Outline of Good Design Award winners

2017 | Unit Review

The screening of the Good Design Award 2017 was implemented by the "Screening Units", the groups by design category. Here are the review texts by the Units including the trends, features or goals to aim of the category.

Keita Suzuki

Product Designer

A1-01 Personal accessories / A1-02 Stationery / A1-07 Educational materials and tools

My first impression after the screening process of this unit was that there are many designs by small organizations. It has now become feasible to plan and manufacture certain products with just a few people (sometime even one person!).

Furthermore, I noticed that, as a result of the developers pursuing what they really want, the society has started to pay attention to the niche markets that that have long been neglected or unnoticed due to the lack of potential. What is driving this trend? Unfortunately, I do not have a good reasoning.

However, one thing I can say for sure is that the communication between the person who has an idea and another who develops the product has become more direct and facilitated. For example, someone may think "I want to make a product like this." He or she then does some research on the Internet how to make it possible and finds a factory that might be able to produce it. The details still need to be worked out but he or she visits the factory anyway to consult with the experts. They all become excited after the talk and, one thing leads to another, they end up with a product. Perhaps such scenario is not anything special anymore. The actions by small organizations and motivated individuals are the strong driving force behind the production and craftsmanship.

It is often said that, in small organizations, the process leading up to decision-making is very short. They get to production right away and quickly make minor changes as needed. They are both the developers and persons in charge, so they can redo things without being held back by others. They wouldn't even consider making anything that they would end up not feeling the need for. Because they only make what they truly want, the product wins the heart of the public. Above all things, that is the strength of small organizations. Anybody who wants to make some product can do what he/she wants to do. The products that gain the support of the people end up in the society. That's the overall impression that I got through this screening process.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Mikiya Kobayashi

Designer / Creative Director

A1-08 Sanitary/Beauty/Health goods and medical equipment for home, A1-11 Sporting, outdoor/leisure, hobbies and gardening goods

As Unit 02 is a category mostly consisting of hobby and healthcare products, the use is mainly limited to specific scenes and applications. The entries included a wide range of products, such as outdoor items, musical instruments and daily necessities like nail clippers, all of which were filled with the designers' and manufacturers' strong passion for problem solving. The judging criteria that we, judges for Unit 02, came up with were based on whether the product is suitable (without a feeling of strangeness) for the place, time and person it was specifically designed for. In other words, even if brand-new technology was put to use and the product looked appealing, it could generate a feeling of strangeness in the user's life if those conditions were not met. Products always have a space and place time they are being used and involve interaction with people. Therefore, we gave high praise to products that have meticulously incorporated such surrounding factors into their design.

One trend seen among the entries for this unit is taking existing products and adding multiple layers of improvements to them. We could see that even some products that appeared as if there was nothing special have been carefully designed so they fit right into the environment. These products received a high rating as they met our judging criteria mentioned earlier.

On the other hand, we also saw a few products that were rather over-designed, most likely for the purpose of making them eye-catching compared to competitive products in the store. We judges are designers ourselves, so we understand that the talk about adding some kind of distinct feature naturally comes up during the development stage with the client. Nevertheless, carefully designed products, however modest they may appear, do stand out in the screening stage in terms of their excellence. There are some that didn't make it through the screening because of the added embellishments, and I believe the dividing line between those that received awards and those that didn't is whether the products carried through their core beliefs to the end. Although it is easy to rely heavily on overdone design to stand out in the store, I think it is important for developers to create something that they themselves truly want while remaining consistent with their beliefs in good design, even if it is not easy.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Teruhiro Yanagihara


A1-09 Household goods and daily necessities

As the category for household goods and daily necessities, Unit 03 includes a variety of items ranging from dairy necessities for newborn babies to headstones and Buddhist altars you need when family members pass away. In addition, it is noteworthy that this category is also comprised of many tools that make our daily lives more convenient, such as housewares designed to lessen the burden of house chores and easy-to-use products for the physically challenged.

Housewares that make our lives easier have been continuously improved based on the consumers' opinion, and therefore many products are easy to use and highly functional. However, the market in Japan tends to be rather too focused on the functions. Just like their Japanese counterparts, Western products have also gone through many improvements by listening to what the consumers want to say. Many products are very practical at the same time sporting a beautiful appearance. On the other hand, while many Japanese housewares excel in function, quite a few of them are nothing more than handy gadgets. This discrepancy happens largely due to the different ways of thinking: Western companies recognize the importance of design and possess a strong brand image; Japanese companies have specialized in manufacturing based on craftsmanship.

Last year, there were many value-added products among the entries, such as items supplemented with various life-enhancing features or traditional crafts equipped with new technology. This year, we saw more products that have dropped excess features while pursuing function. Furthermore, this year marked a new beginning in the sense that we have noticed many companies focusing on their branding efforts to effectively reach consumers. Instead of making big investments or drastic improvements, the companies have shifted their perspective to modernize the products and bring new life to them. Through this screening process, I strongly felt that this approach is very effective for small, local manufacturers to survive.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Sosuke Nakabo

Product Designer

A1-06 Kitchen utensils / A1-10 Electrical appliances for daily life

The recent trend in the Good Design Award is that there are more products with systematic designs and strong social themes. Unit 04 is the category for typical industrial products including white-colored electronics and household items. We judged the products based on the basic judging criteria for product designs while putting the recent trend into perspective.

In addition to household electronic appliances that certainly continue to evolve with technology, this category also includes products such as glass and ceramic ware that are difficult to further improve upon because the technology has already matured and the design itself is considered classic. Being the judge for the screening was a wonderful opportunity to think once again about how to evaluate and share the beautiful items that have great potential to change our lives even if the upgrade is not very drastic. The appeals and usefulness of products cannot be measured just through simple evaluation standards.

The products that were selected through this screening, such as the shot glass / 5 oz. glass from Hario (17G040224), Croterrace from Matsunaga Kiln of Obori Soma Ware (17G040214) and FINO from Toyo-Sasaki Glass Co., Ltd. (17G040207), which was selected as one of the best 100 products, appeared not so different from what we had seen before in the market. However, they all had successfully developed unspectacular but a new identity by adapting to the times and lifestyle trends. On the other hand, the ones that didn't win any awards fell short of something in terms of presenting good design despite having a functional appearance, having contributed to the local communities or having adopted a universal design. When I looked at them, I couldn't quite feel that they were beautiful.

As it is with human beings and nature, one of the ways beauty is seen is in how something presents itself. The selected products definitely had this quality together with a beautiful appearance.

Looking at the big picture, it is the identity of the Good Design Award to put emphasis on the structure and background of the products. Such factors are quite important in the judging process. However, it is equally important, if not more, to look at the product and see whether the design is beautiful or not. Unit 04 had quite a few iconic designs and judging the entries made me contemplate about design as well as the essence of the award.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Hisato Ogata

Design Engineer

A1-12 Sound and video equipment / A1-13 Electrical communication appliances and communication equipment for public / B1-12 Broadcast and sound equipment for commercial use / B1-13 Communication equipment for commercial use

A variety of products and services gather at once at the Good Design Award. The general guidelines for the award judges are specified in the "Tutorial Book for Judges" (which is available for viewing through this website and I highly recommend applicants to read through it). The book provides the perspectives and the basic philosophy involved in the judging process. One of the items mentioned is "screening weights." This roughly categorizes the entries into two groups: improved designs based on sufficient track record and completely new designs. The appropriateness of the design is stressed for the former, while the future potential is emphasized when judging the latter. There were a lot of discussions regarding this topic during the judging stage so I would like to take this opportunity to review it once again.

These two judging criteria were designed to fairly evaluate both the typical progress made by products with a track record and the innovation driven by products in new genres. This is not to encourage the improved designs to aim for normal progress and abandon new challenges as long as they maintain the support of the existing target users. Technology has eliminated barriers between different fields and globalization has accelerated. Under these circumstances, the likelihood of existing clients being taken away not just by competitors but also surprisingly by innovative companies from a different field is expected to rise increasingly. Therefore, it is important to listen to the clients to strive for steady growth while maintaining an innovative mindset to create new values.

Another trend seen in recent years is that, while there are big companies trying out crowdfunding for product development, there are more and more entries that are breaking new ground by taking advantage of novel ideas and state-of-the-art technology. Such completely new designs must display future potential through presentation and prototypes, but at the same time should not neglect the details in usability and the degree of perfection as product design required for improved designs. Especially in the field of information equipment, it will be increasingly important for developers to consider not just the appearance of product design, but also the design of the whole user experience (UX). This includes the comfortable responsiveness of user interface (UI), accuracy of voice interaction recognition and cleverness and natural movement of the AI.

There were times when we faced difficulty during the judging process based on the two criteria mentioned earlier. We debated whether the line of products from a genre that hasn't made much progress in recent years could be evaluated as is; we struggled to evaluate products with an entirely new concept, which we found interesting, but their prototype was still rough around the edges; and we couldn't adequately evaluate some products as the mock-ups were not complete enough to get the full experience.

It is of course not easy to accomplish both innovativeness and perfection in this day and age when our lifestyles and values have become so diverse and the speed of technological advances will continue to accelerate. I do have high hopes for the introduction of many products and services that fulfill both qualities at the highest level in the near future.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Koichi Suzuno


A1-17 Furniture for daily life and lighting appliances for home / A1-18 Fixtures for housing

Once again there were many entries this year for Unit 06, the category for furniture and housing fixtures. Four entries were selected for the 2017 Good Design Best 100. I would like to discuss the features of these four products that were highly praised even by judges from other units.

Daikin's "Cocotas" (17G060516) is a cassette-type air conditioning unit perfectly sized for small spaces in Japanese houses such as the reading room, tea room, kitchen, bathroom and children's room. Rinnai's gas built-in cooker "RHD312GM RHD322GM" (17G060565) perfectly brings together the best of both gas and induction cooktops and the grates are sturdy and steady while offering the advantage of being easy to clean. Wall power outlet "UCW Series" by Terada Electric Works Co., Ltd. (17G060601) has successfully eliminated the noise of outlets indispensable for space by making them disappear into the wall with just one push when not in use. Finally, LIXIL's Carport SC (17G060609) was highly praised for its high degree of perfection. It not only achieves an ultra-simple construction in which two poles hold up a roof made from thin extruded aluminum, but also successfully passes the design and structural challenges.

These four designs all share one trait: They make you wonder why they hadn't existed before! They all generate the hope that such designs would be the new standard.

Although they may appear rather ordinary, the products were made possible only because the producers and designers returned to the starting point, focusing on the installed space, streamlining the functions, and striving to perfect the details with sincerity.

The fact that these products for daily use that went through such extensive process of development were selected as the Best 100 among many candidates from not only Unit 06 but also all units brings hope for the future.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Eiji Hato

Urban Research Engineer

A1-14 Transportation equipment and facilities / B1-14 Transportation equipment and facilities for commercial use

"Smart Parking Peasy" (17G070714) enables the sharing of networks of parking spots through autonomic sensors and "Amazon Dash Buttons" (17G070712) offer services to connect consumers' needs for household products to direct delivery with a push of a button. Such IoT (Internet of Things) technology will result in changes in the urban way of life. In addition to a lightweight body of 300 kg, "Hino Profia" (17G070700) sports a striking front design and boasts its high-quality passenger cabin and safety technology, and "Citroen C3" (17G070643) proposes a stylishly designed model that features built-in airbumps on the sides. "Tesla Model X" (17G070644) proposes an Internet native mobility design equipped with a high-performance computing machine. Panasonic's "Wide Display Mirrorless Monitor System" (17G070650) not only will replace the rear-view and side-view mirrors, but also offer the possibility of drastically changing the way we drive cars. West Japan Railway Company's "Twilight Express Mizukaze" (17G070630) stood out for providing a nostalgic train ride with open deck and shaping internal deck. We could see signs of enthusiasm for solving social issues through the pursuit of bold ideas and sound yet elaborate details for mobility design. Depicting a one-of-a-kind worldview through a carefully selected high-class resin material and an upgraded exhaust system and seating, YAMAHA's "TMAX530" (17G070671) achieves excellence in design, establishing a new category for European sports commuter. Toyota's "C-HR" (17G070639) has streamlined the body like a cut diamond with the design of the top like a coupe. Together with the top-notch safety features, the vehicle's design was evaluated as at the highest level. The development of "TRAIN SUITE SHIKI-SHIMA" (17G070629) started in 2011, following the large earthquake that hit the Tohoku region. There are small windows positioned low so that the passengers can enjoy the beautiful view of the river in the Tohoku region. The walls of the spacious suites are adorned with Nambu Ironware. Local train operators take turns to proudly operate the train. These great details are supported by the strong high-tech engine equipped for running on non-electrified sections. We rated the flagship design high for its strong initiative to help the Tohoku culture recover from the disaster.

Designers that take part in mobility projects must materialize perpetual values and give shape to transformations while being under the pressure of ensuring safety and the constraints of environment. This was definitely a year that high-quality design intermingled with innovative proposals.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Manabu Tago

Art Director / Designer

B1-01 Accessories for commercial use / B1-02 Office supplies and tools / B1-03 Agricultural tools and equipment / B1-04Equipment and facilities for production and manufacturing / B1-05 Materials, parts, production/ development/ manufacturing technology, and manufacturing methods / B1-07 Equipment and facilities for research, development, and experiments / B1-08 Medical equipment and facilities

Unit 08 is a category for medical and industrial equipment that demands accuracy and safety. What the products of this category all share in common is that, while no glamorous decorations are required, they must be sound and have integrity. The products in this category are only deemed valuable for their trustworthiness as a result of years of accumulated know-how and steady progress. This is in fact the essence of design and is what is truly required.

This year, two extremes stood out: context that successfully permeated the market while adhering to the existing trend and context that made significant progress while turning upside down the conventional concepts. While the former products maintain the trust and strive to polish up on their beauty, the latter products have realized an unconventional, innovative design that might only be seen once in a century.

Due to IoT and the wearable trend, the sensors and batteries are becoming drastically smaller in the past several years. Combined with such background, thoughts and research results that were warmed up over the years have led to the timely release of ultra-small medical devices, which are products that epitomize this year's lineup.

What can be said about the design for this category in general is that it exists in an era when the designers must have a broader perspective and flexible mindset to ascertain the product's feasibility in the social system, instead of improving the functionality by merely changing the parts. For example, many products realize the characteristic features through technological innovation thereby reducing the costs and showing consideration for the environment. We stand at a crossroad where the interpretation must be renewed. We are at a phase in which design involves figuring out how to make use of individualism within the social structure instead of asserting the individual character.

This category may look plain and low-key on first glance but it is worth noting that there were many entries from young venture capital businesses. This demonstrates that it is a domain that has a high level of contribution to the changing social infrastructure and has a potential for further progress and growth. Therefore, it is without a doubt extremely interesting field that will help reconstruct design from a fresh perspective.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Hisae Igarashi

Interior Designer

A1-15 Furniture for shop and sales / B1-06 Kitchen equipment for commercial use / B1-15 Shop furniture for commercial use and equipment for business transactions / B1-16 Public equipment and facilities for commercial use / B1-17 Office furniture and lighting equipment for commercial use / B1-18 Fixture for business space

This unit includes a diverse range of products that are used in commercial and public facilities, including stationery, furniture, equipment, installations and building materials. This year, we saw many products that offer a set of values in line with the times and have made efforts for problem solving.

As for stationery used in study and work situations, we highly rated products that offered new perspectives or new values of paper in midst of the current trend emphasizing PCs and other digital devices. The design and functions were factored in to judge and evaluate conventional products in continuously high demand. Due to the ongoing reformation in the way people work and study, chairs, tables and other pieces of furniture that come in contact with the body were offered in an array of choicessome with versatility and some with a focus on the scenario in which the piece would be usedfor the sake of users. All of them were of high quality, even those in the mid-price range. As for partitions that section off space, they also came in a wide selection such as those that are movable, do not require carpentry and are mounted inside existing partitions to reduce the risk of damage or injury during disasters.

In light of staffing shortages and reducing labor costs, we saw many self-checkout machines among the entries. However, it was unfortunate to see most falling short in terms of appearance and usability. Sports and healthcare products also required distinguished design appropriate for the situation. We emphasized functional durability and ease of maintenance when evaluating products, furniture and building materials for public facilities. Interior materials have made an upgrade by focusing on the elaborateness of design as well as maintenance, raising the expectations for expanding the range of use and utilization in the near future.

While offering information protection and energy cost reduction through state-of-the-art technology, the paper recycler that is compact enough to be placed inside an office kept in mind how it would look in a space where people come and go. We highly praised the stance for creating the next standard that would blend in with the environment and people using it.

In the civil engineering field, there were many products that added an upgrade to existing models to offer creative solutions that everyone involved would easily appreciate. These included conventional blocks that have integrated a weed control function to help reduce weed management costs and a manhole cover that makes use of the raised surface.

The utilization of domestic timber in commercial and public facilities has made it possible to lay out the environmental issues on hand, to people in the city and countryside alike, by utilizing domestic resources and contributing to reducing CO2 emissions. Furthermore, using wooden materials realize a comfortable space while raising the awareness for environmental issues among the business offering the space and people using the space. There are also sophisticated window frames that use wood only for the inner sides.

The design of items used in the society must always involve consideration for others and harmony with the environment while ensuring safety. The products nowadays manifest the stance for social contribution.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Yui Tezuka


A2-02-01 prefabricated housing, A2-02-02 personal residence/ interior, A2-02-03 apartment house ,A2-02-04 other housing and living space, A2-05 Construction methods for housing

Single-family houses and housing complexes, which were lumped together in the same unit of dwelling spaces, are considered two separate units starting this year. I was involved in the screening of houses and small housing complexes. The entries consisted of those from companies with various backgrounds: houses by housing manufacturers, houses designed by building contractors, housing designed by architects, houses planned by housing developers as well as parts for building houses. It is not an easy task to evaluate products with different background stories. I based my evaluation on whether the product design in each field has placed itself ahead of the pack in terms of making the society and people's lives better.

There were four that made it on the Best 100: two rental houses, "Dragon Court Village" (17G100952) and "KUGENUMA TORICOT" (17G100978), and two huts, "Muji Hut" (17G100950) and "Trailer Home ‘Jyubako'" (17G100951). Both of the rental houses not only function as a residence, but also offer a community-based living, and that factor was highly rated. Especially with "Dragon Court Village," the concept starts from reexamining the way the parking lot in a suburban rental property should be. The ground floor offers areas that are very inviting for the residents to gather. A small market is held on the weekend to utilize the shared space, so it seems like the project is deemed a success. It is wonderful that the building offers a place for local people to meet, interact and develop a relationship. We gave it a high rating for taking a step forward from the conventional approach to housing complexes.

"Muji Hut" offers a minimal space mostly for sleeping. Placed in a rich, natural setting, it could function as something between a vacation home and a tent. "Trailer Home ‘Jyubako'" is designed with the option of transporting it. Both were applauded for proposing a new kind of value to the world for providing an easier way to have a second home. Yamane Holdings' "Chiisanaie" (17G100977) is a hut-like house with minimal space that can be used like a regular residence. I felt that the fact that these minimalistic houses won the award reflects the current trend.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Satoko Shinohara


A2-02-01 prefabricated housing, A2-02-02 personal residence/ interior, A2-02-03 apartment house ,A2-02-04 other housing and living space, A2-05 Construction methods for housing

Among different types of housing, Unit 11 primarily deals with large housing complexes and single-family houses that involve area development. From the point of their characteristics, the fact that they tend to have a strong influence on the surrounding environment and such influence has a lasting effect must be considered upon evaluation, in addition to their individual design and performance. Looking back on those that were selected, there were many that had presented sensitivity for the living environment with a time-oriented stance instilled in the architectural design. In other words, the winners all excelled in satisfying both the tangible aspect of the architectural design and the intangible aspect of program and efforts.

In general, the entries for Unit 11 this year can be roughly categorized into three groups: those that focused on the façade and external design, those that integrated the intangible aspect of town development and those that challenged the variability of room arrangement and broadened the possibilities for remodeling. It is worthy to note that the proposals for flexible room arrangements within large housing complexes are on the rise due to the diversification in the residential units and people's lifestyles. However, the reality is that majority of dwelling units are based on preexisting housing plans. Since single residents are on the rise, especially in the elderly population, there is definitely a need for proposals that are in line with programs. I believe that housing complexes have the potential to offer solutions to such demand. I hope that new designs will be produced based on creative ideas that defy the boundaries of building types such as elderly facilities, general apartments and single-family houses.

Furthermore, for many of the entries, the environmental consciousness has extended beyond a technological approach to factor in different lifestyles, working with communities and eco-housing. Proving that eco-housing is now produced in a broader sense, the efforts can be highly evaluated, and it is a genre that will help promote the design of the matured Japanese society.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Taro Igarashi

Architectural Critic

A2-01 Interior design for shop and public space / A2-03 Architecture and facilities for public / A2-04 Block and community development / B2-01 Space and interior for business use / B2-03 Architecture and facilities for commercial use / B2-04 Civil engineering structures / B2-05 Construction methods for industry and public

Unit 12 deals with a wide range of fields, including interior design, architecture and civil engineering. Since dams and bridges are also part of this category, it probably has some of the largest-sized works among the Good Design Award entries. There are not many submissions for interior design and civil engineering (although this may change in the future) and the majority of Unit 12 is comprised of architectures. Recently, there have been interesting attempts made in terms of applications and the intangible aspect but the evaluation of these factors may be the scope of other units. Therefore, we primarily focused on looking at whether the tangible design of the architecture stands out. We believed that merely having a good ambience in some vague way does not deserve the Good Design Award title and, for that reason, highly evaluated entries that have maintained an edgy quality while well integrating it into the overall design.

I'd like to touch upon some of the Best 100 recipients and their distinctiveness. As for the "Art Museum & Library, Ota" (17G121062) and "Good Job! Center KASHIBA" (17G121090), instead of brushing up on the existing methodology, they offer an innovative design with the display of an unprecedented type of space. "Misumi Canopy" (17G121048) has achieved a high level of perfection as a product and was highly praised for its beautiful form made possible by its structure and material and the way it blends into the surrounding environment. "Fukuyama City Hondori/Funamachi Street Arcade Renovation Project" (17G121055), "Tenri Station Plaza CoFuFun" (17G121053), "OM TERRACE" (17G121054) and "Town Plaza for Interaction Stage Engawa" (17G121068) all undertake the issues currently shared by suburban cities. CoFuFun creates an inviting space for activities and successfully changes the image of the city through its strikingly simple design. Headed by a local architect, the arcade renovation project was made possible by heavily involving the local community. These two cases will definitely be useful in solving similar issues in other places. Instead of isolating itself, "also Soup Stock Tokyo" (17G121111) has amplified the efforts to serve the community through design. "Rikuzen Takata-shi Takata-Higashi Junior High School" (17G121079) and "Yamamoto-cho Yamashita-Daini Elementary School" (17G121081) are both significant pieces because, following the Great East Japan Earthquake, they dealt with disaster recovery and community revitalization through the power of design instead of taking the conventional approach of building makeshift housing. As for materials, both "Komatsu Seiren Fabric Laboratory" (17G121132) and "DAIKO Electric Co., Ltd. Technical Research Institute" (17G121129) utilize their own products and incorporate new architectural elements in a very appealing way.

Although they may appear to offer solutions to specific situations, it can be said that the award winners were highly rated for their versatility in which they could be applied in different scenarios and for their space design that has the great potential for improving the future.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Seiichi Saito

Creative/Technical Director

A3-01 Publicity, advertisement and media contents / A3-02 Food products and packaging / B3-01 Media and contents for commercial use, branding, and CI / B3-02 Packaging for commercial use

What is the mirror that reflects the times now? As a person that has been involved in the screening of the Good Design Award for the last three years, and as someone that is part of the manufacturing industry, I feel honored to see the reflection of the times. I carefully looked at each entry with other judges while feeling the weight of responsibility for selecting the award recipients. We examined each entry of this year while having various discussions on whether products should be the subject of mass consumption, whether traditions should be conserved, and others. I think this year was driven by a strong trend where the products are used with a sense of affection as tools. Especially our unit saw many entries that were well-balanced: packaging featured environmentally friendly, timely design that does not fade over time, and contents presented factors that haven't been revealed to the public before, such as the place where it was launched and the backstory leading up to the development, in addition to the contents themselves. Nowadays, it is easy to notice products that are loaded with technology. However, we also saw a number of projects that were packed with concepts, philosophy and passion for the product.

There was a couple of entries that has left a great impression on me. One of them was "INDUSTRIAL JP" (17G131197), a well-made video that shows small-town factories in an unconventional tone. The contents are delivered from a fresh angle to promote the Japanese manufacturing industry that tends to be dominated by small- to medium-sized enterprises. Another entry is "SUNCHI -Exploring Japan through Regional Crafts-" (17G131191). Produced by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, it attempts to keep the fire of craftsmanship going by selling (eventually via the website it operates) the products found by dropping in on each artisan. The idea itself may seem like there is nothing new, but it sheds light on the current reality where people tend to have a narrow outlook.

Both contents and packaging are tools. Where do they come from and which direction will they take us? I thought that we are in an era where we need to rethink the way the objects should be in the truest sense, not just in terms of their distinctive design and technology.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Makoto Okamoto

Interaction Design Resercher

A4-01 Software, services, and systems/interfaces / A4-02 Social platforms

Unit 14 is a category for software, systems and services for general and public use. It is a new type of design field that can be referred to as "design of concepts." This year, seven entries were selected from this category for the Best 100, showing that it is a field that is increasingly gaining attention and the design quality is continuously improving.

However, the entries were of various backgrounds, many of which were from a new field of service making the screening more challenging. After much discussion, we decided on the evaluation criteria to include the deep insight involving the modern society, emphasis on people's lives, social significance, potential for unlocking the future and elaborateness.

"Nikkei Visual Data" (17G141208) is a cutting-edge service that applies visualization technology in the field of data journalism that understands large data sets. "Mieru-Denwa" (17G141217) and "User Interface for Voice-Activated Drawing" (17G141219) offer services to eliminate any communication obstacles due to auditory difficulties or language barriers, and it can be said that they are achievements in universal design and inclusive design. "Primo Toys Cubetto Playset " (17G141242) and "New Song Creation Method with VOCALOID for Education" (17G141241) are systems that develop the foundation for programming skills or support music education, and the design was developed based on the deep insight into the educational settings. "Saga Design" (17G141251) is a new system established within the prefectural government that integrates a designer's perspective in policy planning. It provides an innovative tool to the administrative organization and has great potential. Successfully offering both the news focusing on digital contents and the printed version of the newspaper, "The NIKKEI Online Edition/The NIKKEI Viewer" (17G141207) was praised for its user-friendliness and maneuverability.

There were many more excellent products among the award recipients and I have high expectations for wonderful entries for this category in the future. Service is difficult to evaluate but we hope to see more and more applications that even people from a different field can understand the user value.

→ The awarded items in this Unit

Naoko Hirota

Design Director

B4-01 Software/Services/Systems for commercial use and interface of commercial-use equipment / B4-02 Social infrastructure systems and infrastructure / B4-03 Business models / B5-01 Research and development methods / B5-02 Awareness improvement and management methods for industry / B5-03 Social contributions for industry

From the 20th century system to specific optimization. The business environment has changed dramatically, and just following the existing mechanism would not bring anticipated results. We live in a time where we can only expect distinctive results by developing an optimized platform that facilitates the natural flow of products, workflow, information and service. In industries where the issues at hand are evident, new attempts at resolving them from the roots are carried out one after another.

Entries for Unit 15 have drastically increased from last year. This is probably because the project base has expanded to welcome more participants. The fields that have shown remarkable proposals this year were agriculture and health care. Both are industries for which a major reform is anticipated, yet it has been difficult to take a design-oriented approach. The projects that ranked at the top among the award recipients for Unit 15 have materialized into businesses through brilliant ideas that came about by looking for the solutions for the essential problems in each industry.

The process for designing systems starts by carefully examining the essence of the problem that needs to be solved, with the objective of providing values for the people and the society. Then a constructive idea is laid out to supplement the weakness of the multiple elements of the problem that was extracted. In other words, you need a strategic idea that forms the core in order to connect the elements of the problem and build a win-win relationship. Furthermore, you need a detailed plan for the continuous cycle of implementation and communication in order to smoothly maintain the win-win relationship. If you could also satisfy the minds of the people involved, the system for problem-solving is set up and a creative design is supplied.

One of the keys to this process is the use of appropriate technology. Technology acts as the catalyst to transform weakness into strength. Excellent project development is always backed by the clever use of technology. On the other hand, just replacing human resources with technology cannot be considered a design-oriented approach. A design-oriented approach involves creative thinking that utilizes the values arising from ideas. Designing a business brings the vitality for changing the society and the lives of individuals. I hope that the expectations for this category of design will continue to increase in the future.

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Soichi Ueda

Creative Director

A5-01 Education/Promotion/Support methods / A5-02 Awareness improvement for individuals and public / A5-03 Regional/Community development and social contribution activities

Unit 16 primarily targets what is called "social design," which supports a creative solution to social problems and environmental issues. Looking back on the entries this year, I noticed that, in addition to the diversification of issues at hand, the approach to deal with them have been increasingly diversified as well. One of the reasons backing this trend is the accelerating diversification and aggravation of social issues local regions and the entire world have. In addition to the chronic issues that local communities face and the global matters that require international cooperation, there are below-the-surface social challenges that have materialized in Japan, including issues that Japan is rather behind, such as those regarding education and gender, as well as matters regarding the relationship between organizations and individuals. As these issues arise, naturally, there are more and more challenges to be tackled with a creative mindset.

Another reason for this trend is the fact that you need to create different designs for different phases of the social issues with which you are dealing to maximize the effectiveness. For this reason, the judging committee divided the social issues into three phases: i) phase that raises people's awareness and changes their consciousness, ii) phase that facilitates concrete plans and actions for solving the problem and iii) phase that establishes the system that supports the continuous state in which the problem is solved. We discussed whether each design fully considers the phase of the problem it is addressing and rated each accordingly. For i), the design is communication oriented and must not only raise social recognition, but also effectively remove any psychological barriers people may have toward the issue. For ii), the design must be created to encourage people's participation, and the action-prompting design, whether tangible or intangible, should possess novelty and newsworthiness. For iii), we applauded projects that excelled in their business model, organizational structure and activity scheme in terms of their performance and future potential. Of course, this is just one of the evaluation criteria, and many projects struck us emotionally with the applicant's vision and story for the society, world and the future, as well as the history leading up to the project, point of origin that motivated the applicant in the first place and his or her stance toward the society. Especially awarding those projects that originated from the individual's passion and spread the movement far and wide by touching people's conscientiousness made us judges reaffirm the significance of the Good Design Award. We congratulate them from the bottom of our hearts.

There are countless "good" projects that aim at improving the society, but these projects do not necessarily deserve to be considered good design. The difference between good design and good projects may boil down to whether the action deeply presumes the ties with other people. This is because if the project's passion and creativity involve building the relationship with others, it would always entail the production of design. Even if a professional designer is not involved, projects that make us feel that they embrace excellent design all have the deep compassion for others. Because project-oriented design does not always have a tangible existence, the judges must have a good imagination. That is what the screening process made me contemplate.

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Ricca Tezuchi

Product Designer

As any year, the majority of entries from South Korea consisted of information-processing equipment and household electrical appliances that go hand in hand with the technological development. Information equipment, especially displays and smart phones, have become even thinner, stronger and more aesthetically pleasing, reflecting the innovative progress in technology. Positioning themselves to offer the best in quality, performance and user experience, these devices have demonstrated unbeatable power in the industry and totally blown us away. As for entries related to automobiles, there were also many entries of tires, just like the previous year. The tires by Korean manufacturers have made steady progress, and the quality and design have been recognized by the world, as proven by the fact that they are being adopted by prestigious automobile makers in Europe for their high-end vehicles. Based on ideas derived from their attentive observation on people and their lives, small- and medium-sized enterprises and venture businesses have achieved refreshingly creative design through the application of existing technology and collaboration with smart phones. The product's compact size reflects the strong passion and the speedy process from conception to product materialization. They will no doubt continue to grow. As for home appliances, we saw many entries for products dealing with air and water quality, possibly due to the increasing level of interest. With many, the functions have been streamlined and design refined, and we were presented with a wide range of products, from high-value added merchandise to affordable versions. Due to the competitive nature of the industry, the products are sensitively and beautifully designed with features that are not seen in any of the products in Japan, from those involving the usability to the details in the interface. As for furniture items, there were wonderful designs that clearly exhibited great features such as a basic product line offering increased functionality and reasonable pricing, transportability and adjustability according to children's growth. We can expect that design that remains sensitive to the changes of the society and faithfully meets the consumers' needs will continue to thrive.

Finally, there were a few projects that dealt with intangible design this year. These unprecedented projects, such as safe town development projects by local government and the community, and development of products recycling textile waste, tell a great story that involves the local government and the community. I hope to see these projects extending into various fields in the future.

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Manabu Chiba


I took part in the screening process for the Taiwan unit for two years in a row. It is hard to summarize the impression in a nutshell, but I can say that every year the entries are filled with new discoveries and many are very memorable.

One of the examples is a company that has launched its own brand after years of operating as an OEM supplier, and continues to introduce extremely high-quality products. Taiwanese companies are especially strong in the personal computer industry, possibly reflecting the conscientious nature of the people. Thin and light features of their computers have already been taken for granted, so they go one step further every year by adding improvements and detailed features according to the little things they noticed through daily use. Such fine-tuning based on the user's point of view is also seen in the field of tableware and home electronics. The evolution in design that goes far beyond mere functionality brings clarity to our lives.

Another factor that is worth mentioning is that there were many new projects that are unprecedented in Japan and a number of works that broaden the field of design. For example, the project of utilizing an empty field as a place for local community is a great social proposal that questions anew the existence of infrastructure and public space in the city. There were also products that made us realize the birth of new media. One example of these is presenting the company philosophy as a storyline using various designing tools. Another example is an advertising for a state-of-the-art video equipment. Presented not just as the specifications, but it runs side by side with the design that shows the reality on site and exhibits a magnificent space that has never been seen before.

Another one that I found valuable is the product that attempts to succeed and revitalize outdated technology through the power of design, demonstrating the process and the joy brought about by the product. It is an exemplary product of Taiwan that cherishes the educational side of design.

The values of these designs are hard to see if we viewed them from a biased perspective that does not go beyond the confines of the Japanese. I even felt as if our framework for evaluation was being questioned.

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Shigenori Asakura

Industrial Designer

The China/Hong Kong Unit evaluated entries from mainland China and Hong Kong, both tangible and intangible objects within all the domains of the G Mark system. Looking at the 400 plus entries through the filter of design, we were able to unveil some of the trends in the Chinese industry.

It is said that the industrial competitiveness is recently driven by the invigorated service industry and the in-house brand development in the manufacturing sector. New businesses such as the shared bicycles and taxi dispatching services backed by the spread of electronic payment are creating a buzz in the service industry. However, we did not find any remarkably outstanding proposals from the service sector this year.

On the other hand, the number of entries from the manufacturing industry is on the rise, demonstrating the industrial momentum by the in-house brand development. As for quality, recent entries from China have generally been evaluated as satisfactory in terms of functionality and pricing, but fall slightly short of being outstanding from a comprehensive point of view of design. Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised with Xiaomi's striking product line, two of which made it on the Best 100, which made us think differently of Chinese products. The company achieves a high level of user-oriented product development by reinforcing the basic functions deemed important by the users and paying meticulous attention to the details in the form and finish of specific models without being caught up by the superficial specs. Xiaomi has been successful in its smart phone business and has continued to grow by expanding its business into home appliances and electric bicycles. They remain consistent in offering quality products across all fields, indicating their high level of consciousness toward good design.

In developed countries, mass production has resulted in a market inundated with products but has also brought grave consequences where consumers cannot find what they truly want. Xiaomi's sincere stance toward development has created a stir in the way products have been developed without user involvement and will surely offer a new standard in manufacturing from now on. The fact that the venture businesses with a strong impact on the world market have grown in a short span of time shows how the Chinese market remains strong.

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