THE GK CONNECTION
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).