Kenya Hara – biographical note

Kenya Hara – biographical note

Kenya Hara, fot. Takashi Sekiguchi

Life and creation
Kenya Hara was born in 1958 in Okayama Prefecture. In 1977 he started studying semiology and design theory at the College of Art and Design of Musashino Bijutsu Daigaku (Musashinio Art University) in Tokyo, where he is now professor. In 1981 he studied editorial design under the supervision of Nobukuni Takada. Starting in 1982, he worked for a year in the office of the eminent Japanese designer Eiko Ishioki. In 1983 he earned his master’s degree at Musashino Bijutsu Daigaku and started working at the Nippon Design Center (Japanese Design Center), one of Japan’s major centres for creative development in the field of design. Founded in 1959 by eminent designers (including Yūsaku Kamekura, Hiromu Hara, Ryuichi Yamashiro, and Kazumasa Nagai), in collaboration with eight of Japan’s most important companies (including Asahi Breweries, Toshiba, Toyota Motor, and Nikon), it has endured the subsequent years as a prestigious venue combining Japanese aesthetics with modern technology. Within the Nippon Design Center, in 1991, Kenya Hara founded the Hara Design Institute studio, a design think-tank now active in all areas of media and design, from graphics and products to architecture and exhibitions. Hara has been president of NDC since 2014.

Development of career
Between 1989 and 1994, Hara collaborated with Takeo Co. Ltd, a Japanese paper manufacturer and designed the annual “Takeo Paper World” exhibitions for the company. Besides, he designed packaging and advertisements for the liquor manufacturer Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Ltd, calendars for Wacoal Co. Ltd, and between 1990 and 1992 he was art director of Isetan department store, which housed an art gallery. Since 1996, our laureate has been art director of the Issatsu no hon [One Book] monthly published by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. That very year he became also art director for the visuals of the 2005 World Expo in Japan, and in 1998 he joined the Expo 2005 Organising Committee. He also designed the programme for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Nagano Winter Olympics. He has worked for a variety of Japanese clients, including the Art Setouchi Triennale, Issey Miyake fashion house, Matsuya department stores, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, Tsutaya Books bookstore, and Umeda Hospital.

In 2002, Hara became art director of MUJI, Japan’s best-known “no-name” brand, which now promotes a wide range of products and a lifestyle in line with the company’s development vision. He is involved in planning advertising campaigns, designing exhibitions, magazines, applications, and packaging. Under his leadership, MUJI has become an international symbol of aesthetic and conceptual quality.

Hara is a creator, curator and designer of multiple design exhibitions in Japan and abroad. In 2000 he put up an exhibition “RE-DESIGN – The Daily Products of the 21st Century”, intended to extend the perception of everyday reality. In 2004 he held a visionary show “HAPTIC – Awakening the Senses, addressing the resources dormant in the human senses; the show was part of the annual “Takeo Paper Show” held in Tokyo. Other major exhibition projects include: “SENSEWARE” and “SUBTLE” in Tokyo, “Japan Car – Designs for the Crowded Globe” at the Science Museum in London and “Architecture for Dogs”, on display outside Japan, tooAn author of four exhibitions titled “House Vision” (the first one staged in 2013). All of them, starting from studies on lifestyles, set out new directions of thinking for 21st-century societies. During various exhibition projects he has collaborated with world-renowned artists, such as e.g. Kengo Kuma, Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, Shigeru Ban, and Toyo Itō.

Hara is an author of eminent publications on design, translated into many languages, e.g. Designing Design (2007), White (2009), Ex-Formation (2018), and Designing Japan (2019).

He has been honoured with numerous awards in a variety of fields related to multiple design activities, i.e. advertising, corporate branding, book design, and exhibition design. A recipient of the Suntory Arts and Science Award for social sciences and the humanities.

A member and president of the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA) and a member of the Tokyo Art Directors Club (TADC), Kenya Hara is actively involved in the work of both groups. In 2001 he became a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI).