Next-Generation Talent Innovates for a Better Tomorrow

TOKYO (January 28, 2021) – Lexus today announced the six finalists for the Lexus Design Award 2021, selected by a distinguished jury from among 2,079 entries submitted by creators in 66 countries.  Four leading design experts will directly mentor the finalists, giving them a once-in-a lifetime experience as they prototype their ideas with a per-project budget capped at 3,000,000 yen (approx.$25,000 USD).

This year marks the ninth edition of the Lexus Design Award, which was established to support up-and-coming creators. The program recognizes fresh design talent and showcases their innovations on a prominent and respected international platform. In selecting this year’s six finalists, judges looked for innovative ideas that embodied the three key principles of the Lexus brand – Anticipate, Innovate, and Captivate – with an emphasis on design that leads to a better tomorrow.

Lexus Design Award 2021 Finalists

  • CY-BO by Kenji Abe (Japan)
    • Sustainable, reusable packaging material that can be assembled like cells.
  • Heartfelt by Gayle Lee and Jessica Vea (New Zealand & Tonga, based in New Zealand)
    • A device that enables virtual hugs.
  • InTempo by Alina Holovatiuk (Ukraine)
    • Mitts that may help distract from stressful situations by novel usage of rhythm and music.
  • KnitX by Irmandy Wicaksono (Indonesia, based in USA)
    • Digital 3D knitting of functional, electronic textiles for multi-modal visual, auditory, and tactile material interaction.
  • Solar Desalination Skylight by Henry Glogau (Dual New Zealand & Austria, based in Denmark)
    • Device that uses seawater to create natural diffused light, drinking water, and leftover salt for energy creation.
  • Terracotta Valley Wind by Intsui Design (China, based in Japan)
    • A terracotta evaporative cooling system for subway stations utilizing train-induced wind to function.

Lexus Design Award 2021 judge Greg Lynn said, “In the middle of a changing climate and a global pandemic there was a predictable urgency to the problems being addressed by the designers. Across all the proposals we saw, there was also a humanity and intimate scale.”

In mid-January the six finalists participated in a five-day workshop with the four Lexus Design Award 2021 mentors: Joe Doucet, Sabine Marcelis, Mariam Kamara, and Sputniko!. Following the workshop, mentor Mariam Kamara said, “The mentoring sessions have been quite stimulating. I was struck by the level of optimism and commitment the finalists have shown in their designs. In this new COVID-19 reshaped world, their visions and sensitivity is a gift to us all. Each one of them was incredibly passionate about the projects and demonstrated a strong motivation to delve deeper and do the necessary research to strengthen the final result. Though the mentoring was remote, a combination of powerful online tools and well-prepared finalists made for a fluid, productive, and enjoyable process. I look forward to seeing where they take their designs in the coming months.” The mentors’ passion for nurturing young talent combined with a richly challenging curriculum resulted in highly instructive and productive sessions that fully engaged the finalists and mentors.

Finalists will continue to work with the mentors as they develop their prototypes toward the Grand Prix selection.  Judging panel of renowned design leaders: Paola Antonelli, Dong Gong, Greg Lynn and Simon Humphries will select Grand Prix Winner based on their final prototypes and presentations in April 2021.

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Official Hashtag: #lexusdesignaward


CY-BO is a new form of cytologically-inspired packaging material that can transform into various shapes by combining the pieces together. Infinitely reusable and rearrangeable, it can be converted into all manner of products for different applications depending on the ideas of the user.


Heartfelt aims to explore what ‘being present’ might look like during the age of a pandemic, and seeks to assist with the anxiety and emotional stresses of being alone through simple long-distance devices. "Small device, big heart."


InTempo are mitts to aid people facing emotional stress (e.g. Sociophobia) in public spaces / during public actions. Touching certain spots on the mitts to the rhythm of music may help a person to calm themselves down.


KnitX is a set of functional textiles computationally-integrated with digital knitting. The use of active and electronic fibers in the design enables garment and interior fabrics that dynamically respond to gesture and sunlight, change their appearance, and provide thermoregulation.

Solar Desalination Skylight

A holistic approach to providing coastal informal settlements with water, energy and natural light. The design utilizes abundant solar energy and seawater to create a Solar Desalination Skylight. It emits a natural diffused light, produces drinking water, and utilizes leftover salt brine for energy creation.

Terracotta Valley Wind

A terracotta evaporative cooling system that cools subway stations during summer and reduces energy consumption. Terracotta is an inexpensive and accessible clay material. Its nature allows water to quickly evaporate, while utilizing the unused wind resource in subway stations, maximizing the value of train-induced wind.

Kenji Abe
Country: Japan

Kenji Abe is a graduate of the Tama Art University Product Design Department, who now works as a product designer based in Tokyo. While designing imaging products professionally, he also pursues personal design activities. He is curious about creating a better tomorrow for humans, nature, animals and the earth, and wishes to propose beautiful solutions to the problems we face.

Gayle Lee (New Zealand) and Jessica Vea (Tonga)
Country: Based in New Zealand

Gayle Lee and Jessica Vea are recent Bachelor of Creative Technologies graduates from Auckland University of Technology. They are passionate about creating meaningful products that help others and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration between different fields and practices. They are hoping to start their Master of Creative Technologies degrees in 2021.

Alina Holovatiuk
Country: Ukraine

Alina Holovatiuk is a young architect from Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently continuing her studies and research at Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture in the Information Technologies in Architecture Department. Her approach to design is based on special attention to human emotions and their perception of the world.

Irmandy Wicaksono
Country: Indonesia / Based in USA

Irmandy Wicaksono is an electrical and textile engineer and designer. He is currently a Ph.D. student in the Responsive Environments, MIT Media Lab. His research focuses on developing soft and textile-based electronics for various applications ranging from health and well-being, human-computer interaction to interactive media and environments.

Henry Glogau
Country: Dual New Zealand - Austria / Based in Denmark

Henry Glogau is a New Zealander who recently graduated from the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark. His master’s degree specialized in Architecture and Extreme Environments, where he explored present and future global challenges in expeditions to diverse locations. Henry is now working as an Architect at GXN, the green innovation unit of 3XN.

Intsui Design Chenkai Guo, Baohua Sheng, Yilei Lyu, Yu Zhang
Country: China /Based in Japan

Intsui Design is a design group based in Tokyo. They are currently pursuing Master's degrees at Tama Art University in the Integrated Design department. They explore the relationship between subconscious human behaviors and design. Their design practice focuses on people’s intuition and natural responses to objects and the environment.


Paola Antonelli is Senior Curator of Architecture & Design at The Museum of Modern Art, as well as MoMA’s founding Director of Research & Development. Her goal is to promote design’s understanding, until its positive influence on the world is universally acknowledged. Her work investigates design’s impact on everyday experience, often including overlooked objects and practices, and combining design, architecture, art, science, and technology.

She has curated shows, written books, lectured worldwide, and taught in several schools, including Harvard and UCLA. Following the XXII Triennale di Milano in 2019––Broken Nature, devoted to the idea of restorative design–– she has opened at MoMA the exhibition Material Ecology, on the work of architect Neri Oxman. She is currently working on several new sessions of her MoMA R&D Salons; and on the Instagram series @design.emergency––conceived with design critic Alice Rawsthorn––devoted to the role of design in the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.


Dong Gong founded Vector Architects in 2008. He and Vector Architects have been invited to various exhibitions including 2018 FREESPACE Venice Biennale, and won awards internationally including "100+ Best Architecture Firms" selected by Domus (2019); being nominated by Swiss Architectural Award (2018); the Overall Winner of Italian Archmarathon Awards (2016); "Design Vanguard" selected by Architectural Record (2014).

He has been invited as guest speaker and critic by universities, academic and professional institutions including Tsinghua University (China), University of Illinois (USA), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Switzerland), Société Française des Architectes (France), etc. In 2019, the renowned architectural journal AV Monographs published a monograph of Vector Architects titled "Cosmopolitan Vernacular" (vol.220).

His representative works include Seashore Library, Seashore Chapel, Alila Hotel in Yangshuo, the Renovation of the Captain’s House, Changjiang Art Museum, and Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum.


Greg Lynn is the founder and owner of Greg Lynn FORM and cofounder and CEO at the robotics company Piaggio Fast Forward. In addition to buildings he has designed high performance sailboats, high technology robots, as well as furniture and consumer products for Vitra, Alessi, Swarovski, and Nike. He has served on numerous corporate executive and advisory boards and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Center for Architecture.

He won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture and represented the United States in the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture twice. He received the American Academy of Arts & Letters Architecture Award and was awarded a fellowship from United States Artists. He is currently o. Univ. Prof. Arch. at the angewandte Wien and Studio Professor at UCLA. He was the Davenport Professor at Yale University, Professor of Spatial Conception at the ETHZ, adjunct faculty at Columbia University and visiting faculty at Harvard GSD. He is the author of nine books.


Simon Humphries is Head of Toyota & Lexus Global Design. He was appointed to oversee design for both brands in 2018. As Head of Lexus Global Design Humphries seeks to define Lexus' unique values in the form of a brand philosophy, incorporating a clear cultural reference to Lexus' Japanese heritage and building a design direction that is relevant to users around the world.
Humphries joined the company in 1994. His many roles in leadership and advanced design include defining the signature spindle grille that has become an icon for the Lexus brand. In 2016 he became President of ED2 (Toyota Europe Design Development) where his team spearheaded development of mobility concepts such as the Toyota e-Palette concept as part of the brand’s transition from “automotive company” to “mobility company.” Humphries began his career in design in 1988 when he was awarded the Royal Society of Arts Bursary Prize for Product Design in the UK. The award gave him the opportunity to work for Sony, which jumpstarted his passion for living and working in Japan. In his spare time Humphries enjoys carpentry and is restoring a 100-year-old Japanese farmhouse.


A designer, entrepreneur, inventor and creative director, Joe Doucet is one of the most sought-after creative talents working in America today. His work deftly hybridizes function and visual appeal while conveying layers of meaning and message. Doucet believes that design and, more importantly, a designer’s thought process, can play a larger role in innovation and problem solving, as well as aesthetics. He currently holds numerous patents for his designs and inventions.

Doucet’s work has been exhibited globally and has received numerous international awards, including a World Technology Award for Design Innovation and multiple Good Design Awards. Doucet was named the 2017 Winner of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award as Product Designer—the highest honor in his field. He is also Designer of the Year 2019 finalist by Dezeen, and a recipient of Fast Company’s Most Important Design Companies of 2019.


Mariam Kamara is a Nigerien architect. In 2014, Kamara founded atelier masōmī, an architecture and research firm, tackling a wide variety of public, cultural, residential, commercial and urban design projects. Notably, The Religious-Secular Complex of Dandaji in Niger, a collaborative cultural project with Studio Chahar, won the 2017 Gold LafargeHolcim Award for Africa and Middle East, and the 2018 Silver Global LafargeHolcim Award for Sustainable Architecture. Kamara served as Adjunct Associate Professor at Brown University and is a recurring Architecture Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design (R.I.S.D.)

Kamara’s work is guided by the belief that architects have an important role to play in thinking spaces that have the power to elevate, dignify, and provide a better quality of life. Since 2018, Kamara has been Sir David Adjaye’s protégé under the Rolex Mentor Protégé program, and is a 2019 Laureate of the Price Claus Award, recognizing creatives having a positive impact on their societies.


Sabine Marcelis is a Dutch designer who runs her practice from the harbor of Rotterdam. After graduating from the Design Academy of Eindhoven in 2011, Marcelis began working as an independent designer within the fields of product, installation and spatial design with a strong focus on materiality. Her work is characterized by pure forms which highlight material properties.
Marcelis applies a strong aesthetic point of view to her collaborations with industry specialists. This method of working allows her to intervene in the manufacturing process, using material research and experimentation to achieve new and surprising visual effects for projects both showcased in musea and commissioned by commercial clients and fashion houses.

Sabine recently won the prestigious Wallpaper awards ‘Designer of the year 2020’, The Elle Deco International Design award 2019 'Young designer of the year’ and ‘GQ Men of the year 2019’ International Artist of the year.


Sputniko! is known for her film and multi-media installation works which explore the social and ethical implications of emerging technologies. She has presented her works in exhibitions such as the 2016 Setouchi Art Triennale, Milan International Design Triennale, Broken Nature (2019), Future and Arts at the Mori Art Museum (2019). From 2013 to 2017, Sputniko! was an Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directed the Design Fiction research group. She is currently an Associate Professor of Design at Tokyo University of Arts. To date, she has had pieces included in the permanent collections of museums such as the V&A and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.


Lexus launched in 1989 with a flagship sedan and a guest experience that helped define the premium automotive industry. In 1998, Lexus introduced the luxury crossover category with the launch of the Lexus RX. The luxury hybrid sales leader, Lexus delivered the world’s first luxury hybrid and has since sold over 1.5 million hybrid vehicles.

A global luxury automotive brand with an unwavering commitment to bold, uncompromising design, exceptional craftsmanship, and exhilarating performance, Lexus has developed its lineup to meet the needs of the next generation of global luxury guests and is currently available in over 90 countries worldwide.

Lexus associates/team members across the world are dedicated to crafting amazing experiences that are uniquely Lexus, and that excite and change the world.


Launched in 2013, the Lexus Design Award is an international competition for up-and-coming creators from around the world. The Award seeks to contribute to society by supporting designers and creators whose work shows potential to shape a better future. Six finalists gain a rare opportunity to prototype their designs under the mentorship of leading designers. The Lexus Design Award provides global media exposure to drive  professional career  advancement.

Micholl Azenon
[email protected]

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Gayle Lee (New Zealand) and Jessica Vea (Tonga) / Based in New Zealand

Intsui Design (China /Based in Japan) Chenkai Guo, Baohua Sheng, Yilei Lyu, Yu Zhang


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