Japanese Media Design: NHK TV’s Design, Ah!

Co-authored by Brian Reyes
In the design world, Japan has always held a special place as a country that continues to produce some of the most iconic works. Those who have ventured to visit in search of where the unique perspective comes from, quickly find out just how deep the country’s history and appreciation for good design goes. Although there is only so much one can learn studying Japanese design over a few years, appreciation of the craft is something experienced in a single moment.
The NHK television show called “Design, Ah!” [ link ] was created to encompass that “Ah-ha!” moment when a person makes that inevitable connection to a problem and its sudden solution. From the beginning, there was a unanimous decision that the show would be created for children and enjoyed by all. The first pilot was shown in September 2010 but proved to a be a tough sell to the rather conservative television station. From the start of the project, renown graphic designerTaku Satou (佐藤卓)knew that it would take a special set of skills to pull off such a groundbreaking program. As he saw it, there was no other option than to pull in the expertise of interaction designer yugonakamuraYugo Nakamura (中村勇吾) and the musical mind of Cornelius (コーネリアス) to make the “Design, Ah!” series accessible to all. After months of careful deliberation, planning, and presentations, the project was green-lit for the first official airing in April 2012.

corneliusEven though Japanese design form is usually simple in nature, the complexities behind it are far beyond what a child would be able to fully appreciate. With a thorough understanding of this fact, Satou set the precedent of the show by stating

“You can’t make something children will understand, but you can make something children will remember…As humans we can remember things through feeling using our whole body as a sensor. Use your whole body to really learn something. Children do this naturally.”


It is with this purposeful avoidance of watering things down that “Design, Ah!” has gained so much momentum among its adult and youth viewership, and has formed itself into the iconic representation of the craft. Not only does the show take a closer look at everyday items and the things they share, but it also features short interviews with many of Japanese most prominent designers. The simple, yet descriptive shots of each scene utilize audio and visual cues that impact the viewer in ways words would never be able to. This universal approach is the perfect example of why design catered to such a unique demographic can impact such a wide range of viewers.

As “Design, Ah!” continues to make waves in the rather uninspired world of Japanese TV, we can only hope that it spurs on a new generation of creative minds.

The 15 minute version of the show can be watched regularly on the following dates and times:
NHK E-Tere
Saturdays 7:00-7:15, Fridays 15:45-16:00

5 minute version
NHK E-Tere – Saturdays 18:20-18:25, Thursdays 15:35-15:40
NHK E-Tere – Saturdays 23:40-23:45, Tuesdays 15:35-15:40

Images in this article are used for reference purposes only. All rights belong to the original owners.

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