Takeo packaging exhibition highlights “unique sensory properties” of Japanese paper

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Examples of practical and playful paper packaging were presented at this exhibition curated by designer Makoto Umebara as part of the Takeo Paper Show in Tokyo, Japan.

The exhibition was organised by Takeo Co, a specialist paper trading company established in 1899.

Since 1965, Takeo has presented an annual showcase of paper that explores the material’s meaning and value through collaborations with leading designers.

Above: Mechanical sculpture by Masaya Ishikawa and Hiroaki Nakaji. Top image: paper holders printed with pictures of the British royal family

This 49th edition of the Takeo Paper Show occupied two floors of the Kanda Square Hall exhibition venue near the company’s Mihoncho Honten store.

Titled ‘Packaging: Function and Laughter’, the exhibition was divided into two main sections, with simple scenography by graphic designer Kenya Hara helping to differentiate each part.

The first section focused on the functional possibilities of paper, as well as examining how its use is evolving in response to technological advancements in areas such as printing and transportation.

An octopus design was among the paper projects on show

“In today’s world, in which new light is being directed to paper as a material, not only as a substitute for plastic, this exhibition asks that we pay attention to, what forms will emerge from these organic fibres, and what new value is created,” said Takeo Co.

Curator Umebara selected projects by 13 designers and studios that highlighted innovative uses for paper in packaging, including a series of mechanical paper sculptures by graphic designer Masaya Ishikawa and artist and engineer Hiroaki Nakaji.

Agata Yamaguchi created “flowers” made from cardboard

“These individuals understand the true value of paper and appreciate its unique sensory properties,” the organisers added.

“Their proposals for packaging, both containers and wrapping, have been thoroughly considered on a practical level.”

Other projects featured in the ‘Function’ section included graphic designer Agata Yamaguchi‘s piece resembling a bunch of flowers made using simple cardboard tubes set on paper straw stems.


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Satoshi Yoshiizumi’s studio Takt Project created a series of objects that transform from flat templates to three-dimensional forms when the paper is dampened.

One side of the paper is coated using a UV silk screen process that doesn’t react to humidity, while the uncoated side causes the paper to bend and form predetermined shapes.

Food packaging was also featured as part of the Takeo Paper Show

Nomena’s playful food packaging features faceted forms that nest together to create simple orthogonal shapes. Each constituent element contains its own item, such as tea bags, chocolates or bags of juice.

The exhibition’s second section, called ‘Laughter’, examined the emotional appeal of paper and how it can be used to produce creative and engaging containers and packaging.

Takt Project created a sculptural paper design

Umebara selected 100 projects to feature in this part of the show, such as a set of novelty tea bags featuring paper holders printed with pictures of the British royal family.

Alongside the exhibition, Takeo Paper Show also presented a display focusing on paper as a sustainable material, including details of circular manufacturing processes and the importance of forest management.

Zigzag packing paper by Rei Mitsui

The company also produced a book containing images of all the packaging examples displayed in the exhibition, along with input from Hara and Umebara and discussions about the relationship between people and paper.

Japanese designers are behind some of the most innovative examples of paper-based products in recent years, including a range of recyclable soap dispensers by Nendo that look like milk cartons and Kai’s plastic-free disposable razor informed by origami.

Packaging: Function and Laughter was on show from 13 to 22 October 2023 as part of the Takeo Paper Show. See Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.

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