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How 'good design' became commonplace in Japan

Postwar transformation driven by consumer boom and technological innovation

Designed in 1970 by Matsushita Electric Industrial (as Panasonic was then known), the Toot-a-Loop radio doubled as a bracelet. (Courtesy of Panasonic)

TOKYO -- In Japan, good design is everywhere -- in streets and parks, in shops and offices and, most of all, in homes. From storage cabinets to vacuum cleaners to scissors, people in Japan are surrounded by beautifully designed daily use goods. Functional yet aesthetically pleasing, machine-made yet exquisitely crafted, many of these objects are among the most admired in the world -- some featuring in museum collections, such as Naoto Fukasawa's Plus Minus Zero Humidifier and Kazumasa Nagai's "I'm Here" posters, which belong to New York's Museum of Modern Art and Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, respectively.

But what makes Japanese design so exceptional? How can one country produce so many distinct and wonderful things? Keen to learn more, I set out to document the creative forces behind Japan's postwar design culture. That study led to the book "Japanese Design Since 1945: A Complete Sourcebook," to be published in October.

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