Sori Yanagi – Japanese Industrial Designer

Sori Yanagi. Butterfly Stools. 1956
Sori Yanagi. Butterfly Stools. 1956

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.

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.

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 – 2001


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.


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.


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

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

Additional Reading

Adams, S. (2021). How design makes us think: And feel and do things. Princeton Architectural Press. Retrieved from

Cuffaro, D. F., & Zaksenberg, I. (2013). The Industrial Design Reference + Specification Book: All the details designers need to know but can never find. Rockport. Retrieved from

Eissen, K., & Steur, R. (2020). Sketching: Drawing techniques for product designers. BIS. Retrieved from

Jang, S., Thaler, M., & Frederick, M. (2020). 101 Things I learned in product design school. Crown, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Retrieved from

Lefteri, C. (2016). Making it: Manufacturing techniques for product design. Laurence King Publishing. Retrieved from

Milton, A. (2017). Research methods for product design. Laurence King Publishing. Retrieved from

Morris, R. (2016). The Fundamentals of Product Design. Fairchild Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Retrieved from

Sparke, P. (2018). Industrial Design in the modern age. Rizzoli Electra. Retrieved from

Tornincasa, S. (2021). Technical drawing for product design: Mastering Iso Gps and Asme Gd&T. Springer. Retrieved from

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