Focused Issues is a Good Design Award initiative for which we turn our attention to the interplay of design and social issues and delve into the potential of good design. Many of these challenges are apparent in Japan, now at the vanguard of facing a variety of social issues, and in this initiative, several provide the context for us to reveal the approaches taken in solution-oriented design and to project what design might one day be capable of.
The first task is a matter of interpreting the hopes and intentions behind the design. From an impartial perspective, we can go beyond the surface and into the issues targeted by the designers, the goals pursued through design, and the specific design approaches employed. In the second task of tracing out possibilities, we extrapolate from inherent and potential elements of the design to elucidate how solutions can be reached. This can be viewed as an exploration beyond the original aim or agenda of those involved in the design, in a sense building on its potential.
Those we have appointed to take on these tasks of interpretation and projection are our focused issue directors. The directors also serve as GDA jury members. They maintain a broad view of their assigned theme, which they apply in their observations. In fiscal 2019 two directors headed each theme to address a shared topic from different viewpoints and, through constant dialogue, offer interpretation and projection from pluralistic perspectives. This arrangement also suggests that design is not the exclusive domain of experts in a certain field but instead requires an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and open approach to appreciate.
Yasuharu Sasaki (Creative director)
Tamae Hirokawa (Creative director and designer)
Hidenori Kondo (Creative producer and curator)
Jun’ya Yamaide (Artist)
Taking an approach of design not bound by preconception is probably an advantage in innovative planning of business vision or strategy. The realm of design will extend to business planning processes. What sets this design apart from typical business solutions is that business success is linked to visual, physical beauty, which becomes a priority.
Producer / SPEAC, inc. & RealTokyoEstate
Manages RealTokyoEstate and Toolbox real estate and interior design websites, and conducts business revitalization planning and production through architecture and real estate, strategic planning for community management, and venue, accommodation, and restaurant project management. Graduate of the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Tokyo. MS.RED, Columbia University. Worked at McKinsey & Company and real estate developers in Japan before appointment as president of Toolbox and director of Semicolon.
What business design seeks are new innovation models, new business platforms. The design in these applications serves to make business more effective, as by creating relationships, encouraging communication, enhancing behavioral motivation, or improving sustainability.
Educational Innovator / Professor
Professor of Design-Led Innovation and involved in direction of the DLX-Design Lab, a unique international innovation lab. Previously head of the Innovation Design Engineering double masters program of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, after teaching at the former university. Served as a founder and the program head of the Global Innovation Design program, an international exchange program. Also headed the London office of innovation consulting firm Takram.
What does it mean to design business?
Hayashi As a jury member in this year's program, I had the opportunity to confront the question of designing business. Is a well-designed business one designed to make money? Or, putting this aside, does it involve creating business that is socially relevant? Or perhaps the question is whether it represents a compelling business model. In thinking through the meaning of business design, among other things I had to consider whether business that was admirable but not necessarily profitable deserved recognition.
Pennington Before evaluation, I believed that new business design was a matter of innovation design. I imagined that it included new approaches, new platforms, or the new methods or systems in the framework of business models. But once the actual screenings began, it was not simply a matter of evaluating new business models, and some entries challenged us to find what had been designed, or whether entries could be described as "design." This was more difficult than evaluating concrete things that can be examined.
Hayashi I think there are a few types of design work, such as business model design, organizational design, and design of concrete things. In each situation, various participants fulfill various roles. As Silicon Valley and other areas see it, innovative businesses need three kinds of members: hustlers, hackers, and hipsters. The first people are entrepreneurs who lead in business strategies, the second are leaders in technology, and the third are creative leaders. If we ventured to say it, those in the Good Design Award (GDA) program who have mainly evaluated the aesthetic appeal of tangible things, presented as entries we can see, might belong to the hipster community.
When the program evaluates business design, however, this community expands to include those involved in design of business models and organizations. This will probably alter the original community, because even if we are all evaluating the same design, we will bring different mental attitudes, sensibilities, and chemistry to the program. Musicians and sculptors are both artists, but they are clearly different types. Similarly, although hipsters and hustlers may share a right-brain orientation toward thinking holistically, they are fundamentally different.
Design thinking and other integrative, creative thinking is a quality sought in a variety of fields, and it should be expanded. On the other hand, I think it is significant that there is a world where design is directed toward high aesthetics, rather than applying it to profit in compelling ways. That is why my stance in evaluation reflected a belief that the program should continue to appreciate this, whether entries are for business or not.
From this perspective, it was Mitosaya Botanical Distillery and Nousaku Office and Factory this year that impressed me. I inevitably gravitate toward architecture, which is my own background, but what unites these two award winners is an integrative synergy where the spatial or environmental design enhances the value of the project as a whole, makes waves in the community, and so on.
Pennington In this year's program, I approached the entries from the perspective of a designer, but it was surprising how many entries out of the total had ties to architecture. It brings to mind the many cases where those behind the design renovated existing buildings, shared something with the community, and contributed to community-building. I myself do not specialize in architecture, but that is exactly why seeing how the buildings did much more than spice up an area was impressive.
Hayashi The two I mentioned are good examples of this. With only minor renovation to the existing structures, Mitosaya architecture does not impinge on the surrounding nature. The story of this place – a former medicinal herb park that now makes fruit brandy, creating a new market in Japan – also stands out. It is beautiful how the project as a whole has taken shape on these grounds, and I found it quite admirable how the site entices us to visit.
Nousaku shows us traditional craftsmanship in the form of new business. It brings people together here, creates relationships, and inspires customer loyalty. I sense beauty not only in this environment but also in the economic sustainability of local industry.
With fewer and fewer local businesses left, these two award winners may not be geared to mass production, but by clearly setting themselves apart, they offer a viable business solution.
Pennington To me, it was quite intriguing that Fujifilm's Drug2Drugs drug discovery support service was submitted for a design award. The project expands the boundaries of what we have recognized as design, because there is no concrete thing to evaluate. As someone who believes it is undoubtedly an example of design-driven innovation, and that people we identify as designers should get involved in these fields, I find it a sign of remarkable progress that the design was entered and even won an award. This is a pioneering entry that provides a new perspective in discussing future design.
Hayashi Along the same lines, I was struck by Negai No Kuruma, with its vision of a better world. But I did question whether this effort represented an outstanding design solution.
Pennington Well, it is certainly interesting as a business model, but it is hard to say that its specific touchpoints in interface or product design are beautifully designed.
I myself have not figured this out yet, but we might say that something perceived as "design" that is built on technical expertise has been growing, in the sense of being something that people express visually and apply creativity to. But I also fear that as this concept expands, the significance of "design" in a purer sense will fade. In my mind, design linked to innovation and design as technical expertise are at odds, and Negai No Kuruma shows me very well how my mind is divided about this.
Since the screenings last year, my thoughts have returned to one award-winning entry: the Midori nonslip aluminum ruler. It amazed me that some people are still trying to design the ruler, a tool that has existed for hundreds of years. And what a beautiful ruler it is. On the other hand, we might also say that introducing new design among the many rulers around us will not affect the vast majority.
Hayashi The ruler certainly has beautiful design and holds the potential to set a standard in the future, but it is hard to say that its impact is great enough to change the world.
Designers tracing out a vision,
Pennington Just to remind the general public, we should at least note that design has an impact on and supports society and the economy.
Hayashi Design encompasses and can accomplish a wide range of things. Designers are in the hipster role and work in fields traditionally associated with design. But because they naturally stray from logic and frameworks, their work should probably take them further into hustler territory. Still, we should also consider the consequences of broader definitions of "design." "Beautiful design" can make business much more valuable, socially relevant, and sustainable. In this case, I think it also makes sense to keep using the word "design" within its traditional range of meaning. Evaluate the achievements of an influential hipster in hustler territory, and you will not always find success. That is because each is different.
Pennington As a designer, I hope the designers invade the territory of hustlers and hackers. But in the first place, design should arise where these three territories overlap, and it should affect surrounding areas.
Despite the inspired vision of designers, it is entrepreneurs or engineers who tend to become CEOs. Designers have rarely assumed this role. The work of outstanding visioners extends into the realm of designers. Designers may one day be in a position to design their vision.
Thirty years ago, no one could have imagined that some designers would design the images on a touchscreen display. In 20 years, those who make scientific inventions or spearhead efforts to adopt them in society may be identified as designers. I find it preferable that currently, the role of designer is not clearly defined, and it excites me to imagine how it will expand in the future.
Hayashi Over time, strategists and CEOs will surely gain a better understanding of the world of design and the work of designers. But a future with separate roles for visioners, supertechnologists, and designers may not be that bad. And people will often invade each other's territory. There are certainly vectors leading to deeper mutual understanding and linkage, and clearly, without this, no value can be created.
to keep and what to update
There is a reason for retaining product elements with emotional resonance, linked to behavior, habits, or interaction. Existing design has been cleaned up under the influence of IT in recent years, but some traditional products have begun to appear that retain such interfaces and affordances. Deciding what to preserve and what to innovate is the job of designers.
Creative director / Dentsu
Served as copywriter and interactive director at Dentsu and ECD at Dentsu America before his current post. Applies a combination of digital knowledge and creative insight both in leading creative work in new areas and in global client relations with overseas group sites. A frequent award winner, jury member, and keynote speaker at international advertising award programs such as Cannes Lions, One Show, and D&AD. Served as Cannes Lions Creative Data jury president in 2019.
things should be made
Long-admired, traditional design comes from the conviction that it should be made, which is driven by curiosity and takes on challenges. Fundamentally, these things move people, and this admiration links producers to users and then other producers, as this cycle continues for generations.
Creative director and designer / Soma Design
Established Soma Design in 2006, when the Somarta brand was launched and shown at Tokyo Collection. Received a New Designer Award and Shiseido Sponsorship Award at the 25th Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix. Has produced the solo exhibition Tamae Hirokawa – Body Genealogy and many collaborative projects, including the Canon Neoreal exhibition, Toyota iQ×Somarta Microcosmos exhibition, and Yamaha Motor Design 02Gen Taurs concept. Made waves with Skin Series signature work from Somarta in 2017, which was added to the MoMA collection. Winner of the 2018 Wired Audi Innovation Award.
Pleasant experiences, from striking
the right balance
Sasaki In digital fields, various technologies such as AI, ICT, and 5G are employed, and there is a strong tendency to reset what has come before and inject novelty to create new products. But in digital and traditional fields alike, there seems to be a need to determine which technologies or techniques to abandon and which to preserve. Merely cramming a smartphone full of features or design elements of all kinds will not result in products with identity or a pivotal core. Even if it entertains us for a moment, it will lack lasting appeal. Instead of providing a series of insubstantial, forgettable experiences, I think it is essential to determine what to retain and preserve and what innovation to add. This also calls for some self-reflection.
Hirokawa To me, design is the power to move things forward. In this year's program, I was eager to see what this belief would reveal from a broad perspective in our focused issue theme of "technique and tradition." Design includes architecture and intangible things, but because I myself mainly focus on product design, I associated tradition with traditional industries. I had the opportunity to consider the nature of tradition more deeply over the course of evaluation, and this led me to realize that everything in front of me now embodies some kind of technical heritage. Traditional industries are hardly the only area where a respect for existing design sets the scene for innovation; this is widely applicable. What people pass down through design is probably not only tradition but technique.
I sensed a breath of fresh air in Arita porcelain and many other entries of products from traditional industries, but to me, Hibi 10-minute incense sticks, which require no separate means of lighting, seemed like a wonderful product and a quantum leap in thinking. Intriguingly, unlike designing new pottery, for example, where one usually starts by exploring elements such as texture or shape, the planners of this product suddenly jumped from matches to incense. How to adapt matchmaking to current lifestyles – this was probably the challenge they faced, now that matches are used less often. By combining the two neighboring traditional industries of Harima matches and Awaji incense in Hyogo Prefecture, they devised a new product. Refined design may emerge under the threat of losing one's heritage unless radical changes are made to save traditional techniques. Passing down this heritage is one of the main challenges faced by traditional industries, which makes it difficult to reframe production processes perfected over many years. This is why developing such an utterly imaginative product is so groundbreaking.
Sasaki I, too, considered Hibi from the standpoint of tradition. In the digital realm, the approach often taken is along the lines of giving users one of 10 aromas of their choice at the press of a button. In contrast, as a hybrid between incense and matches, Hibi has the innovation of retaining a nice balance of analog goodness: enjoying a moment, the act of striking a match, the initial gunpowdery scent, and the pervasive aroma of incense.
Digital and technological advances have paved the way for disruptive changes. Although this appeals to manufacturers, I think it is essential to find a balance between preserving and introducing. One entry that seemed to get the balance right was the Gina smart coffee maker from Goat Story, which pairs classic coffee brewing with smartphone connectivity that enables users to reproduce and share delicious recipes. Again, instead of promising to brew fine coffee of the world at the touch of a button, it offers an excellent balance that keeps the pleasant indulgence of brewing coffee intact while augmenting it with technology.
Another entry that retains the fun of interaction is the Little Can electronic piggy bank, a system that transfers pocket money for children in China, where electronic money dominates. What makes the product especially cute is the sound of jingling change played when children shake it. Designers have incorporated the convenience of electronic money while retaining the analog aspects of interacting with and enjoying piggy banks.
Taking advantage of existing resources,
and moving ahead while honoring
Hirokawa Three long-time favorites show how traditions have been passed down in industrial products: Technics SL-1200MK7 turntables, USM Haller E modular storage furniture, and Yamaha 40th anniversary edition SR400 motorcycles. Each is a popular, well-known product, and we may wonder why they were submitted to the program at this time. In each, design that users have admired for years has been retained while introducing technical innovation. In the turntable, this means that functionality has been updated with new digital technology. The Haller furniture now features internal lighting – skillfully concealed behind exposed surfaces – which meets needs when the frames are used for display. And after a pause in production due to emission regulations, SR400 motorcycles have been revived with functionality to meet the standards. Each shows a wonderful spirit of inquiry, in how a regard for maintaining their definitive appearance for enthusiasts is paired with constant refinement. It takes profound affection and patience for company to keep making something from one era to the next, for more than half a century. Instead of being content with setting a standard in their industry, these companies quite impressively kept up the challenge and took their task seriously.
Sasaki Similarly, NHK Reminiscence Library is a digital content project employing resources that have come to define the times. Along with medical treatment, reminiscing as one views images from the past is one of the therapies used to treat dementia. Other such treatment includes recalling how to use old home appliances or utensils, and talking about these memories. Here, this is done with VR. VR is a relatively new technology, and this immersive experience is combined with archival images of the past, making an intriguing balance of new and old. It is also wonderful how this addresses the pressing issue of curbing dementia.
Hirokawa Tradition in this context is passed down both for the enthusiasts who are users and because the people behind it still appreciate the original design. To endure for decades, products obviously need users, but they also need producers who are committed to ongoing production in an era where the tide is against those who continue to sell the same thing. This sentiment on the part of the producer also seems indispensable to the tradition.
The addition and subtraction sought by
Hirokawa An example of expertly paring something down to the essentials can be found in award-winning Maffs + home fire extinguishers. This product reflects the view that changing the traditional bright red of fire extinguishers to more subdued tones would encourage more people to keep an extinguisher in their home, because it blends in better with contemporary lifestyles. I wonder why no one thought of this before. All that is different is the color, one might say, but it amazed me how much innovation was possible simply by changing the color.
Conversely, Press Master PB7 garbage trucks show an additive approach to design. The trucks I recall seeing as a child used to scare me, working away so noisily as they seemed to devour the garbage. On this waste collection vehicle, though, these rough aspects seem to have been smoothed out, cosmetically. They are a beautiful metallic blue color, with a slightly rounded body that looks less imposing. In general, fewer people tend to like things with these kinds of cosmetic touches, because we often prefer what is familiar. But because the trucks are always working with garbage, the cosmetic touches can compensate for their dirty image, and the design probably holds the potential to earn more admirers, even among young children. This thinking comes from trying to please a narrower range of people, instead of everyone.
Sasaki I looked at the Swedish mobility app Whim, part of a mobility as a service (MaaS) platform, from a slightly different perspective. Unlike the different apps used for each type of transportation in Japan, this single app can be used to ride any vehicle. I see it as a system that applies technology to solve the inconvenience of linking current transportation while remaining true to the tradition of allowing us to enjoy free mobility by choosing our own modes of transport.
In general, instead of pursuing only convenience, it is a matter of finding value in the elements where we feel something, enjoy interacting with and owning things, and sense emotions that smack of humanity. When people focus on and design these things, it may start a new tradition.
Which features should be kept, and which omitted? What should we add, and what should we refrain from adding? In this, designers have a key role to fulfill as the ultimate decision-makers, especially in an era where technology enables us to add functionality to everything. What is needed is not only the superficial design of colors and shapes but also a fresh aesthetic sensibility and foresight. Our imperative to keep learning, combined with our position of discerning needs in an era of boundless possibilities, makes these interesting times.
Hirokawa Designers must always be able to examine the past, look for what is real, and foresee the future. And for traditions to endure, we must have ambition, curiosity, and inquisitiveness. We must also believe that things should continue to be made. Through this, things that are appreciated for a long time can be produced, and these admired things are passed down. Things that are constantly refined because people believe in them inevitably become traditional, as admirers share them with others. Traditional industries also face the challenge of being bound by tradition, but to move ahead, instead of production for the sake of techniques, techniques can be passed down to meet needs in modern lifestyles.
Rather than urban centers, it is outside of metropolises where certain issues are emerging first, and where solutions are arising. Skills appreciated in this context are conceptualization (envisioning situations and combining elements), curation (discovering and uncovering what is needed), and the ability to "edit" (use and remix) existing resources.
Creative producer and curator / Hakuhodo
Served as a TV commercial planner at Hakuhodo before studying contemporary art for a master’s degree at New York University and returning to work. Focusing on sustainable design, specializes in branding that fosters sustainable everyday culture and addresses social issues. Main work includes I Lohas mineral water, Rakuten's Earth Mall, Yahoo Japan, Japan Keirin Autorace, and Edo-Tokyo Museum. Author of Innovation Design and Tokai kara hajimaru atarashii ikikata no design, among other books. Head of Kyodo House home/community space.
Is that truly important? Whose happiness are we seeking? These are the key initial considerations, and projects should not begin by planning a traditional business model. For business to come together at a later stage, begin by grasping what is truly needed.
Artist / Executive director, Beppu Project (NPO)
A career as an artist has led to many experiences in art festival production and project management. Served as general producer of the contemporary art festivals Mixed Bathing World (2009-2015) and In Beppu (2016-), among similar roles. In administration and business, has taken on local issues creatively through a diverse range of efforts. Author of Beppu Project 2005-2018, published in 2018. Received a Ministry of Education "New Face" art encouragement award in 2008.
The advent of advanced solutions to
Kondo When we think of designing local communities, rather than imposing things we bring in from outside, it must be a priority to consider how to tap and link local resources. Instead of temporary projects, sustainable design should be sought, incorporating locally distinctive goods and services. And in communication, the focus should be narrowed down somewhat, considering how to convey the message most easily to appeal to people.
Yamaide That is a key quality of our work – whether we can please each individual reached by these activities. Personalized relationships are especially vital in local communities. We view it as our mission to create resilience-enhancing social capital, and we arrange opportunities that bring together the people, tangibles, and intangibles needed for this. To us, that is the essence of design, not only conveying that something is worthwhile but also arranging encounters with things that participants find personally valuable and allowing a variety of possibilities to take off.
Bringing projects to life requires the conceptual ability to trace out an ambitious vision, the curatorial ability to gather the issues, and the editorial ability to recompose existing things and present them to society. Among these skills, editing is no doubt increasingly in demand. Tentatively release your work without making it too elaborate, spending much money, or taking much time, and then refine it as people are actually involved with it, as you steadily bring it closer to what is needed. It may therefore be a prototype or a work in progress, but I think that is fine.
Kondo I certainly feel the same way about editing, and I think a key point in this role is to establish a cycle. Design that connects the dots and creates a cycle stood out in our screenings this year. Choisoko also represents comprehensive design that applies what is already there – people and local sites – and effectively channels the flow of people and money. Instead of seeking traditional linear growth and development, it is becoming more important to have a steady circulation in local communities or the environment. Choisoko achieves this economically, to make it accessible to all, and not with advanced technologies but by skillfully combining existing technologies, which impressed me.
Linked by horizontal ties
Yamaide In another award winner, we can see the power of curation at work. Viewing community-building as essential in promoting home healthcare, Kagayaki Lodge shares their clinic building with local residents. The Lodge organizes their own regular events here but also hosts projects that participants have been wanting to do. In this way, the place they have made fosters exchanges and builds relationships of trust with and between local residents. And because horizontal ties have always been desirable in comprehensive community healthcare, it seems ideal that instead of following orders from above, the Lodge's home healthcare professionals use their own discretion in applying the information and knowledge they gain in the field.
Kondo Design is often evaluated from a designer's perspective, but I viewed this as a completely bottom-up project. Those working here started by observing the community to determine what local residents truly need. Real community needs formed the basis for how the building was constructed, which led to a community area (consisting of a living room, open kitchen, and other rooms) three times larger than the office. Because the Lodge meets local needs, there is a regular flow of community members of all kinds.
Both Kagayaki Lodge and Choisoko seem to reflect some permaculture design principles that I study, which also begin with observation and then focus on designing connections that capitalize on the characteristics of various elements. Negai No Kuruma also responds to needs, and I was impressed by how this program combines and focuses the expertise of various participants on a shared goal.
Yamaide From the standpoint of continuity, the Negai No Kuruma business model can still be perfected, but I think it is a wonderful initiative. Each participant does what he or she can to fulfill the wishes of terminally ill patients near the end of life. The program deserves recognition both for valuing a society where no one is overlooked and for showing that some people have the courage to take a step forward, in this regard.
Kondo We are referring to how to support people as they approach death, or in other words, designing the last stage of life. Igoku is another example of this, but many entries this year were for the benefit of older people. Especially in this era of the 100-year lifespan, it was encouraging to see practical examples of design addressing the question of how to be happy at the end.
What also caught my attention were design entries that rose to the challenge of solving overlooked issues not only for older people but also for women or vulnerable people, including those with disabilities. Negai No Kuruma stood out among these. And although jury members debated the validity of entries such as ReBuilding Center Japan that are inspired by ideas originally developed outside of Japan, I think we should not deny the approach of refining and adapting good existing systems or other design for use in local communities.
Mending fragmentation by
Kondo Among activities designed for seniors, many are conservative and inoffensive, and there is probably an effort not to venture into the taboo territory of death. In contrast, activities in one award-winning program include lying in a coffin, to make death more familiar, and shooting fashion portraits with elderly participants. Best of all are the expressions on the seniors' faces. They genuinely seem to be having fun. The organization's publications resound with the message that even our last moments should be full of life. Although other entries also sought to help seniors enjoy this time of life, the Igoku program stood out for its communication and taboo-defying experience design.
Yamaide It is groundbreaking that this program is part of ongoing, city-led comprehensive community healthcare in Iwaki, Fukushima. Conveying the initiative to other municipalities may well change some aspects of how this healthcare is managed. It would make end-of-life care more open and raise awareness of its importance. Progress in this is a tremendous achievement.
Kondo Also admirable is how a young design team is involved. It is a wonderful initiative that encourages younger people (including the designers themselves) to consider social issues such as comprehensive local healthcare and how seniors can continue to enjoy themselves at this time of life. I also appreciate how experiences are planned to ensure that children are more familiar with their elders and dying.
Yamaide A change came over the faces of children watching as seniors lay down in coffins for this experience, as death became more personal. Modern times have changed how we say goodbye and made death more distant from everyday life. We might say that people feel a disconnect between death and life. Comprehensive community healthcare can mend this.
Kondo Other entries attempted to make funeral homes more familiar. Perhaps Igoku blazes a trail in this respect, too. By reframing death as something more familiar, the program encourages us to reconsider the significance of the life we are living every day. Also noticeable in this year's screenings were activities that bring together people with and without disabilities, which are just some of the many attempts to mend the fragmentation of modernization, whether between illness and health, life and death, youth and old age, or other things.
To mention another noticeable trend, many entries introduced places that bring people together across generations. Rather than shared housing exclusively for younger generations, which has taken off in recent years, these entries presented senior housing, cafés, daycare centers, and other places that encourage interaction between local seniors, homemakers, and children. Places that nurture bonds between people will be more and more relevant.
Far-sighted, cyclical design
Kondo From a business standpoint, most of these examples will not generate significantly more profit, but the places are valuable precisely because of their retention and flow of people, some of whom will certainly be born there. Another example is 1616/Arita Japan porcelain. As a commercial product, the series is highly polished. As an enterprise, the exchanges and circulation of all sorts of people, including international designers, no doubt provides constant stimulation and enhances quality. In business as well, I think this cyclical design will be fruitful over the long term.
Yamaide Centers of traditional craftsmanship struggle to maintain brands unless local artisans jointly reinforce the area's status as a site of production. Yet often, horizontal ties between producers are surprisingly absent. We can view 1616/Arita Japan as a way to cultivate these connections. I sense that horizontal ties are especially important in rural areas. And although this is not necessarily a new approach, it required someone to take that first step.
Kondo Entries on product development and business planning from a long-term perspective also intrigued me. Elegant Suwada nail clippers update the structure of clippers with a lever mechanism, but what particularly impressed me was that unlike disposables, they are designed to enable maintenance and use over many years. With 1616/Arita Japan as well, the inflow and outflow will probably continue as the brand is developed over a long period.
Designed for whom?
Yamaide The key is not to consider things from the stage of planning a business model. With traditional "product-out" business models, there is no grasp of true needs. In particular, development motivated by a desire to stand out from competitors' products has increased excess and created superfluous things.
When society needs a certain prototype, this sets the scene to devise a business model. As an organization involved in many local projects, we always think that other areas are doing things in the wrong order. Again, it starts with a pressing need, and a key factor is the extent of ownership one can invest. If this is something truly needed in society at the moment, it will eventually become a viable enterprise.
Along these lines, I think it is important to visualize others whose faces we know, as we imagine delighting certain people or making them smile. Then, an attentive response will be enough, even with prototypes, and it will be a matter of continuous improvement as these things are used. The appearance can be refined to look more beautiful or admirable along the way, but the first element needed is the will to somehow make a difference, to somehow restore happiness. Even problem-solving projects that are geographically limited or narrow in scope are welcome. After all, widespread adoption will make them solutions with impact beyond their original boundaries.
Kondo I agree. As issues involving the environment or people's well-being emerge, our notion of business as usual – vying to stand apart and expand sales, along the trajectory of existing rules – is probably near a major turning point. We have entered an era where design inspired by a strong ambition or vision, about whether something is truly necessary or will truly bring happiness, will resonate with more people and succeed as a business.
the first place
Addressing climate change, the key issue facing the international community, should be a greater priority for those involved in design. We should recognize how large companies are reducing CO2 emissions and setting a positive trend in society. An active commitment is needed on the part of managers, who should view this work not only as a form of CSR but as management issues to take on.
Project manager / Partner at Kesiki, director at Whatever, and fellow at Quantum
After working at McKinsey, as a Special Correspondent for Wired in North America, and at TBWA Hakuhodo, he was part of founding Quantum. As CSO and CIO, he spearheaded joint business development and investment, with large corporations and startups. He then took part in establishing Kesiki Inc. and took up his present post. He also works as a CorpDev Director at Whatever Inc. He also established the public-private collaboration, Tobitate! Study Abroad Initiative with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and was part of the cooperation between industry, government and schools for the SDGs as a guest associate professor of Kyushu University.
After disasters strike, work begins to restore cities to their former state, but the kind of recovery needed will build their future. Toward this end, restoring appearances is only one aspect. Good design holds potential in rival, which should include social systems and apply effective project management.
Architect / Salhaus
Graduate of the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science. Cofounded Salhaus in 2008 with Motoki Yasuhara and Masashi Hino after gaining experience at Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop. Engaged in architectural design and urban development. Representative works include Takata-Higashi Junior High School in Rikuzentakata, Gunma Agricultural Technology Center, Ogiya Ryokan, and the Tetto and Applause Azabu residential complexes. Has received numerous awards from organizations including Architectural Institute of Japan, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (for wood construction), Japan Federation of Construction Contractors (BCS award), and Tokyo Society of Architects & Building Engineers.
The need for recovery
Inoue Now that disasters have become so familiar that anyone, anywhere may be affected at any time, how can society be designed to afford greater peace of mind? Looking more closely at the finer points of award-winning design seemed to yield valuable insight on this future society.
One example of this involves traditions and wisdom across Japan that have arisen from local disasters. Surely many solutions exist that can convey this disaster prevention and recovery resourcefulness more clearly to the public through good design. Good design, broadly conceived, is also applicable to rebuilding disaster-stricken communities and social systems. This year, the focused issue theme of "disaster prevention and recovery design" gave me a sense of the tremendous potential of design.
The first entry I focused on was the Tette community center in Sukagawa, Fukushima. Here, in the heart of a city affected by the Tohoku disaster, a complex consisting of a library, childcare center, and other facilities was built as a place to bring residents together. The development process followed for Tette would not have unfolded without the disaster; it was the temporary resetting of many things that enabled this integrated redesign.
Tochizawa After disasters, and especially when public funding is used, restoration or recovery proposals tend to be unacceptable if the new site would improve upon the previous one. However, reviving a shattered society means more than restoring appearances. The kind of recovery needed creates new cities and revitalizes economies with the future in mind. There must be a special kind of future-building we can engage in after society has been reset by disasters, and this is where the power of good design should prevail.
Tette sets an excellent example as a future-oriented recovery project, in the scope of the initiative, the application of design principles, the composition of the project team, and all other respects. Even if its original purpose in promoting recovery eventually fades from memory, Tette is such a wonderful project that we can easily imagine it as a community complex that continues to bring people together years from now.
Inoue We can sense the courage in it, despite the discouragement that no doubt also existed when the project was proposed. The budget must have been modest, but impressively, the contributors clearly sought recovery through this project and succeeded.
Tochizawa Tette also sets a good example in center operations. Most public facilities are managed vertically, which makes it difficult to have a single site that serves roles in multiple fields. In contrast, Tette brings together several different services as a library, childcare support center, employment service center, and museum. Although each has their own specific hours of operation, the areas are loosely connected, instead of having clearly defined boundaries in the building. In this way, the careful design here extends to how operations have been organized, which enables an effective combination of different services.
Inoue Unlike the complexes we have seen more often around the country recently that tend to offer different services on different floors, Tette is a rare example where the roles fulfilled are gently interconnected, both architecturally and in what services are available. I found it an excellent example of good design in a broad sense, including project management.
Design that makes preparedness
Inoue Maffs + home fire extinguishers intrigued me from the standpoint of communication design. Probably few people have ever thought that a fire extinguisher would make a great gift for someone. Well-designed emergency goods that we would not hesitate to leave in view or give to people might seem like something that has existed for years, but in fact, this is not the case. It impressed me that there are now Instagrammable fire extinguishers.
Tochizawa Disaster strikes suddenly, and emergency goods should be readily available at all times, but in most cases, manufacturers seeking to warn users and ensure performance have rejected beauty and user convenience. These fire extinguishers can be placed in view, thanks to details beyond a simple color change that help them blend into everyday life. In this respect, they vividly demonstrate how effective good design can be.
Design of other conventional emergency products or plans should also be reconsidered, especially now that life may be disrupted by more frequent typhoons, flooding, or power outages, even if these events are not as severe as major disasters. It may be fine that these products are full of warnings if we view disasters as rare events, but now, they seem more common. This makes a case for shifting gears to shapes and forms that blend into everyday life, and good design can be effective in this regard. I hope this thinking – that emergency goods can even improve the ambiance of a room – spreads to other such supplies.
Inoue It must have been hard for a long-established manufacturer of emergency goods to alter the tradition of red fire extinguishers. In this sense as well, I welcome their fresh approach of seeking the best solution through emergency supplies that can be kept nearby, which can set a new standard in design for emergency management.
Besides reframing preparedness as something more familiar, another key perspective is to make life during emergencies less stressful. What erodes our well-being at these times are details such as inconvenient toilets or a lack of showers. This is why I appreciated Resilience Toilets as a practical, honest initiative.
Tochizawa They are quite groundbreaking. Most flush toilets use five liters of water at a time, but these only use one, and the other four liters can be drawn from a pool, wastewater, or a drainpipe.
Inoue Changing the way we look at things can help conserve a lot of water. On a practical level, resources are hard to allocate if we wanted to change the plumbing for this purpose, but this was something anticipated by the developers of Resilience Toilets. The achievement was possible only because of unwavering vision and ambition. This kind of approach must be taken step by step.
Tochizawa It is remarkable how a large corporation took on innovation that overturns preconceptions about simple toilets used in emergencies. We can also appreciate how installing the toilets provided an opportunity to educate users at schools and offices about disaster preparedness. Only when such facilities are in place along with the knowledge of how to use them will they prove effective in emergencies.
Curbing environmental destruction
Inoue Taking a similar approach, GreenRise zippers are also groundbreaking. In this case, the manufacturer developed plant-based fasteners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption, but the fact that a global enterprise such as YKK takes ethical product development so seriously also sends a message to society. Controlling global warming-induced extreme weather linked to CO2 emissions is imperative, but it takes an active commitment by corporate management to work toward lower emissions. Everyone's attitude about this matters, but what can truly change the world is when industry leaders adopt a different stance. To help change the course of society, we must be sure to recognize these corporate initiatives.
Tochizawa How can we work toward a world less prone to disasters? This is also a key theme in preparedness. One answer is apparent in this award winner, which shows what sound design can do, as the movement to mitigate disasters continues.
Inoue Another very inspiring example among initiatives of global corporations is One Paper Box, an approach to packaging by the diversified Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi. With packaging that consists of a single sheet of paper, assembled to form both the box and the cushioning for electrics and appliances, the manufacturer joins many others who are moving away from using plastic. Xiaomi seems to have great momentum, and they have pledged to give back to society any net profit over a certain amount. One Paper Box shows what is possible when project leaders can work closely with corporate management.
communities – design to create a
Inoue A distributed society is more resilient in disasters because social infrastructure and services are not concentrated in one place. In this sense, one commendable project was Mitosaya Botanical Distillery. Here, a closed medicinal herb park was renovated into a distillery that makes spirits from plants and fruit trees. Besides facilities used in distillery operations, the site also has living quarters. A very limited amount of spirits is produced, most of which is consumed by the community. We can admire the close ties between the producer and consumers in the local economy, which also represents an economically decentralized society.
Tochizawa Although Mitosaya Botanical Distillery was awarded by our architectural screening unit, it is a laudable achievement not only for architectural design but also for the comprehensive redesign here, which addresses matters of where we live, how we live, and how we work. Running an economy in a small society also provides insight for disaster preparedness. How can society at a smaller scale be self-sufficient without relying on extensive infrastructure? Japan should consider this topic when looking to the future.
Inoue The large, centrally controlled social systems that Japan has built are a disadvantage from the standpoint of their vulnerability in disasters. In contrast, society can become more flexible and resilient through design aimed at smaller, self-sufficient economic zones that are distributed and support each other. Along these lines, Sustainable Architecture in Hot-Humid Regions provides micro-infrastructure ideas, where production and consumption of energy and water are shared among several houses.
Tochizawa Modern cities are supported by vast infrastructure, but where partial impairment affects the whole system, we have seen that cites are vulnerable to disasters. Unlike this, one award-winning system is self-sufficient in small areas, and because neighboring areas support each other in emergencies, the arrangement is highly resilient. Prime Maison/Grande Maison Egotanomori can be described as a project that is intentionally multigenerational, rather than distributed.
As a residential complex, it welcomes new families while also providing a comfortable environment for older residents. We might also point out weaknesses of complexes with only residents of the same generation, and this complex was recognized because the mix of generations that live together can develop mutually beneficial ties. These neighborly ties may be helpful in emergencies, which makes me hope that this kind of community will become more common.
Inoue Community members look out for each other, and I also appreciate how the grounds are not closed off from the outside world. Little by little, the complex becomes more engaged with the neighborhood, develops ties between generations, and enjoys the adjacent forest, which makes this kind of community better prepared for disasters. Even if one area is damaged, a self-contained society that can recover with help from neighbors will be on its feet again sooner. It seems desirable for future society to aim for self-sufficiency (by providing for their own energy and other infrastructure in small zones) and decentralized social systems with ties to neighboring areas.