Plywood for Good: Skate Decks for Japan Relief

Skate for Japan Relief

When the catastrophe in Japan happened back in March, many designers rushed out and made a slew of fund-raising posters and prints to help raise money for the rebuilding efforts. Much was questioned in the design community about the intentions behind this work, and whether or not it was appropriate to do so. It’s been written and debated by Fast Company, as well as Creative Review, among others. It’s a passionate debate, one that raises many questions—and one, in my mind, that lacks a single, solid answer.

Many argued it was grotesque: Are they doing it for self-promotion? Who would want to hang a poster like that up on their wall anyway? Shouldn’t they just donate their money—there’s no need to raise awareness for something that’s on every front page and topping every news story. Not to mention, the Japanese Red Cross has stated that it does not want or need outside assistance—shouldn’t we listen to them?

And on the contrary: If it raises money for the people, why should it matter? Buy the posters and the money goes to those in need, regardless of the designers’ intentions.

Recently, just about four months after this tragedy, I was invited to donate my creativity to an auction that will raise money to aid the rebuilding efforts in Japan. I was torn. On one hand, there’s a harmless, unaware designer inside me that wanted to respond with fervor; yet, however, my mindful side was weary of ‘packaging’ tragedy as some sort of commemorative token. I asked myself the same questions that were debated previously: Why should I do this? Should I just send more money instead? Is it responsible? Who would want to buy this stuff, anyway?

Then I remember that it’s been four months. Four months later, while 1.6 million households in Eastern Japan don’t have access to water. Four months later, while 500,000 people in Eastern Japan are left without homes. Four months later, while this story is not on the front page of my local newspaper anymore. Four months later, while you and I are barely thinking about Japan anymore, let alone giving money. Anything can help.

So I’m happy to share with you a wonderful fund-raising auction happening tonight, July 15th, in San Francisco. The event’s producers, Collective Good, received 30 blank decks from FTC Skateboards, a skate company with shops in Tokyo and San Francisco. The decks were distributed to creatives around the Bay Area. They asked that we share our thoughts and feelings on the devastation in Japan. The skateboards will be auctioned off for charity. Collective Good has partnered with Direct Relief International to donate 100% of the proceeds from Plywood for Good to aid the rebuilding efforts in Japan.

If you’re in the Bay Area tonight, you should definitely consider stopping by for beer, wine, soju cocktails, live music, and mobile meat peddlers that will be on deck serving skewers. All proceeds go to Japan earthquake relief.

Price: $10 donation at the door
RSVP: Here
When: Thursday, July 14, 6:30-10 p.m.
Where: Project One, 251 Rhode Island Street (between 15th and 16th streets); 415-938-P1SF.

Participating designers:

Apex, Yves Behar, Jeff Canham, Tricia Choi, Chronicle Books, Chris Duggan, Dowling Duncan, Alan Dye, Mark Giglio // Pen Pencil Stencil, Timothy Goodman, Hybrid Design, Junji Hase, Incase, Graham James, Aaron Jupiter, Monica S Lee, Manual, Mike & Maaike, Office, Meeta Panesar, Louisa Parris, Brian Scott // Boon, Martin Kay + Aaron Shinn, Josh Swanbeck, Joe To, Chris Wilson, Lawrence Yang

Here’s a peep at some of the decks that will be auctioned off tonight:

Tricia Choi

Skate for Japan Relief

Lawrence Yang

Skate for Japan Relief
Josh Swanbeck
Skate for Japan Relief
Skate for Japan Relief


2 thoughts on “Plywood for Good: Skate Decks for Japan Relief

  1. AK

    Hi Timothy. Great post. I am currently an industrial design student at a college in the US but came from Japan. I really appreciate the initiatives you all are partaking.
    I had the same feeling when I started seeing many “promotions,” tied to the disaster, most of them commercially. I thought it was facinating to see how big retailers were chiming in to help out with the relief effort, until it got a little bit “too much.” Although it did increase awareness, the entire thing did look more like self-promotional campaign than creating conversations of what exactly was happening. It’s true that after the “hype” is gone, not much media attention is there.
    Rebuilding is much longer and agonizing process. I’ve volunteered for the Katrina Relief 2 years after the disaster. The scars were still visible. But it was great to help rebuild people’s lives and see others in the effort as well. 
    I’ve always enjoyed reading updates from imprint/Print Mag via Twitter! Keep it up!