhibition ( non mentored ) Panel Finalists

The Lexus Pavilion at la Trienale di Milan also presente the projects of 8 non-mentored finalists of the Lexus Design Award 2017.

Their conceptual designs and prototypes also revealed how they would apply the ‘YET’ philosophy in original and innovative ways.



Panel Finalists


Designer (Citizenship) Eunjin Park (South Korea)
Country of residence South Korea
Description A measuring spoon with Unseen YET Visualized tactile graduations for the blind.



Designer (Citizenship) Kuniko Maeda (Japan)
Country of residence UK
Description Disposable YET Upcycled material using traditional and modern technology.



Designer (Citizenship) Group name: TAKEHANAKE-Bungorogama

  • Yoshifumi Takehana (Japan)
  • Bungo Okuda (Japan)
  • Akira Okuda (Japan)
Country of residence Japan
Description Mass produced YET One-of-a-kind ceramics created using a portable kiln.



Designer (Citizenship) Ryo Katayama (Japan)
Country of residence Japan
Description Combustible YET Fire-Resistant paper kettle.



Designer (Citizenship) Paula Cermeño (Peru)
Country of residence Switzerland
Description Banana leaf bandages that out performs Synthetic materials YET are Biodegradable and soothing.



Designer (Citizenship) Group Name: MODlab

  • Eric Schwartzbach (USA)
  • Benjamin Ward (USA)
Country of residence USA
Description Temporary shelter for displaced populations. Homeless YET Home.



Designer (Citizenship) Takuro Sanda (Japan)
Country of residence Japan
Description Hi-tech YET Retro radio tunes in programs from past and present.



Designer (Citizenship) Evgeny Arinin (Russia)
Country of residence Russia
Description Simple YET Sophisticated traffic light.




Lexus Design Award Mentors

In its factories, Lexus employ Takumi, an ancient Japanese concept that roughly translates as ‘highly respected, industry-leading artisans’.


Part of their role is to teach the younger craftsmen the inside elements of the trade. This approach to mentorship is personally very important to Lexus. This pride in mentorship spreads from the factory to the boardroom.

All of us take pride in being able to support and help the younger members of our organisation. We give them the space to go out and learn. Even from a management perspective, it’s very close to us.’  …………………… Spiros Fotinos


Each mentor hand selected the project they would like to work on, and devised a programme of regular, continuing support for their designer.




Lexus Design Award 2017  Judges


I’ve been involved in the award since the beginning and since the start Lexus has had this process that is really respectful of the design landscape because it’s not just about proclaiming a straight-out winner. Rather, the four finalists are picked by a jury of peers, then they are mentored by an established designer for four months.

“It’s intense, but it’s also about putting your money where your mouth is. It’s really about investing in young designers in a meaningful way.”  …….. Paola Antonelli


“The Lexus Design Award always presents a fascinating survey of the issues currently engaging young designers, and what they consider to be the most important challenges and compelling opportunities for design today.

However, the quality and scale of ambition of the submissions to this year’s award program was truly exceptional. It was very difficult for us to whittle them all down to twelve finalists, then four prototype winners and finally to the Grand Prix winner, although every stage of the process generated a feisty and enjoyable debate.

Each of the four prototype winners has wrestled with complex and significant issues, from the plight of refugees and other homeless people and providing environmental protection for buildings in a beguiling and poetic way, to fusing traditional craftsmanship with emerging technologies and encouraging children to make and play musical instruments.

Eclectic and original though their responses are, all the finalists have addressed the defining theme of the Lexus Design Award 2017, YET, with tremendous imagination, versatility and aplomb.” ………. Alice Rawsthorn

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