An eco-friendly prototype packaging product made from seaweed has been named as the Grand Prix winner of this year's Lexus Design Award for emerging designers. The “Agar Plasticity” project was created by a team of three Japanese designers collectively known as AMAM, mentored by British designer Max Lamb; a man well known in the industry for his experimental approach to materials. The Lexus Design Award is an annual award from Lexus International, which supports young design talent. The Grand Prix winner was announced last monday at the Lexus Design Event for Milan Design Week. The event space was designed by Amsterdam-based Italian design duo Formafantasma, and included a tasting experience from Milan-based Japanese chef Yoji Tokuyoshi.
“We want to completely replace plastic products, but in the timeframe we had, we couldn't really industrialise the material. We hope that wining the Grand Prix at the Lexus Design Award will help us get some contacts from the industry” The AMAM team
AMAM initially proposed the concept for the Agar Plasticity project using gelatinous agar material (hence the name), which is biodegradable and made from a sustainable raw material, to create environmentally-friendly packaging. Agar is sourced from different types of marine algae, including the red seaweed used by the team, which is plentiful in supply and can be easily cultivated. Since being shortlisted for the award back in November, the designers have further developed the concept, testing the material by sending an agar box containing a perfume bottle from Tokyo to their hotel in Milan.
The AMAM team & Max Lamb
Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani and Akira Muraoka all studied product design together at the Tama Art University, and joined forces to form AMAM in 2015 after Araki and Maetani completed the MA Design and Interactions course at London's Royal College of Art. Lamb chose to work with the team as part of the Lexus competition process (which pairs four prototype finalists with mentors who are industry experts) after selecting AMAM's proposal from a long list of 40. The AMAM team flew to London and spent a day working with Lamb in his studio. They then communicated via Skype and email to develop the project further.
“Agar Plasticity was the project that had the most genuine ambitions, and the most genuine desire to solve a problem; and that is the overconsumption and the over disposal of non-biodegradable synthetic materials” Max Lamb
Three other designers were selected to go through a similar mentoring process to help develop their prototypes, and a further eight were also included in the final shortlist. All 12 were on display at the Lexus space. The three other prototypes were; “Shape Shifters” by Canadian-Italian designer Angelene Laura Fenuta (a modular garment that can be used to create multiple outfits), a block toy for children by Myungsik Jang from Korea called “DADA,” and “TRACE,” a clock that uses a light-responsive liquid that discolours to measure the passing of time by Turkish designers Begum Ayaskan and Bike Ayaskan.
The packaging in action
Lexus Design Award Juror, Alice Rawsthorn, who is an acclaimed design author and critic, said the standard of each of the final projects was exceptionally high. She said of the process they go through when finalising their winning entries: “When we look for a winner, we apply the same criteria as we would when looking at any design project as to whether you think it is exemplary,. Is society better off to have it or will it be, how ambitious is it, how achievable is it, do you have confidence in that team to develop its full potential, is it bold and imaginative? One of the things that has been very interesting about judging the awards is that it’s almost like an annual barometer of young designers' preoccupations. Predictably, as a result, over the years more and more designers have focused on social, economic and humanitarian issues.”
“One of the things that has been very interesting about judging the awards is that it’s almost like an annual barometer of young designers' preoccupations” Lexus Design Award Juror, Alice Rawsthorn
Other jury members included Japanese architect Toyo Ito, New York's Museum of Modern Art senior curator Paola Antonelli, Hong Kong's M+ museum curator Aric Chen, Designboom chief editor Birgit Lohmann, and Tokuo Fukuichi, president of Lexus International. Agar Plasticity was on display with all of the other finalists at the Lexus Design Event, which took place at T32 Torneria/Carrozzeria, between April 11 and April 17.