Sori Yanagi – Japanese Industrial Designer

Sori Yanagi (1915-2011) was an industrial designer from Japan. Although previously trained as a fine artist and worked in an architectural studio, Yanagi went on to study industrial design in 1947.


In 1952, he opened his design studio in Tokyo, the Yanagi Design Institute. He attracted attention with his award-winning Nippon Columbia record player. He was the winner of the first prize at the *Mainichi Industrial Design Competition in 1952.

Columbia record player and radio, model RG-700 (1952) – Yanagi Sori, Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd – M+ Collections Beta

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As one of the first generation of Japanese industrial designers, he continued to attract attention to design in a wide range of media, from furniture to domestic products.

Sori Yanagi. Butterfly Stools. 1956 | MoMA

In his elegant plywood and metal butterfly stool (1956), he explored the combination of Japanese and Western tradition and the possibilities of modern materials blended with elegant shapes such as stainless steel and * Bakelite water jug for the Uehan Shoji Company (1958).

“The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.”

Sori Yanagi
1915 – 2011


The Gold Medal award further enhanced his reputation at the *Milan Triennale of 1957 and the prestigious *G Mark Prize in 1958 for his Aluminum Speed Kettle.

Teapot by Sori Yanagi
Teapot by Sori Yanagi

The Gold Medal award further enhanced his reputation at the *Milan Triennale of 1957 and the prestigious *G Mark Prize in 1958 for his Aluminum Speed Kettle.

He played an essential role in the consolidation of the emerging design profession as a founding member of the Japan Industrial Designers Association in 1952. Also, he wrote extensively on design, including his book Sori Yanagi’s Works and Philosophy (1983).

He also played a role in Japanese design education, teaching at Women’s Art College Tokyo (1953-54) and the Kanazawa University of Arts and Crafts. Later in his life, in 1977, he became director of the Japan Folks Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

Two-tiered container with lid, Folk crafts of Tottori prefecture – Inshū Nakai Kiln and Design by Yanagi Sori (1915-2011) – Google Arts & Culture

The Inshu Nakai Kiln received guidance from Yoshida Shoya and the Ushinoto Ware Kiln. Under the additional supervision of industrial designer Yanagi Sori (1915-2011), the kiln has been creating modern dishware that is celebrated for its bright colors and unique shapes. The distinct products have drawn attention from popular stores, resulting in a growing market of younger buyers.

Sori Yanagi. Elephant Stool. 1954 | MoMA


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Oxford University Press. (2004). A Dictionary of Modern Design (1st ed.).

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