Surely and steadily, design has come to take root in our society. When you look at the awarded works of Good Design Award 2016, you will see that each design plays its own role to the full and together they seem to form the whole picture of our life, rather than a particular work standing out and flaunting its innovativeness.
Japanese society demands that design have the elements suitable for a mature society. The situation surrounding design is already different from the times when the duty of the design was considered to "change something and produce something new." We have come to the stage of down-to-earth deepening of design, with the view to "enrich people's daily life" rather than competing for the degrees of changes or progress it has brought.
With higher resolution to grasp the issues of the society and needs and wishes of people, the image of necessary design has come to be clearly formed. That is why it is all the more important for Good Design Award to show that design is not merely the object of "usefulness and convenience" but something with the power to create the value to be shared in the society and to lead the image of the desirable society. Against this backdrop, "Focused Issues" was established, beginning with Good Design Award 2015. Focused Issues is an attempt to sum up the design trend while facing socially important themes and to explore the possibilities of design through the latest Good Design Award. This year, we have set 9 issues and presented insights for each in the form of proposals by the Focused Issues directors. In the proposals, the importance of each design is closely evaluated and recognized, showing their values as the guidelines to build future society.
Design offers the models for people to build rich and hopeful society. Good Design Award plays the facilitator role to present to the society the models with full of possibilities. Focused Issues is the key concept toward that end.
The balance between human society and the natural world has been disturbed, as the surging global population continues to waste resources. Meanwhile, intensifying climate change around the world makes the future even less certain. Our coexistence with the global environment is growing alarmingly unbalanced. Yet we should recognize many attempts to disrupt this disruption and establish a mutual relationship on solid ground.
Living with nature's blessings
Coexistence with the global environment suggests two topics for consideration. The first is living with nature's blessings, and the second, which we also must remember, is living with nature's threats.
Needless to say, our lives depend on the bounty of nature. We forget this fact when we overemphasize economic gain, and by destroying the natural basis for this bounty, we are hastening our own demise. It is a deadlock we have been trying to break since the last century.
The will to tackle this issue head-on is seen in SOFORO. In an ambitious attempt to help us break free from detergents and cosmetics that rely on petrochemicals, this company has developed a way to create surfactants from microbial fermentation, which they have even taken to the stage of volume production. Widespread use of Soforo would have a significant positive impact. The efficacy of good design is seen in two other projects that promise - and deliver on the promise - to transform the negative image of garbage into the positive image of resources. One is the Urban oil field Exploration Project in Kyoto that produces bioethanol from municipal waste. Another is eco-bin that polishes the image of resource collection through effective design. Also deserving recognition is AGNI-HUTTE, and not only for its appealing appearance. By design, the stove can also burn cedar and cypress more efficiently, overcoming the difficulty of its use as firewood. Burning this wood puts a resource from beneficial forest thinning in Japan to good use.
Wise use of natural resources was also acclaimed in the Project of recycling oriented society using wind energy and hydrogen at island that promotes the use of renewable energy in remote places. Energy generated by a floating wind turbine was sufficient for a local community, and the surplus went to produce hydrogen for a fuel cell boat providing local transport. Admirable conservation also underlies the business model of the ECOproject. For more than two decades, this environmentally conscious construction has used local wood and replenished forests by planting three times the amount consumed. A similar cause - residential design honoring natural cycles and protecting biodiversity - MIYAWAKI GREENDO among mixed trees taps the existing terrain and ecosystem. And in Osaka, a conscientious real estate developer the Action to preserve biodiversity through local seeds and other measures.
Living with nature's threats
Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common, as shown this year by destructive Typhoon Lionrock's unusual path through Tohoku and Hokkaido. Living with nature's threats is also a pressing concern.
Flooding around river basins is likely to occur more frequently, but a laudable way to keep people aware of problems is the River Information System for Ishikawa prefecture , which integrates sensor data on weather and water levels. Users can receive flooding forecasts and news about evacuation on their smartphone. The design of FOMM Concept One - a compact, amphibious electric vehicle - may even save lives in the wake of tsunami or flooding damage.
Changes to climate and habitat have caused an array of problems, but the deer overpopulation that plagues some areas of Japan has found a unique response in a well-designed YUKURU. Many other entries, such as TOKYO BOUSAI and MUJI ITSUMO MOSHIMO, help us prepare for emergencies, although we also hope to see them address meteorological disasters.
Changing our views, cultivating awareness
Building a society in harmony with the global environment means fostering members of the society who have this wisdom and these sensibilities. Such innate nurturing qualities distinguish TAKAO 599 MUSEUM and the MORIUMIUS. The museum instills an appreciation for the nature of Mount Takao, and the learning center offers educational programs attuned to nature in Ogatsu, Miyagi.
AuthaGraph World Map reminds us that design can redraw the map of our world-view. The view presented by this world map is free of distortions in shape or size and has no definite center. It was designed to improve upon and correct past world maps, and we hope the message shared by this once-in-a-century invention will be appreciated by many.
Turning to my hopes for the future, I saw many projects in this year's program that are rooted in AI, IoT, biotech, or other advanced science and technology. Without a doubt, the impact of these developments may transform industries and everyday life. But precisely because they are so transformative, they should drive more efforts to solve local or global issues accounting for social values over the long term, instead of ending up in short-term innovation for immediate economic value.
I believe good design holds the power to channel good innovation into making coexistence with the global environment a reality.
As suburban cities in Japan shrink, inevitably, less will be invested in public infrastructure. Cities must ensure that these assets last, and core functions must be maintained while updating the design to suit the times and local needs.
In this respect, Kesennuma/Ofunato BRT using existing infrastructure by railway lines damaged in the Tohoku disaster not only reintroduced public transportation quickly, at each stage in recovery, but also gave people more choices. BRT systems have been deployed around the world, notably in Asia and South America. Often, they are associated with cities where long-term transport plans cannot keep up with rapid growth, or cities that cannot afford subway systems. In contrast, Kesennuma/ Ofunato BRT systems can be viewed not as serving emerging cities but as showing deployment possibilities for cities past their peak population. Rather than facing a choice of either struggling to maintain railway systems or abandoning public transportation and relying on personal vehicles, cities can learn from this flexible transport system that offers a variety of modes to suit local and regional needs.
In a different context, the New Oyama Cable Car also extends and enhances existing infrastructure. New chassis construction was not feasible, but the operator admirably updated other train car and system elements.
Opening up infrastructure to cities
Zoning in modern urban planning has sought to distill and differentiate according to use, but most urban renewal around the world in the last two or three decades has been mixed-use. This stands in contrast to the singular purpose of many elements of urban infrastructure, perhaps because the technologies used are specialized and splintered. Apartment complexes house people, for example, while parks provide recreation, and railways, transportation. But signs of change are also evident here.
Both Hoshinotani Danchi and Tennoji Park Entrance Area"TEN-SHIBA" show how the normally closed, single-purpose zones of company housing and private parks can be diversified and opened up to support vibrant city life as new infrastructure. Similarly, although the spaces created by Community Station Higashikoganei lie under an elevated railway built to alleviate traffic, they diversify and open this area to the city.
When renewal of existing spaces and systems is reviewed not under the rationale of the original, external infrastructure providers but under that of people who actually come into contact with the infrastructure, this can also enhance regions in new ways. In spatial development, public infrastructure can incorporate - either directly or indirectly - functions sought by the city. In system development, public and private sector entities can collaborate or divide the labor in various ways from planning through management.
Though coincidental, it is interesting that each of these projects was initiated by railway operators or their group companies. It must be relevant that railway operators in Japan show a distinct regard for the public interest.
Infrastructure as an opportunity to savor local flavor
A few instances of taking local perspectives when reconsidering public infrastructure are seen in comprehensive design in railway brand rebuilding, which has increased recently. Notable examples include SAGAMI RAILWAY 9000 Series Redesign Project and 323 Series and Osaka Loop Line Renovation Project. These broad redesign projects go beyond train design to encompass station and uniform design, visual identity, and brand colors. Even relationships with communities along the route are considered in design. In another case, Odakyu Adopts CUD for Signage to Provide Clear Information for All Users follow universal design principles in the use of color. Updating how information is conveyed at stations and elsewhere has made the system more convenient for everyone.
Areas along railway lines in metropolitan Japan can be viewed as distinct regional units, both because trains are so widely used and because these lines greatly determine where people live and spend time. Around the world, nothing quite compares to this phenomenon. Metropolitan railway operators have worked to improve service in traffic volume, speed, and coverage. To offer expanded public infrastructure that is not only practical but also makes people fond of the area and even serves as a platform for local identity, it seems only natural that planners are returning to the stance of considering local perspectives.
The coming years will no doubt see more design that helps maintain and update existing infrastructure while enhancing it in new and varied ways. Needs may also emerge for well-designed downsizing and repurposing of public infrastructure. Clear precedents for converting abandoned elevated railways into parks have been set at Le Viaduc des Arts in Paris or the High Line in New York, but we look forward to seeing how Japanese infrastructure will be maintained, updated, and even downsized and repurposed through good design.
Although I was born and raised in Tokyo, I found myself drawn to rural Minamiuonuma, Niigata, where I have lived for the past 13 years. To those in the country, whether here or anywhere across Japan, "design" feels urban - hardly integral to their own lives.
Most people in the country view design as something extra, something that does not interest them. Even design-driven revitalization is seen as being little more than a means of luring people from the city into the country.
I myself see design as a problem-solving process. What kinds of design will future generations need? I sense that it will provide answers and ideas for determining how to approach our missions in society.
And what are our social missions? From a rural perspective, the greatest causes for concern are issues intertwined with improvements to social infrastructure and the local economy, issues that are rooted in depopulation and lower revenue. Cities are probably most concerned about disasters.
Depopulation in particular poses many problems. Some rural areas must face this as a certainty, while for cities it remains a possibility. However, affluent urban areas have lower birthrates, and from the standpoint of labor, this poses a conundrum. Thus, rural residents are not the only ones who must wrestle with ensuring that their community remains vibrant.
Several developments and advances have been making waves: Uber, Airbnb, and other signs of the sharing economy, and the innovation of drones and AI, as can be seen in Siri. Instead of using these advances to make cities even more convenient - some would claim they are already too convenient - or diminish others, we should use them to help bridge the urban-rural divide. They should serve as user-friendly tools for those growing more socially vulnerable in rural areas.
Uber certainly seems viable in areas where taxis are unreliable. Surely self-driving vehicles have potential in graying communities. And drones must hold promise where shopping is inconvenient.
People now seem to have a greater appreciation for social relevance, both in advances such as these and in design as a problem-solving process.
Viewed from this perspective, Good Design Award entries that might not seem overtly "designed" become much more intriguing.
For example, although some might view Kesennuma/Ofunato BRT as only one step in restoring transportation in the Tohoku region, these systems offer ample insight on how to preserve and transform some of the many unprofitable local railway lines into vital arteries of public transportation.
Graying areas with a low birthrate might also learn from the award-winning architecture of the Public Housing In Tamaura-Nishi B-1 Area. Decks in this complex are flush against homes, shared with neighbors, and linked to barrier-free pedestrian roads - a novel arrangement that brings people together.
Rural towns looking to revitalize shuttered shopping districts may find some inspiration in The activity of Bunshitu in Tokamachi, Niigata. In fact, in addition to efforts recognized in this year's award program, the area has received an infusion of community-building design projects exploring new ties between the public and private sector.
Even original ideas as simple as UDERBE MUSIC FESTIVAL can revitalize communities outside major cities.
Many communities would probably find the approach taken at Hoshinotani Danchi particularly relevant and compelling. This suburban housing complex in Zama, Kanagawa, is located in an area that is certainly not rural, yet not metropolitan either. Nevertheless, depopulation remains a pressing concern, as is effective use of older residential units. Thanks to comprehensive efforts by the developer - not just renovating an older complex to create a new community - tenants are willing to pay even higher rent than at new local properties.
Residents at a suburban housing complex elsewhere in Kanagawa also have something new to appreciate: a private cafeteria called TOKO KITCHEN. Interestingly, this enterprise is run by a private-sector real estate company.
Also worthy of note, Community Station Higashikoganei represents creative neighborhood development that takes advantage of unused land under elevated train tracks. The fact that nationwide chains are expanding as aggressively as ever, hoping to fill every available space in building complexes, by train stations, and in suburbs from Okinawa to Hokkaido, is not necessarily desirable from the standpoint of passing down culture and local flavor. In contrast, this development shows how thoughtful planning can attract small local businesses and build communities in new ways.
And finally, YT3 series herald a new era for farmers in Japan. For those in agriculture, no means of mobility are more familiar or important than tractors and trucks. Although tractors must be practical, safe, and comfortable, such features are not enough to make people fond of them. Pride of ownership is also important. Besides performing well, these tractors will brighten the routines of those who use them.
Cities certainly have no monopoly on good design, which is also not the exclusive preserve of aesthetes. In taking on a variety of regional social issues, we should know that good design in Japan this year holds as much promise as technological advances. It is also brimming with potential to make regional and rural economies more vital and dynamic.
Doesn't the very existence of medical innovation, in the form of a new drug or medical device, itself constitute excellence in design? A basic question, but one worth considering.
Development of medical devices follows established procedures. Rigorous management of overall technical design and industrial design is required, and quality must be ensured. Thus, clearing medical device regulations signifies that the design has been approved for a medical device. Hence the opinion that for medical products, no higher standards in design may be needed.
Medical care can be viewed as a public good that should be accessible to all. In response to surging medical costs in recent years - especially in developed countries - driven in part by longevity and medical advances, some see it as a social mission to control medical costs, to the extent possible. Safe, effective diagnosis and treatment remains the goal of medical care, yet superficial design such as appealing drug packaging increases development costs and makes drugs or devices more expensive. This undermines the social mission to expand medical care. Taken to an extreme, this thinking even tempts us to believe that appearance does not matter at all.
But if we take a step back, we realize that those seeking medical care are unwell, and in this weakened condition, they benefit from medical services with a little warmth. And if so, we can appreciate that soothing elements of medical design - or elements that make users look dignified or attractive - are actually quite important. For that matter, surely the material that comes into contact with patients should be carefully designed for comfort. These considerations may convince us that medical design should also be as appealing as possible.
When views on medical design are so polarized and decisions so difficult, it is heartening to see so many entries distinguished by the quality of their product design, or their innovativeness. A commitment to improved design was seen in systems used for digital radiography, diagnostic ultrasound, and other applications. FUJIFILM DR CALNEO AQRO and SonoSite iViz and JPAP clearly demonstrate how design ideals of the manufacturer are reflected in the products. The last in particular responds to patient needs for smaller, quieter, and more visually appealing devices.
Similarly, in fields long in need of innovation, notable entries take on and support change through design from new perspectives. Morph are designed for use in airports and on planes. Another award-winning wheelchair, COGY, is the world's first that can be pedaled forward with minimal effort. As pedaling also serves as routine physical rehabilitation, the fresh thinking here is highly commendable. Both Morph and COGY represent products that fundamentally alter long-stagnant wheelchair design from the user perspective, and this thinking makes us feel the potential of new innovation in situations that normally go unexamined.
As with Morph and COGY, a prominent trend this year was the impressive design of products or initiatives that serve people who may be described as socially vulnerable or members of minority populations. New, non-auditory ways to make hearing-impaired users aware of a variety of ambient sounds are provided by Ontenna, which produces light and vibration based on frequencies of sound. This novel "user interface" is worn like a hairpin, and users sense the vibration through their hair. For hearing-impaired users and others, Ontenna promises to support communication in new ways, and both the project's ambitiousness and overall quality of design make us eager to see further development.
To tear down psychological barriers around disabled people and other minority populations and change perceptions, Shibuya 2020 - Super Welfare Expo has been held at Shibuya Hikarie since 2014 by the NPO People Design Institute in partnership with Shibuya Ward and Superhuman Sports Society. Here, the organizers have seemingly found popular support in how they are redefining disability, encouraging admiration, and doing things that are more positive and creative.
Here, we should mention a relevant stance we decided to take in evaluation. Because medical devices are regulated, products that fail to earn this initial approval are effectively disqualified from entry in the award program, no matter how outstanding their design may be. Although products must conform to these medical device regulations to be considered medical devices.With design that stirs interest in the neglected issue of male fertility, Seem is an outstanding combination of an app and test kit for checking sperm motility and concentration through automatic analysis of semen video clips captured by the app. In simple at-home screenings, the service addresses a factor that has prevented some couples from conceiving.
Seem designers claim that their product is only intended for screenings, and therefore not a medical device. However, the fact remains that sperm and semen analysis devices are indeed one category of medical devices - a Class I device that measures the concentration of sperm in semen and identifies activity (specifically, motility). Personally, I sense that the product strongly corresponds to this category of medical devices. So how should we proceed in evaluation? After some discussion, we concluded that regulatory compliance must be left to the discretion of entrants and lies outside the scope of evaluation. This policy resembles our own policy on potential patent infringement. In both cases, we evaluate design based on how entries are described by entrants. If award winners are found to have infringed legality in some way, awards are withdrawn, at the request of the winners. Discussions on this topic reinforced our evaluation policies in the context of medical regulations.
In general, it was certainly evident in screenings that a new era in medicine is dawning. IoT and ICT are increasingly blurring the boundaries between medicine and health. Even in these fields, IoT is becoming more familiar.
It used to be that we sought medical care only after we became ill. Medicine and health were once considered separately, but now, more people know the importance of staying healthy to prevent disease. One background factor for this has relied on ICT: the spread of centralized management of personal health records (PHRs) and similar data, tracked from childhood. In fact, several PHR-related app and program entries were received. As these fields are also enhanced by robotics, AI, and other transformative technologies in the future, medical and health products may become even more diverse, and we will need to venture further in defining good design in the context of medical innovation.
From the perspective of safety and security, quite a few entries this year help us prepare for emergencies. There is less to fear from earthquakes, typhoons, or other disasters if we are prepared, and being ready for adversity certainly saves many lives. When nature is our adversary, we can never be totally safe from harm, but it is reasonable that some entries give us a measure of reassurance. Still, everyday safety involves more than disaster preparedness.
As noted last year for this Focused Issue, safety differs from peace of mind in that safety is the objective fact that problems are unlikely, whereas peace of mind comes from our subjective assessment that we are probably safe. Ideally, arrangements should make us aware that our safety is technically ensured, which is reassuring as a result. This is not always so, however. For example, product liability laws protect consumers by making manufacturers liable for incidents caused by defective products. In court, this makes product liability cases exceptional, because unlike in accident cases, the burden of proof is on defendants instead of plaintiffs. Although this facilitates litigation by consumers without directly improving product safety, the risk of litigation has been reduced by manufacturers who have focused on improving product safety. Ultimately, this is reassuring for consumers, and in this way, the legal system encourages manufacturers to maintain consumer trust.
Once products have been carefully engineered for safety, designers should ensure peace of mind to establish the ideal, reassuring arrangement mentioned above. Visually, products designed for safety tend to be bland, but those that are more polished or convey a sense of reliability must seem more appealing.
The Stress free active school uniform are ergonomically designed for active children and teens. Without interfering, the uniforms encourage freer activities and sound physical development. Other supportive design is seen in the Nipple for weak sucking. Developed by studying infants in neonatal intensive care, the nipples promote healthy development by ensuring adequate nourishment. Both are products for children, and both serve functions keenly needed in products purchased for children by their parents.
Different needs are met by BARONESS LM2710. Maintaining the social and physical landscape was once taken for granted but is becoming more difficult with an aging population and shrinking workforce. Loss of human resources as older groundskeepers retire cannot be ignored, because expertise is required. This mower may serve a niche market, but by enabling professional results by users of all abilities, the social stability it supports represents reassuring design for all.
At food processing plants and similar sites, Hygienic CUPLA join pipes or hoses carrying fluids. Secure connections and easy maintenance reinforce the cornerstone of food safety through sanitation. Though unassuming and largely unseen, these parts serve as a reliable, reassuring linchpin of everyday life. Similarly, IPLEX NX fulfill roles behind the scenes in factory and aircraft inspection. Meticulous quality control in maintenance supports many of the high-quality products that industries in Japan are known for. Inspection is hardly glamorous work, but it ensures that products work reliably, and here, the instrument's high-caliber design deserves recognition.
Reassuring design is also evident in the signs at Japanese train stations. Odakyu Adopts CUD for Signage to Provide Clear Information for All Users are created using color in universal design focused on one of Ronald Mace's seven UD principles, so that information is easily perceptible by all. Even today, Japanese stations are said to hold an edge over those in Europe and elsewhere in how they provide information, but on conventional signs, information may be less accessible for some visitors. Those who might otherwise have difficulty understanding signs will feel reassured by this railway operator's UD-based approach.
Each of these award-winning entries promises reliable quality that supports safety, and each is a fine example of outstanding design. Safety may not be a constant concern, but we are reminded of its importance when things go wrong. Carelessness makes anything potentially dangerous, of course, but ideally, our routine should not require a constant awareness of safety or danger. This is why good design should serve as a promise of safety. In this respect, each of the entries was developed on solid principles and is well equipped to ensure safety.
Just as product liability laws have inspired trust, we propose that design contribute to an assurance of safety, so that people can feel reassurance from the safety of sound design.
Redesigning education remains a current need. In last year's program, notable entries introduced new approaches to learning from the three perspectives of what, how, and where we study. These entries suggested shifts in education and learning. This year, we saw design that pushes forward, creates, and expands along these lines.
Design that propels
Design that continues to drive the three educational trends defined in last year's program was evident in many entries.
In addressing the content of study, the design of quite a few entries encourages self-directed study and problem-solving, or shows the value of study in new ways. KOOV nurtures creativity and problem-solving skills through programmable robots. Robot Zoo course material from Hakuhodo and Issue+Design also stimulates creativity through robotics, but with a regard for local industry and digital craftsmanship. And young viewers of an NHK Viewpoint Science series may find themselves more intrigued by everyday things and better equipped to discover underlying principles. Programming will join the curriculum at Japanese elementary schools in 2020, and this year's entries give the impression that many initiatives are supporting this trend and accelerating changes in what children study.
As for how to study, design that stood out this year helps students become active and engaged, and collaborate to gain a deeper understanding. Educational games, furniture, and TV programming were notable. Ottotto Playing Cards invites self-directed study and creativity. Active learning furniture scrum series is designed for more engaged, hands-on study. And another educational program the Folk Tale Courtroom -The Trial of the Three Little Pigs- from NHK brings, encouraging broad observation and discussion.
From the aspect of educational environments, it was startling how many entries support local places to study. Collaboration between a school and local businesses led to Nobegaku pudding, which provided a practical learning experience. Elsewhere, schools, families, and local residents come together to offer a nurturing environment at Terakoya sites. This joint support from schools, businesses, and the government gives us a sense that an era of community study centers is not far away.
Design that creates
Other entries introduced design that creates new realms in the field of education. As a modern alternative to the Mercator projection, AuthaGraph World Map presents a novel way of looking at physical features, history, and other aspects of the world. By exposing topics and possibilities inherent in a world map already taken for granted as definitive, surely this map promises to change how world history is studied. The map shows how, with good design, there is room for innovation even in familiar teaching tools and materials. A surprising entry.
Another entry, kidsly, takes on the task of establishing a new channel of communication between parents and nursery schools. kidsly represents a conventional but reliable approach to solving existing issues in streamlining staff work and sharing information between caregivers and parents. We can imagine the positive impact it will have on children's environments. And by introducing this system in places where even younger children meet and learn together, users can surely provide new learning scenarios.
Design that expands
Design that expands is the final educational trend in this year's entries, which either define study and education more broadly or redefine these concepts altogether.
Mirai-kodomo-gakko, a progressive school in Chiba serves as a platform for community-building through education. In this ambitious, civic-minded program, providing educational opportunities is only the start. Although there have been many cases of study programs with community support, few have also taken a broader view of this study as a form of community-building. Heralding an era of lifelong learning for all, the program has much to teach us about studying and the city where we live, as an initiative that equates fostering education with fostering the development of education-centered communities.
Similarly intriguing is UDERBE MUSIC FESTIVAL, which invites current students of the elementary and middle school, graduates, and their parents to attend and sing the school song. Schools from our youth tend to fade from memory, but such events reposition them as community centers. This school also fulfilled a vital role after the Tohoku disaster sheltering evacuees and facilitating communication. By expanding the role of a school through good design, so that it serves as a community gathering place, this festival also asks us to reconsider what schools and studying are all about.
To gain a clearer view of the significance of design in the field of education, we can take three perspectives: the beauty of well-designed things, the social relevance of design, and design representing education itself.
As for the first, jury members who scrutinize entries for their beauty and aesthetic appeal as educational tools may admire their educational merit but find fault with their appearance. However, winning entries such as KOOV and Ottotto Playing Cards meet high standards of design in this sense. Beyond the beauty of well-designed entries, AuthaGraph World Map was widely admired for showing the potential of good design to have a great impact on teaching and studying on a more substantial level. In this case, the map's outstanding quality sows the seeds of understanding and creativity.
Kidsly can be cited as a good example of socially relevant design. Though the service began only recently, it holds the potential to overcome issues that were widely recognized yet largely unaddressed. We hope it inspires progress in early childhood education.
Regarding future design in general - not only in the context of education - jury members constantly discussed how to pass down traditions of design for the next generation.
On this point, KOOV represents design with strong potential that succeeds in three ways, as a system clearly supporting design education: beautiful enough to be objects of interior décor, informative in the emerging academic field of programming, and full of design insight for children.
How will we teach when the power of good design is pervasive in education and learning? It is tantalizing to imagine the chemical reaction this will spark.
It is interesting to imagine what proportion of people worked in primary industries a century ago. That proportion is probably smaller today, worldwide, but not because these people have lost their job - in fact, new jobs have been created. What will happen, though, if technological advances eliminate more and more jobs? Some people predict that jobs will be lost to robots, and others believe we will continue to create new jobs. Although I, too, expect to see new jobs, entries in this year's award program suggest that the nature of these jobs is changing significantly.
For example, robots are a relevant topic, but they carry quite a range of implications. Industrial robots can perform an array of tasks, depending on attachments. To work more quickly, they are carefully engineered in various ways. Robots run the gamut from familiar robotic vacuum cleaners to the Segment-Handling Robot for Thirty Meter Telescoep, such as replacing massive mirror segments at a huge telescope facility.
Labor-saving innovation does not always take the form of robots. AQUA CERAMIC toilets are the first made with a stain-resistant ceramic that addresses the four main factors of staining (scuffs and scratches, bacterial residue, waste residue, and hard water deposits), using only the power of water to keep toilets clean. This may one day eliminate the need to clean toilets. Another SMART NAIRAN enables prospective buyers or renters to tour properties unescorted. Showing properties usually requires a fair amount of labor by realtors, but this can be reduced by authorizing clients to lock and unlock smart locks with their phone from a dedicated website. This seems especially helpful in areas not served by regular realtors.
Innovations such as these mainly do the physical work for us, but increasingly, other innovations are also doing the thinking for us. One example is the Discharge from hospital assisted navigation. In Japan, this service is generally handled by medical social workers who must call each office to make arrangements. This app streamlines the task and makes it easier to meet specific needs. OMOTENASHI GUIDE at airports, bus or train stations, and at shopping or sightseeing areas for non-Japanese speakers and hearing-impaired users. Public announcements, such as in emergencies, can also be understood. In this way, the app makes spoken information more universally accessible. The app can also be used offline, because announcements themselves include the signals needed for processing.
As we have seen, people are designing more and more labor-saving devices, and even solutions that acquire knowledge and think for us. Will this threaten jobs? While it may feel threatening, I still believe there will be more jobs. As long as people are people, we will always need some roles to be fulfilled.
Morioka Shoten is a bookstore that stocks only a single title at a time. Now that online merchants carry such an immense inventory, we are tempted to think that local bookstores fill a smaller niche. To buy a book from a bookstore, for example, you must go to the store, but when buying from an online merchant, the book is delivered to you. And although some bookstores carry an interesting selection of books, AI can read far more books than we can, so as our algorithms improve, an AI-generated selection may be more useful than a human-curated one. At Morioka Shoten, with their changing selection of a single title, this is not the point. Precisely because only one title is offered, it encourages visitors to mingle. Bookstores with crowded shelves serve customers with diverse interests. But customers browsing at a bookstore with only one title have something to share. It sets the scene to bring people together. When I visited, it seemed easier for the owner to talk to customers, and for customers to talk to each other. After all, everyone was there for the sake of a single book.
If I may point out, this resembles a series of work-related social events that I organize. Speakers from a variety of backgrounds and professions are invited to serve as "bartender" for an evening. But instead of mixing drinks, they might enjoy a few themselves, as they chat with our guests. In this way, a unique individual "tends bar" for an evening, just as one title fills the shelves at Morioka Shoten at any given time. And, as at the bookstore, people start mingling naturally, without any mediation by our speaker. This interaction arises more easily where people gather for a shared interest.
TOKO KITCHEN is another example of design that brings people together. Offered by Toko Jutakusha - a real estate firm that manages 1,600 rental units - TOKO KITCHEN is a private cafeteria accessed with the resident's card key. Neighbors might find themselves mingling here. Perhaps they will meet a neighbor who provides the cafeteria with tomatoes from their garden. At other cafeterias, interaction of this kind seems unlikely.
As long as people are people, we will always need roles. Whatever design emerges to do physical or mental work for us, people will always create roles for themselves. Among the jobs that exist today, those related to interpersonal ties will be the most resilient in their current form.
Over time, will people gradually use their body and mind less? Probably not. Physically and mentally, we will still play and enjoy ourselves. Some will still want to dig in the dirt and grow their own vegetables, and even in game-like situations, we will still exercise our minds. KOOV may demonstrate this. With this kit to learn about robots and programming, you are free to assemble the blocks as you wish. Then, through programming, you bring your robot to life in various ways. Rather than reducing labor, this robot actually increases it. But we willingly do it, for fun.
As some jobs continue to decline, disrupted by design or technology, people will surely create new ones. And as we do, we may be subtly redefining the nature of work. No doubt many people will consider jobs as something done on their own time, but that is a topic for another day.
Is co-creation desirable? Doesn't it force cooperation and stifle breakthrough creativity? Doesn't it strip away our sense of reality as individuals? These are questions I constantly face, teaching at the Department of Design, Tokyo University of the Arts.
On the contrary, without co-creation, there can be no innovation. Inevitably, to bring the knowledge or skills of experts in diverse fields to life, some kind of collaborative platform is needed. Current social issues are also too complex for any one person, however gifted, to resolve. Especially in design targeting social issues, community design, co-design, participatory design, and inclusive design are key concepts. In contemporary art, co-creation is found in relational art, socially engaged art, and participatory art around the world.
It must be carefully coordinated, however, and is hardly as simple as hoping that if everyone contributes, everyone will be satisfied. Co-creation is difficult. Two heads are not always better than one. Contributors may not be working toward the same purpose, and heated confrontations may even occur.
Co-creation requires its own techniques and arrangements. Techniques that make it easier to bring out others' strengths. Expertise and etiquette to encourage constructive criticism, without allowing discussions to be swayed by people's status or age, or how loud their voice is. The process of building consensus for co-creation takes time and effort. It is hard to describe this form of production as economically efficient. But when this time and effort is invested in consensus building to ensure the results will satisfy all contributors, organizations can update the techniques and arrangements of co-creation to suit the times or the goals of other projects.
The same applies to democracies. A democracy is a decision-making system enabling elections after ample discussion among members with equal rights. In practice, however, this takes much time and effort. Moreover, majority rule does not always yield optimal solutions. But carefully maintaining a democratic system boosts an organization's metabolism and ultimately increases the prospect for sustainable growth. This makes well-maintained democracies a good match for capitalism. In contrast, citizens in even the best of dictatorships live with the threat of stagnation or disorder over the long term, as leaders die or their charisma fades.
Those of us in Japan live in a democratic state, though from day to day we are not often keenly aware of this fact. Politicians seem far removed, and for many people, everyday decision making at a corporate or government office involves conveying the will of the governing to the governed. Still, democratic ideals pervade life here, in deciding where most of us want to go for dinner, voting for a Good Design Grand Award winner, and other matters.
Ideologies are systems of beliefs that determine how people should behave or lead their lives. The ideology of capitalism - an emphasis on economic growth (assuming no stability without growth), intertwined with an insatiable desire for more - has penetrated our lives. Emblematic of this situation are convenience stores, which serve their mission of providing greater convenience. In such a landscape, it is harder to discern what democracy looks like.
Yet as mentioned, capitalism is not antithetical to democracy. A well-maintained, process-oriented stance can change the probable stagnation or failure from a simplistic, results-oriented and growth-obsessed stance into sustainable growth.
To do so, we must appreciate the time and effort invested in a process. We must find it aesthetically appealing. This attitude is not aligned with utilitarianism, which is focused only on whether something is economical. Nor does this labor-intensive approach involve asking ourselves what is right or morally correct. It is concerned not with correctness but with beauty. The time and effort invested is a matter of aesthetics.
With this realization, the designer's realm comes into view. What designers can present as everyday aesthetics represent various attitudes: coexistence of diverse, independent individuals; open-mindedness; open, constructive discussion; transparency of process; equal opportunity; and tolerance and respect. In other words, today's designers are responsible for tracing out democratic ideals beautifully in the fabric of everyday life.
From this perspective, substantially more entries in this year's program deserve recognition. Hoshinotani Danchi highlighting the beauty of resident-centered neighborhood building. A beautifully compiled Igokochi Book distilled from 100,000 ideas submitted by 1,222 households. An art-infused, designer-guided Good Job! Project for disabled job seekers. Super Welfare Expo presented in a favorable, beautiful light. Tsutaeru Kotsu, an open program supporting more beautiful, efficient communication by NPO, and the Revival of CHUSEN Dyeing in Utsunomiya, a museum-led initiative to bring back traditional dyeing in a community. Each represents a careful investment of time and effort in processes of co-creation.
Rather than being labor-saving devices, some intriguing entries stood out for how they invite users to enjoy spending a bit of time and effort on them. In the PS-HX500 turntable/recorder, MaBeee enabling creative wireless control, and tent-Mark DESIGNS MAKIKON rocket stove, design enhances the beauty of processes in the user experience.
In view of all this, is co-creation truly desirable? Surely we need designers and artists who show us what is compelling about new lifestyles or ideologies that appeal to us personally on a deeper level than the democratic or capitalistic apparatuses that we have internalized. As for students, they are open to these challenges, so my own preoccupations as a design educator are far from settled.
In my field of cybernetics, within information studies, we consider evaluation and design of feedback loops among system elements. Applying this perspective to the products and services in society leads us to consider the aspect of how much positive feedback they provide in response to user behavior. Thus, to discuss the focal issue of technology and information, I will evaluate not only the design and technology behind products and services but also these cybernetic loops established by products.
What sort of positive feedback can be provided? The value of a system that merely presents information resides solely in the information it presents to users. However, if a broader perspective is taken in design, the system might hint at the latent value of that information, help users derive something meaningful from it, or suggest how it is related to other information. In other words, it is important to consider how system design responds to the question of whether the system's existence effects change that is qualitative, not quantitative, and whether it expands the user's perception or understanding. Moreover, as observers note that we may be transitioning from the Information Age to an Experience Age, people expect more of IT. The essence of IT is viewed as not being limited to isolated user experiences. Instead, we consider how much IT creates ripples of excitement in the lives of people around the user and affects their behavior.
In this sense, the winning entry this year that impressed me the most was COGY wheelchair. COGY imparts confidence and vitality by amplifying the limited leg power of disabled users to turn the wheels, making them feel as if they were pedaling freely. Wheelchairs are usually expected to provide unimpeded mobility, but instead, COGY provides meaningful feedback to users and those close to them, showing how the user has moved, physically, in ways they thought impossible. In this way, the product directly embodies this ideal of positive feedback. Although the arrangement does not resemble using a computer, it demonstrates how technology can stimulate users physically and mentally. In this, the design sets a fine example for products of all kinds.
Another product brimming with similar value is Ontenna. Worn like a hairpin, this device conveys ambient sound in the form of vibration and light to hearing-impaired users. The thinking behind this product turns the tables on an unfair but common bias that those with disabilities trail healthy people in perception and cognition. This thinking - combined with years of R&D with target users, a compelling developer description likening Ontenna to sensitive cat whiskers, and encouraging results such as users sensing seasonal sounds for the first time - even makes one optimistic that new fields of communication may arise for information still beyond the reach and expression of those without disabilities.
Also on this topic, one award-winning the Barrierfree Variety Show is produced by and for people with disabilities. We might fear that a show mainly featuring disabled cast members and guests runs a risk of being misconstrued, due to viewer ignorance about disabilities. Fortunately, the strikingly sophisticated, substantial, and diverse perspectives presented in talks among participants with various physical conditions soon dispels this fear. We get the impression that the worlds of the so-called disabled individuals introduced on the show are actually broader and deeper than the world of healthy people (my own included), so stiffened by prejudices and notions of common sense. In this golden age of online media, the program serves as an excellent source of information on TV that shows new potential for mass media, not to mention an expanded vision of the potential of human beings themselves.
Disabilities of all kinds exist, and we should not generalize, but surely I am not the only one who senses that in the future, instead of viewing disabled individuals as people who are less capable, we will see them as advanced individuals dealing with impairments through the assistance of advances in IT. It seems inevitable that, as some have already discussed in the context of sporting events, disabled individuals will be the first to venture into the realm of cybernetic existence as cyborgs, or cybernetic organisms. As the reality of physical and mental issues faced routinely by many with disabilities becomes more openly revealed, as shared knowledge in society, it will be easier to dismantle the binary division between healthy and disabled. Such openness shows the possibility of a middle ground in a dichotomy that has remained unequal, encouraging us to redefine the social image of reality and join a social movement not yet seen.
Another award-winning product - a male fertility test kit called Seem - gives men a chance to participate more proactively in considering the issue of infertility treatment, which currently causes much more physical and psychological stress for women. In this way, it promises to alleviate an inequality faced by women. By altering men's awareness of fertility issues, the very existence of this product may make waves in society that restore balance to common perceptions of men's and women's roles.
In investment, Hifumi Fund offers a form of long-term investment that reduces trust fees the longer money is invested. The first service of its kind in Japan, it has earned acclaim for a solid record. The movement to promote this kind of long-term investment seems to respond to current needs, perhaps as seen in the interest in the U.S. in public-benefit corporations - a designation between corporations and NPOs - and discussion of stock markets with incentives for this kind of investment. The main financial paradigm at present, in which many seek short-term profit, is under strain as traders take a meta-view of the value of listed companies' products and stock markets rely on systems such as high-frequency trading that are so complex that even algorithm engineers cannot trace the cause-and-effect relationships. However, in conjunction with smaller investment systems such as crowdfunding, if growth of this long-term investment scheme can lead to a return to investing by applying our own judgment, based on trust and support, it may enable more stable innovation in society.
In information distributed by Japanese government offices, inadequate graphic design has led to a common expectation that key information may not be understood well. Defying this expectation, TOKYO BOUSAI publications prove that important emergency information can be conveyed effectively and hold people's interest through expert graphic design and editing. We can also appreciate the city's open stance in distributing the booklets to Tokyo residents at no cost and publishing versions online that are freely accessible. Although the information is also available in several languages, there have been problems with online access, and because the manuals are in the proprietary PDF format, there is some room for improvement from an open-format perspective. We look forward to even better publications in the future.
A successful example of positive feedback in neighborhood clean-up are the Trash bags at Halloween, which put a festive face - specifically, a jack-o'-lantern - on the otherwise unpleasant task of trash collection. Even seeing places where several of the bags have been collected is a positive experience, like seeing what was produced by some enjoyable event, instead of seeing a pile of trash bags. It also enlivens trash collecting for those who clean the streets, which makes us guess that more people participated. An outstanding instance of design that benefits neighborhood organizations.
Although it was disappointing that few entries this year represented pure IT (a field I find fascinating), I believe a time will soon come when we will be evaluating entries such as algorithms that are still like mysterious black boxes to society - entries including computer logic that may have a profound impact on the heart of the information society.