Smart Craft Studio 2017 – Animating Craft

Smart Craft Studio is a 3-week intensive design prototyping program happening annually at Fabcafe Hida. The goal of this program is to integrate traditional Japanese woodworking techniques with smart and human-centered technology


We have opened the application for this year’s Smart Craft Studio in Hida, Japan! Students who are eligible and interested in this once-life-time experience, please start preparing to apply! The application closes at 24:00 EST on Mar. 19.  (13:00 in Taiwan on Mar.19)

Program Overview

Smart Craft Studio is a 3-week intensive design prototyping program happening annually at Fabcafe Hida. The goal of this program is to integrate traditional Japanese woodworking techniques with smart and human-centered technology. The topic for the Smart Craft Studio 2017 is “Animating Craft”.

This year, the studio will explore radical ways to create meaningful interactions between human and human-made objects through woodworking, sensory processing, and cognitive artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the context of art and design. Participating students will have a thorough introduction to wood harvesting process, learn hands-on lessons on Hida’s traditional kumiki (wood joinery) technique from local master craftsmen, learn to prototype with open source and modular Internet of Things (IoT) hardware, and experiment with a new type of A.I. with the ability to generate new user insights from live sensory data.

The Smart Craft Studio team is working with world-class designers and design technologists to create technology workshops for artists and designers. The goal is to minimize the amount of technical hurdles so artists and designers can get to the creative part quicker and smoother. We are achieving this with a motivation-driven learning environment, experienced design tech instructors, detailed documentations and instructions, pre-programmed code templates, modular IoT prototyping tools, and on-site technology staffs.

Students will work in teams to build prototypes and each team is expected to present functional prototypes at the end of the 3-week program.

The studio aims to assemble teams from different design disciplines including fashion, product design, interactive media, and architecture. The program will be conducted primarily in English with translation from Japanese.

Woods in Nishino lumber mill in Hida Furukawa which boasts No. 1 volume of broad-leaves trees in variety in Gifu prefecture. Here, you will learn about the feature of wood as well as the process of making into timber from the tree

Kumiki is a joinery technique which has been used for traditional architectures in Japan and been inherited from old time. It is said that craft men in Hida (Hida-no-Takumi) used to go to Kyoto to build temples and shrines back in Japanese history

In the program, students will learn about Kumiki and build concept for prototyping
Kabetsugi is one of the Kumiki’s types. A Japanese creator developed this prototype after learning about the functionality of Kumiki. It is in conjunction with 3D printed material and functions in everyday life.

A wooden table using Hida’s broad-leave trees and legs using the joinery technique

We will see the technique of the craft men in Hida and learn the detail of their work.

A laboratory researching compressed cedar wood used for furniture. (c) きつつき森の研究所

Workshop of the Japanese traditional flower arrangement (to get a sense of the Japanese esthetic which can be seen as the philosophy of “Wabi-Sabi”)

This year, we will use IoT and A.I. to create meaningful interactions between human and human-made objects in the context of art and design.

Prototyping during the Smart Craft Studio held in 2016

Some prototypes made during the Smart Craft Studio held in 2016

About Hida

Situated in the northern part of Gifu Prefecture in Japan, Hida is known for the traditional wood joinery (kumiki) technique and its furniture & forestry industry. The area is also known for its picturesque village, traditional craft, local cuisine & natural surroundings.

A view of Hida Furukawa town

Hida’s forest. Hida is known with its rich forest which shares 93% of the land, within 70% are occupied by abundant natural broad-leaved trees. There is not many places left where natural broad-leaved forests are available. Broad-leave trees make rich earth and clear water which create healthy environment and food.

Life in Hida

FabCafe Hida

Program period
May 28, 2016 – June 19, 2017

FabCafe Hida
6-17, Ninomachi, Furukawa-cho, Hida city, Gifu prefecture, Japan

Who is eligible to apply for this program?
The program is open for students who are currently enrolled in the schools listed below to apply:
Parsons School of Design
Shih Chien University
The University of Hong Kong
University of Toronto

How To Apply?
Eligible applicants can fill in the application form and select 2 projects from their portfolios to upload in the following link.
Participate Now

Application Period
Application for the program opens from Feb 15, 2017 to Mar. 19, 2017.
The application closes at 24:00 EST on Mar. 19 / 13:00[pm] TPE on Mar. 19
The enrollment result will be announced after the middle of March through email.

Registration deadline
24:00 EST on Mar. 19, 2017 (the timing of the clock changing to Mar. 20) / 13:00[pm] TPE on Mar. 19

Program Fee
USD 3,450

Program tuition, lodging accommodation during the program in Hida, insurance coverage for operating woodshop equipment and processed wood as prototyping material are included in the program fee.
Please note that traveling cost (such as flight ticket and local transportation) are not included in the program fee.
** For meals during the program, participants have the option to join meal plans with additional cost.

*Note: Smart Craft Studio 2017 will be held when the number of participants reached to a certain number.

Studio Instructor Profiles

Kyle Li
Assistant Professor of Communication Design & Technology / Parsons School of Design

Kyle Li is an interaction and learning designer based in New York city. His body of work and research wraps around playful learning experiences manifested by interconnected physical and digital components. In 2008, he helped build the world’s first public school that was entirely redesigned with game design and media learning theories in mind. He later won the Best in Class: Innovation award and People’s Choice award from HASTAC and the White House for video game-based learning. He became the program director of BFA Design & Technology at Parsons School of Design in Fall 2014. He collaboratively designed and pushed forward the first complete indie game design pathway and a brand new human-centered creative technology pathway in his program. He started to advocate for content experiment for virtual reality in late 2012, and he recently launched a minor study called Immersive Storytelling with his esteemed colleagues in which students learn to design and develop meaningful, interactive, and poetic experiences for VR/AR/MR.

Ruei-Yi Yen
Lecturer in the Department of Fashion Styling and Design Communication / Shih-Chien University

Ruei-Yi Yen is a graphic designer and a university lecturer, specializes in bookbinding and printing and possesses several design professions like editorial design, typography, book design and infographics. Due to her dual career roles, her time is divided between lecturing at Shih-Chien University and her own professional practice. Recently, she has been commissioned to write a book, a distillation of her main teaching contents: exploring bookbinding through the sense of sight and touch. Her solo exhibition “Collab: Zine Safari” will be held from Aug. 10 to Sep. 11 at Yong‘an Arts Center, and her book “Bookbinding——Experiencing through Flipping” is scheduled for publication in 2017.

Chia-Ying Lee
Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications Design / Shih-Chien University

Chia-Ying Lee received her Master degree from Facultad de Bellas Artes, Slamanca, España. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications Design, Shih-Chien University. She is also getting her PhD degree in UPV Universitat Politècnica de València. Her research interests include interaction design, design education and multimedia, digital game design, interactive script. She dedicates herself to making the students understand the beauty of interaction design.

Harvey Chung
Assistant professor of the University of Hong Kong faculty of architecture

Harvey Chung is an architect, designer and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Loftwork Hong Kong and assistant professor of the University of Hong Kong faculty of architecture. He holds a master’s degree in architecture from Yale University and has over 12 years of digital design and fabrication experience. Prior to starting Loftwork HK, he has been working for over 7 years as a lead designer and project manager for world renowned architects in Hong Kong.

Mauricio Quirós Pacheco
Mauricio Quirós Pacheco is an Assistant Professor at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. He holds a Master of Architecture in Urban Design with distinction from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Architecture from Universidad del Diseño, Costa Rica. He was Researcher for the Office of the Director at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) from 2010 until 2014 and has practiced in America and Europe in offices including Stanley Saitowitz Office and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.


Guest Instructor:
Shigeru Kobayashi
Professor / Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences [IAMAS]

Shigeru Kobayashi is a PhD in Media Design and a professor of Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences [IAMAS]. He worked for a digital musical instrument company as a sound designer and a software engineer. He designed Open Source Hardware such as Gainer and Arduino Fio (with SparkFun Electronics) and wrote books on physical computing and prototyping (published in Japanese, Korean and Formosan). He also won the red dot award: design concept in 2011 as an interaction designer. Recently, he has been facilitating cross-industry innovation projects to create innovation by multiplying people from local and information technology industries.

Report from Smart Craft Studio 2016

Please find the reports from Smart Craft Studio held in 2016. You can find what learnings and inspiration the students acquired and what kind of prototypes were created out of the 23 days-intensive design camp.

You can also find the details of the program as well as the application page from the link below.


lastly, we would like to special thank to Brandon Eli John Bergem and Chiehping Chen who participated in the Smart Craft Studio in 2016 and contributed their great photos for key visuals of Smart Craft Studio 2017.