This year, the Lucky Strike Designer Award, Europe's most coveted design prize, was presented to Kenji Ekuan, Chairman of GK Design Group, Tokyo. The award was presented, along with 50,000 Euro, on September 18, 2003 in Berlin, Germany.
The Raymond Loewy Foundation is recognizing Kenji Ekuan for his contribution to industry, for his unwavering dedication to the advancement of design as a profession, for his international advocacy of design as a force for positive change, as well as for his own highly celebrated contributions in industrial and product-design.
Over the last fifty years, Ekuan has designed industrial products for a broad array of fields, from household articles including the well-known Kikkoman soy sauce table bottle, to Yamaha motorcycles, from the "Narita Express N'EX" and "Komachi", the Akita bullet train, to the sublime execution of the Relaxation Chair "Relas" and the Executive Class Seat "Shell Flat Seat", he created for Japan Airlines. His forward thinking ideas have particularly paved the way in the discussion of brand identity and contemporary design in Japan. Ekuan's unique solutions in product design, transportation design, interior design, street furniture, landscape, package and logo design have set a striking trend with visionary design worldwide. In all of his drafts Ekuan highlights the topic of a close link between both functional and aesthetic elements.
Kenji Ekuan has substantially shaped the development of the "GK Design Group" since its formation in the early Fifty's (GK - Group of Koike) and founded the GK Industrial Design Associates, taking the post of its president. In April 1991 he took the post of chairman of GK Design Group Inc. that he holds today.
He currently chairs the "Design for the World" organization, and holds many other key positions in design-related bodies such as the "Japan Institute of Design" and the "International Council of Societies of Industrial Design" (ICSID).
In 1998 Ekuan's book titled "The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox" was published by MIT Press, USA. The Makunouchi Bento, the traditional Japanese lunchbox, is a highly lacquered wooden box divided into quadrants, each of which contains different delicacies. In his book Ekuan reveals, that a much deeper reading is possible, one that sees the lunchbox as nothing less than a key to an understanding of Japanese civilization, culture and technology, and at least the aesthetics and characteristics of Japanese design.
"Design is an origin of the improvement of our life" Kenji Ekuan explains, "we can obtain physically, spiritually and socially healthy environmental condition through design."
The Raymond Loewy Foundation's jury specifically emphasizes this aspect. Of equal importance is that Kenji Ekuan understands design in a highly timely manner as coordinative and intermediary competence being engaged in projects that promote design as an important societal subject.