All by Design

Hawai’i is home to a thriving community of creative design pros.

"These days a man makes you something and you never see his face." Don Henley sang that lament in the 1984 hit song "Sunset Grill." Henley was hardly the first, nor will he be the last, modern person to complain that we are often cut off from the people who design and build the world we live in. Who designed this snazzy iPod, or that jazzy Chrysler 300? People want to understand why these things look the way they do. This month, we try to close that gap a bit with our Hawai’i By Design issue.

Here you’ll meet the people in the Islands who are using their imaginations and talents to design the clothes we wear, the posters we see, the buildings we work in, even the communities in which we live. You’ll find out, too, how being in Hawai’i influences their work, and how they intend for their work to influence Hawai’i.

We learned that a surprising variety of design goes on in the Islands. Some designers are easy to find–designer is part of their job title. Graphic designer, interior designer, fashion designer and so on. But the world of design in the Islands includes people such as Ken Onion, a design celebrity to those who collect custom knives, as well as Les Look, who shapes some of Hawai’i’s most coveted paddles. All of them make life in the Islands more beautiful.

photo: courtesy Mark Chai

As we do every April, this month we announce the winners of our annual fiction contest (see bottom of this page for full list) and publish the grand prize-winning story. Congratulations to Lee Tonouchi. This is his second win, evidence that his efforts to advance pidgin as a written form is–at least the way he does it–working out. His story, "Legend of da River Street Gambler," can be found here.

One thing we love about the fiction contest is the chance it affords us to see what’s on your minds. Every year, the contest entries exhibit noticeable trends, often mirroring our times. I’ve judged the contest myself and vividly remember how one year seemed to be the Year of Dead Relative Stories (many a tale set graveside at Punchbowl), another, the Year of Plantation Nostalgia Stories.

This year, notes managing editor Kathryn Drury Wagner, who coordinates the contest, "Many of the stories focused on water. Characters swim in it, snorkel in it, fish on it, travel to see it, shower in it and even die in it. Other themes included ‘ohana and the mixed emotions and highly-charged connections within them. And, of course, we found a lot of food references, from roast duck to manapuas." Then, too, there was a staple theme, that of the malahini who has some transforming experience upon visiting or moving to the Islands. Hawai’i has that effect on people.

Something new this year for the fiction contest–you can read some of the runner-up stories as well.