Front Co., Ltd. produces construction and building materials representative of Japan. Their“ARTSTEEL”was designed to grant steel special rust-resistant properties by applying an additional process to the metal. This process adds a protective coating of rust to the surface of the steel, preventing corrosion from penetrating further inside. Front has been able to carve out its own niche in the industry thanks to the creation of this unique type of weathering steel,This steel has been used in various construction projects, such as the akasaka Sacas complex, Kichijoji Station on the Keio Line, and the facade of the Iyemon Salon in Kyoto, to name just a few. Until recently, Front had mainly been focusing on business-to-business construction projects, but the cash flow time frame for these large-scale undertakings is often measured in years. Therefore, they decided to create new business opportunities by expanding into the business-to-consumer market and thereby generating income in a shorter period of time. The next step was to partner with Loftwork to both conduct a design competition featuring “ARTSTEEL”and to engage in promotional activities with an eye towards breaking into new, untapped markets. Here, we take a look at the result of this collaboration - the“Life with ARTSTEEL Project”.
Main project results:
Research into commercialization
Exhibition of ARTSTEEL samples (Venue: MTRL)
We received 84 submissions from around the world, out of which four were selected for awards.
Miyuki Tamai was chosen as a judge due to her deep affinity for materials, while Masaki Oda of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. was invited to offer insight on sales and the market with a view towards commercialization of the winning entries. Our third judge was Takahiro Shibata, the former executive director of &Premium magazine, who would provide a perspective on popular trends and media.
Client issues and project background
In the construction industry, the cash flow cycle is measured in years, so Front decided to rethink their business model in order to generate revenue in a shorter amount of time. Their plan focused on using products that incorporated their own company’s materials as a means to breaking into the business-to-consumer market.
This is where Loftwork came in. Loftwork operates the creative space FabCafe, as well as the joint creative platforms MTRL (“material”), used to connect creators with materials, and AWRD (“award”). By using these services, Front gained access to tools such as events to connect creators and designers with a diverse range of materials, successfully seeing their joint creative project to completion.
Why use a competition?
Competitions have long been used as a method for selecting the best ideas from a wide range of submissions, all of which are focused around a given theme. Merits of this format include its ability to lead to new products through exposure to previously unexplored viewpoints, as well as its function as a tool for spreading awareness about new products and services. Additionally, inviting top talent from outside fields to act as judges incorporates these people’s specialized viewpoints and opinions into the process, ensuring that entries with a high level of quality are selected.
What’s more, utilizing the AWRD platform enables an advertising page and a system for receiving entries to be created quickly and with minimal cost. As a result, this design award project progressed rapidly, with the process from planning to publishing the page taking a total of a little less than two months.
What did the project involve?
For this project, we chose to use our award platform AWRD to hold a design competition that would serve as a catalyst for spreading awareness about the featured material. This would also gain Front new fans, and encourage the emergence of new product ideas. As Mr. Matsukawa, the head of Front, showed a keen interest in developing new products, we added an incentive to the award competition stipulating that winning entries would be slated for commercialization. The response was very positive, with participation from creators across the globe.
The competition was themed around creating“a fuller lifestyle”, so we were excited to see just how many different ideas featuring ARTSTEEL we would receive. In order to test this, we first held a pilot version of the competition in the form of an “ideathon” targeted at college students, researching competition concepts and themes for entries. Both interns from Front and college students recruited independently by Loftwork took part in this ideathon.
How was the competition made a success?
Using a design competition as a starting point for spreading awareness to creator communities
Steps taken to promote the event:
FabCafe Tokyo tapped into the local community while conducting event promotion in order to both create buzz about the competition and to spread awareness about the material of ARTSTEEL itself. Front’s own Mr. Fujii attended MTRL Meetup TOKYO, a pitch event regularly held by MTRL that brings together many designers and creators with a strong interest in materials. In front of around 60 spectators, he extolled the strengths and product development process of ARTSTEEL, as well as offering his thoughts on the competition, receiving a high level of support and interest from community members.
Providing thorough background content:
AWRD enables the creation of pages targeted specifically to a given project’s goals, such as pages for receiving entries, pages for checking on the submission status of an entry, and pages for announcing competition results, to provide just a few examples.
There was a variety of content featured on the page advertising the project in order for participants to better understand ARTSTEEL, such as interviews with Front personnel and research articles about their production facilities.
Directly approaching creators:
AWRD also functions as a platform for a creator network of 30,000 individuals. This network extends out from Japan to encompass both neighboring Asian countries as well as America and Europe, so the platform accordingly allows entries to be collected bilingually in both Japanese and English. One of AWRD’s major strengths is its ability to tap into its network via email magazines and solicitations for ideas on social media. Furthermore, AWRD users can directly approach creators who they think would be well-suited to a given project’s theme.
This project resulted in an increased number of visitors to the Tameike Sanno ARTSTEEL showroom, and it also garnered attention in the media, with ARTSTEEL being reintroduced to readers in Nikkei MJ as“a material that uses rust to resist corrosion”. These results provide tangible evidence that awareness about ARTSTEEL did in fact increase.
We will use the results and responses generated by this project as a stepping-off point while we continue product commercialization and our collaboration with the creators from abroad who won the gold prize. We also will continue displaying ARTSTEEL samples with MTRL, and hope to connect even more creators and designers with this special product in the future.
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