THE GK CON­NEC­TION

Sound + Image - - Yamaha -

While Yamaha dates its ‘HiFi’ birth to the Yamaha HiFi Player, there is an­other prod­uct of the same pe­riod which looks far more ‘Yamaha’ than that Hi-Fi Player — the Hi-Fi Tuner R-3, above. Both prod­ucts en­joyed de­sign in­put from GK De­sign, then a young group of in­dus­trial de­sign­ers call­ing them­selves Group Of Koike (GK), born only the year be­fore from a com­mu­nity of Tokyo Na­tional Univer­sity of Fine Arts stu­dents who ad­vo­cated in­dus­trial de­sign ahead of more tra­di­tional crafts, aim­ing for “democrati­sa­tion of beauty” and “democrati­sa­tion of things”. Among them was Kenji Ekuan, who went on to lead GK and de­sign the iconic Kikko­man soy sauce bot­tle, Yamaha’s V-Max mo­tor­cy­cle and the clas­sic Akita Shinkansen Ko­machi bul­let train be­fore his death in 2015.

“I tried authen­tic de­sign ap­proaches at the time when com­mer­cial Amer­i­can de­sign was en­joy­ing de­lib­er­ate re­fine­ment,” re­mem­bered Kenji Ekuan of those early de­signs. “Think­ing back, I find the Yamaha HiFi tuner that GK de­signed in 1954 to be beau­ti­ful”, he wrote in a GK 60th an­niver­sary pub­li­ca­tion. “I still take pride to­day in this de­sign with­out any sense of ‘de­signer ego’ — there has been no work that sur­passes the de­sign of this tuner.” GK De­sign went on to work with Yamaha on many more de­signs, ad­vanc­ing that early R-3 aes­thetic with its de­sign for the CA-1000 am­pli­fier in 1973, as well as get­ting pur­pose­ful with the rad­i­cal pyra­mid­shaped B6 power am­pli­fier in 1980 and then rather quirky with the 1989 Tif­fany AST-C30 sys­tem (pic­tured be­low).

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