Early civilizations had it all figured out. At least according to the Kokuyo Design Awards, arguably Japan’s most-influential stationery design award, which this year asked designers to look to the past. “If we return to the idea of ‘primitive’ in order to create the future,” they proposed, “what form of evolution can we imagine?” This year, the awards received nearly 1500 entries for proposed stationery products, each inspired by materials and methods of the past. Earlier this month, one grand prize and three runner-ups were selected.

The grand prize went to product designer Tasuku Denno (who previously designed this gorgeous fire extinguisher) for his pencil titled “You Shape,” which allows the user to shape into the perfectly-sized pencil. “I had big hands ever since I was a child, and I could not hold pencils well because they were so narrow,” says the designer. Inspired by the organic shapes of wood, Denno’s pencil is, in some sense, a protest against the standardization of products.

The Kokuyo Design Awards have been hosted by stationary firm Kokuyo for over 20 years and the results are always delightful. Although the designs are not yet available for purchase, the firm will evaluate market demand and often commercialize the winning designs. You can check out some previous winners here.

Below are the runner-ups:

Inspired by how our ancestors wrote letters engraved on stones, animal bones, and other natural materials, Soichiro Tanaka created a series of stone-shaped whiteboards that can be used over and over again to leave short notes.

Ibuki Ohara’s “Color-Changing Pencil” expresses the life of a plant, from budding to blooming and then to withering, with each stage of life represented by a colors that change as the pencil gets used.

“Drippy” by design duo FUKATAKA (Takaaki Sato, Mao Fukasawa) are sticky notes that look like water droplets. “Like tear traces, it is a record of the moments when your heart was moved. Because “Drippy” is slightly thick, the pages open naturally when you turn them. You don’t have to worry about protruding edges like with long, rectangular sticky notes. You can leave marks anywhere on the page.”