Thinking about how to design a Design Facility: 21_21 Design Sight Directors’ Talk

In March 2007, the design facility 21_21 Design Sight will open in Tokyo Midtown, the site of the former Defense Agency in Roppongi.

In Reviews by Chihiro Murakami 2006-11-27

Apparently, not having a collection of its own, it won’t be a ‘museum’ as such, but more of a ‘facility’ that aims to provide a place where people can think about design. Given that there are few facilities anywhere in the world that specialize in design, the fact that Tadao Ando has designed the building and that internationally reknowned creators Issey Miyake, Taku Sato and Naoto Fukasawa will form 21_21 Design Sight’s team of directors has attracted attention both in Japan and abroad. Hearing that there was a director’s talk being held as a pre-opening event, I went along to find out what’s going on amid all this intrigue.

Entitled “Thinking about how to design a design facility”, the talk was chaired by 21_21’s Associate Director Noriko Kawakami, who with Taku Sato, one of 21_21’s directors, Mitsuhiro Miyazaki from visual communication team Axis, and Tom Vincent from Image Source, said a lot that sheds light on the preparations currently underway at 21_21.

First up was Taku Sato, who explained the concepts behind the name 21_21 and the design and application of its logo. Taking the concept of 20/20 vision as his starting point, he developed the facility’s name to be a conceptual play on the words “sight” and “site”, implying both the insight needed in the design field and the physical location that can provide it in the 21st century. Finally, he developed the design of the name into a ‘product logo’ that looks like the address plaques that you can see every day around any Japanese town. Sato said that when Issey Miyake first told him that he wanted to make a design facility in Japan that was not a museum, he didn’t know if he would be able to do it, but given that such a facility was unprecedented, it would be fun to join the 21_21 project and figure it out as he goes along.

The gap between the lettering in the 21_21 logo is the actual space between a person's eyes.

Mitsuhiro Miyazaki from Axis is handling all issues to do with graphics and he spoke in detail about the stories behind 21_21’s advertising tools and the thought that went into the design of the building’s signage, revealing that 21_21’s regular meetings are very uninhibited and stimulating forums for discussion and that he would like 21_21 to become a place for the consideration of everyday design.

The logo invites you to think about the design of objects that we regard as every day and ordinary.

Tom Vincent from Image Source is in charge of the project’s web related issues. As well as managing the 21_21 website, he thought it would be interesting to present the team’s unedited thoughts and discussions, and makes them available as transcripts and podcasts. He has created a friendly online world that breaks down the usually stringent regulations surrounding a logo and instead makes it downloadable to all, as well as offering a Flickr community where anybody can upload photos they have taken that feature the 21_21 logo. Always going against the flow in a design world that can easily lapse into conservative methods and ways of thinking, Tom Vincent says he truly wants 21_21 to be full of fun and suprises.

You can listen to podcasts of the directors' meetings and download the logo from the 21_21 Design website
Is 21_21 taking over the world?! You can add your own photos of 21_21 to the '21_21 Community' on Flickr

They certainly talked up the facility’s mission statement, but what we all really want to know about is the content that will go on show at 21_21. I really wanted to know what kind of exhibitions and activities are being planned to mark the facilty’s opening in March, or what kind of experimental projects are in store at 21_21, but the talk didn’t touch on those issues, and that was a shame. Nevertheless, given that design is a whole way of thinking – something that has both a social role and acts as a way of making our lives more fun – it is not a mainstream concern for many, so perhaps 21_21 Design Sight’s and its apparent program of new questions and surprises about design will draw more people’s attention to this field.





(Translation: Ashley Rawlings)

Chihiro Murakami

Chihiro Murakami. Graduated with a BA from Musashino Art University, Tokyo. Moved to the UK in 2002 after working full time for GK Graphics, Inc and Nippon Design Center Inc. in Tokyo. Awarded Diploma from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2003), and MA from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London (2005). She started Birds Design in 2006 and is involved in several collaborative projects with international creators as a graphic designer. She is expanding her field by writing critical articles from a designer's point of view. Birds Design » See other writings

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