From automobiles and electronics to ceramics, furniture and food, “in Japan, good design is everywhere.” Contextualized within Japan’s history and cultural craft traditions, author Naomi Pollock presents a thorough catalogue of contemporary design in Japan with Japanese Design Since 1945: A Complete Sourcebook. The book is a comprehensive and informative collection of Japanese designers and the objects of their creation.
For the casual browser, the book itself is tastefully designed and presents clear beautiful photographs of hundreds of objects. For the designer or design enthusiast, Pollock introduces the stories of the designers that create the objects, creating a portrait of their process, inspiration, and relationships within the vibrant design community of Japan.
Author Naomi Pollock is an architect in addition to being an author and is well suited to take on the extensive collection she has put together. As an author her focus has been on Japanese design since receiving a second Masters degree from the University of Tokyo. Her published work includes seven additional books that focus on Japanese design and architecture such as Modern Japanese House and Sou Fujimoto.
Japanese Design Since 1945: A Complete Sourcebook presents over 70 designer profiles and includes contextual essays and dedicated pages to objects of exceptional design significance. Pollock’s introduction gives the back story to modern design in Japan; from its nascent stages post World War II to its rapid evolution into an internationally recognized design culture. She follows with seven chapters, starting with “The Design Titans” and following with thematic sections of everyday objects, “Tables & Chairs,” “Food & Drink,” “On & Off,” “Promotion & Packaging,” “Warp & Weft,” and “Lifestyle & Leisure.”
From the simple, paired-down lifestyle promoted by the dishware, furniture or even architecture of Muji, to the first Sony Walkman or Mazda Roadster, a sense of craft permeates the objects included in the book. As an integral element of both traditional and contemporary Japanese design, craft is a key recurring theme. Pollock has stated that craft and Monozukuri (“making things”) have deep cultural meaning in Japan; “it is as much a mindset as a mode of working.”
This sense and value system is highlighted in Pollock’s inclusion of objects that have traditional craft appreciation, such as a chair or teapot, but she extends it to include food wrappers, milk bottles, and everyday graphic experiences like the Tokyo Metro “Manner Posters.” In doing so, she reinforces that throughout life in Japan, good design truly is everywhere.
The theme of craft also becomes the basis for presenting designers’ reflections on how design is evolving in Japan. While beautiful, high quality goods are still being designed and made, new focuses are also being put on the “experience” of design. The new evolving challenge may be that “objects lose their meaning in an increasingly digital world.”
Still, Pollock holds out, saying in an interview that “there will always be a need and desire for beautiful dishes and comfortable sofas.” Japanese Design Since 1945: A Complete Sourcebook provides a clear basis for why that is. In a time where being cramped up at home may put an extra focus on all of the “things” we have around us, the book is an enjoyable browse through a collection of beautiful and thoughtfully designed objects and an interesting read if something happens to catch your eye.