The annual YouFab Global Creative Awards have come a long way since their initial launch by FabCafe Tokyo in 2012. As this exceptional year of 2020 introduces both challenging circumstances and a timely theme, it also offers a new mix of judges and an opportunity for thoughtful, resourceful and unexpected projects to emerge.
The theme of this 9th edition of YouFab is “Contactless (by default)”. More than just a practical measure adapting to the new Covid19 normal, it could also be the technological continuum (if not polar opposite) of “haptic”—which inspired a design competition of its own, also hosted by FabCafe, in 2017.
This year’s chief judge, Kei Wakabayashi, describes the theme as an invitation to “redesign and reframe humanity, physicality, and ‘real experience’ given the context of a world where being contactless has become the default. Works could be a proposal for a new technology or system, or a new behavioral pattern.”
Most tellingly, the category-free competition welcomes works from all fields, including not-necessarily-digital projects (since 2019), prototypes and works-in-progress, but also patterns and proposals that may not be physical objects at all. (Last year’s grand prizewinner, Penta KLabs, was a dedicated Indonesian community that embodied the theme of “conviviality” in situ above the local flood waters.)
Similarly, as the East Japan Railway Company sponsors this year’s NewHere Prize for the future of transport and (safely individualized) mobility, we expect to see contactless proposals above and beyond flying cars and hoverboards.
Following in the footsteps of FabCafe, headquartered in trendsetting Shibuya, Tokyo, YouFab initially focused on cutting-edge design and digital fabrication, chiefly judged by Hiroya Tanaka, godfather of fablabs in Japan, and loyal to globalist trends influenced by the Fab cult of MIT’s “How to Make (Almost) Anything” mindset. Makery recalls the Fab 2.0 (original 3D printers) explosion of 2015, the rise of Fab 4.0 (directly programming materials) in 2016, the high-tech, high-concept, high-profile projects of 2017, and the charismatic Fish Hammer grand prizewinner of 2018.
But of course, the finalists depend on the panelists. In 2019, judge Leonhard Bartolomeus from the Indonesian art collective Ruangrupa was instrumental in recognizing the communal dynamics of Penta KLabs. As YouFab continues to attract hundreds of entries from dozens of countries, this year’s award-winners will be decided by a diverse panel of three judges: former WIRED Japan editor Kei Wakabayashi, chief judge since 2018; U.S. “adventure athlete” Steve Tidball, co-founder of a company that manufactures future-tech clothing for men; and most excitingly, Ugandan young female DJ Kampire Bahana, from the Kampala-based Nyege Nyege electronic music collective, who “would love for participants to expand their definitions of technology beyond the hegemony of modern, Western science”.
Meanwhile, 33-year-old media artist Chiaki Ishizuka, director of YouFab since 2017, seeks to expand the competition’s opportunity for sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas, encouraging artists to open up and engage with the world around them: “Creative works nowadays should always have a purpose, either to inspire people, to improve people’s lives or to add some kind of value,” she said.
Has the age of Fab finally reached saturation? In this period of socio-political unrest, extreme weather phenomena and ongoing pandemic, will digital fabrication finally be usurped by frugal innovation? Stay tuned for the finalists of this year’s YouFab Awards in December 2020.
YouFab Global Creative Awards submission deadline: October 31, 2020