Folk Art

A Tourist Destination Made of Rice Straw

At the end of every harvest season, farming communities around the world celebrate with festivals, parades, and the crowning of harvest queens. (e.g., in 1948, an unknown actress named Marilyn Monroe won the title of Artichoke Queen in Castroville, Ca.) These festivals are usually the most exciting local events to happen all year. Except for folks from neighboring farm communities, they don’t draw many out-of-towners, much less real tourists. But in the rice-growing region of Northern Japan, tourists flock in for the Wara Art Matsuri.

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Environmental Graphics

Kome: The Art of Rice

The exhibition poster features the ancient Chinese character for kome.

A fascinating exhibit is currently on display at 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown Tokyo. Created by renowned Japanese designer Taku Satoh and anthropologist Shinichi Takemura, “Kome: The Art of Rice” presents 35 design pieces by leading Japanese artists and experts in rice cultivation. What makes this show so intriguing is that a food staple as humble as a grain of rice (or “kome” as the Japanese call it) could be shown with such aesthetic sensitivity and with such a thoughtful exploration of the role that rice played in the historical, cultural and spiritual traditions of Japan.

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Advertising

Ultra Mystic Asian Ad

“Why Asian advertising is strong and mystic” was the theme of AdFest 2011, an exhibition of the best ad work in Asia. Commissioned by the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation/ Advertising Museum Tokyo to promote this pan-Asian event, Dentsu Inc. in Osaka developed a poster series with lavish illustrations that reminds one of a reflexology foot chart or, in the case of the open palm, like a spiritual mudra (a hand gesture that symbolizes divine manifestation).

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Folk Art

Old Tech, New Art

For more than a century, the QWERTY typewriter was the most important business tool in any office. Millions were made and sold. Then in the 1980s, along came the desktop computer and within a decade, typewriters were destined for the trash heap. Where most people saw outmoded technology, illustrator/sculptor Jeremy Mayer in Oakland, California, looked beyond the typewriter’s original function and saw an intriguing array of metal shapes and forms that could be reassembled into full-scale anatomically correct human and animal figures.

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Packaging

Rubber-Stamped Japanese Food Packaging

Traditional Japanese packaging for food products has historically been made of the natural materials-at-hand out of utilitarian necessity. Straw, bamboo sheath (the leaf that covers the sprouting bamboo shoot), and thinly shaved sheets of wood show an abiding connection to nature and a crafted human touch. Although this package design for Forest House Honey does not use wrapping materials plucked from nature, it has that sensibility in a 21st century kind of way. Yamagata-based Akaoni Design gave the packaging a simple humility with its unbleached brown paper and rubber-stamped floral block print patterns. Rather than a slick, “over-designed” manufactured look, the product has a farmer’s market “boutique” quality. It feels wholesome, organic, unadulterated by additives, and packaged by human hands and not mass produced by machine.

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Packaging

Chinese Rice Packaging Design

How do you market a product that is viewed as a commodity in most parts of the world? Taipei-based Green in Hand sought to elevate the perceived value of rice grown locally in Eastern Taiwan by presenting it in stylish, contemporary packaging. Touting its brand as a “life style proposal of exquisite agriculture,” Green in Hand packaged its organic rice in an earthy plain brown paper bag with a natural twisted twine handle and hand-drawn calligraphy label to create a simple and sustainable look.

Colorful gift packaging reinforced Green in Hand’s message that it “provides service for those who care about the relationship between human and land.” The floral design looks pretty enough to be a ladies’ handbag. The packaging program won both the Red Dot and Hong Kong Design Council awards.

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Advertising

Volkswagen Phaeton Elevates Ads to Fine Art

When you consider standard car ads, you can pretty much imagine the scenario – beautiful young couple driving over curvy scenic roads or attracting envious stares from suburban neighbors as the car pulls into the driveway. So it is refreshing to see how Volkswagen Phaeton has elevated its ads to fine art in order to convey the handmade quality of the luxury sedan. In India, DDB Mudra Group in Mumbai suggested the artisan’s pride of craftsmanship and attention to intricate details through the use of a traditional Indian art form. The way the Phaeton is integrated into the art is both surprising and memorable. More importantly, this isn’t a “foreign” ad jarringly adapted to an Indian audience. It speaks directly to India’s rich aesthetic heritage.

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Folk Art

Toothpick Tour of San Francisco

You don’t have to live in San Francisco to be awestruck by the cityscape built by artist Scott Weaver entirely out of toothpicks. It took him 35 years and more than 100,000 toothpicks, and he says he intends to keep on refining and adding on to his creation. Replicas of every San Francisco landmark, monument and scenic attraction, including Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Palace of Fine Arts, the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury district, and even the baseball park with its iconic wire baseball mitt, are rendered in intricate detail. As if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, Weaver one-upped Rube Goldberg by using ping pong balls to turn his sculpture into a kinetic experience. On his website, Weaver explains that he used different brands of toothpicks depending on what he was building. “I also have many friends and family members that collect toothpicks in their travels for me. For example, some of the trees in Golden Gate Park are made from toothpicks from Kenya, Morocco, Spain, West Germany and Italy.” Somehow after seeing this, hearing about Lego sculptures seems like unsophisticated child’s play. Weaver is a staff artist with The Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s renowned Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception.

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Packaging

Branding a Region

Monika Ostaszewska was a student at the Faculty of Industrial Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw when she focused her graduation project on a packaging concept for a region in Poland known for the quality of its food products. Her idea was to create an umbrella brand called “Flavours of Podlaskie” for the region itself and sub-brands for each category of local food producers.

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Product Design

Over the Moon Cakes

The must-do gift of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival season, mooncakes have become more luxurious and lavish in their presentation than ever. In China, mooncake gifting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Opulently packaged mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, cost upwards of $45, with each cake elegantly displayed or nestled in its own container. As pricy as this is, Chinese social etiquette pretty much demands that everyone give these sweet delicacies to friends, family, co-workers, clients and sometimes even government officials during the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival.

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