Sori Yanagi

29 Dec 2011

The world has lost the pioneer of Japanese industrial design this week. I'm talking about Sori Yangi who died Sunday of pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital. He was 96 years old. He brought the simplicity and purity of Japanese decor into our everyday lives.

Butterfly stool

Sori Yanagi orginally studied oil painting but changed careers when he became heavily influenced by the French architect Le Corbusier. That's when he shifted focus towards designing furniture and everyday items, such as tableware and cooking utensils. After winning both 1st and 2nd place in the first Japan Industrial Design Contest in 1952 Sori Yanagi established his own design studio.

Worldwide acclaim in 1957

He got worldwide acclaim with his 'Butterfly Stool' at an exhibition called 'XI Triennale of Milan' in 1957. The work — made of two pieces of molded plywood fixed together with a brass pin — later joined the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre museum in Paris.

Butterfly stool

Elephant stool

Another international hit was his fiberglass stackable 'Elephant Stool' from 1954. The stool is called 'Elephant Stool' because of its resemblance to the animal's chunky feet. The chair started a new life in 2000 when Vitra decided to re-release it in an injection-molded form. Below you see the 'Elephant Stool' at the Atomium in Brussels.

Elephant stool Elephant stool II

Photos by: Vitra.

Things that are easy to use survive

One of his famous quotes comes from an article in the Japan Times in 2002 where he shares his opinion on products.

Things that are easy to use survive, regardless of what is fashionable, and people want to use them forever.But if things are created merely for a passing vogue and not for a purpose, people soon get bored with them and throw them away. The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.

In addition to furniture, he also designed lighting, glass objects, cutlery, children’s toys, metro stations, cars and motorcycles. In 1977, Sori Yanagi was named director of the Japanese Folk Art Museum in Tokyo.

Sori Yanagi set


  1. 1 Garret Bohl 19 Jan 2012

    Wow he had some amazing designs very sorry to hear that he died. I really like his form and style, looked up some of his other stuff online and all of it is so great and unique.

  2. 2 Jason 27 Jan 2012

    I love modern furniture and interior design, these are pretty cool little seats. You’ve got some great stuff showcased on here, I love it.

    Being an Artist & Creative Professional myself I am totally in love with these kinds of things.