Community / Locality
Community development – through revitalization of rural areas or revival of waning communities – generally comes to mind in Japan when we consider the topic of commu-nities and localities. However, addressing issues faced by communities and localities is not a matter of bringing back the vibrant good old days or reestablishing stronger ties. Alt-hough administrative and tax systems have enabled greater individual independence in society, weaker interpersonal ties have revealed the difficulty of this. Under the circum-stances, we ponder the nature of ideal ties with others – not too close, not too distant – and an ideal rural sparseness. Although this kind of discussion suggests that ideas for community building described here will deal with intangibles, both “soft” and “hard” ap-proaches in design must be considered in order to breathe new life into the spheres of community activity. This premise forms the basis for summarizing this year’s entries from the two perspectives of communities and localities.
Infrastructure / Mobility
The map of Tokyo and surrounding areas is being significantly redrawn in preparation for 2020, building on current mobility and infrastructure not limited to stations, roads, and public architecture. How will life change for urban and rural dwellers here, as the landscape changes? Winners in this year’s award program provide an opportunity to consider future mobility and infrastructure.
Global environment / Energy
Now that the impact of exacerbated climate change, reduced biodiversity, and depleted natural resources from rampant materialism is increasingly felt, how should we respond to real threats to our way of life through design? Rather than merely satisfying us here and now, this kind of design must contribute to establishing a society in balance with nature over the long term. It is a matter of defining what design is good for the future, which is especially relevant in the context of the “Global Environment / Energy” Focused Issue.
Disaster prevention / Disaster reduction / Disaster reconstruction
"Overall, a surprising number of entries were focused on community design. One reason may be because recovery is proceeding slowly, even four years after the disaster, and it has been easier to deal with the intangibles of recovery than with the tangibles. This response also reflects how those in architecture and other design disciplines have taken the opportunity of 3/11 to focus on community issues. One thing to look forward to are attempts at changing the rather staid, practical image of disaster-related design."
Medical care / Welfare
Interest in medicine and assistive products has grown in recent years, and as the boundaries of traditional medical products expand with an infusion of IT, robotics, and other technologies, the award program will be seeing more and more genre-defying entries. What exactly constitutes good design in this field? Responding to this question requires us to investigate the role and significance of design that satisfies quite a few criteria – not only in matters of appearance, but also in improved functionality, complete innovativeness, regulatory compliance, fair promotion of efficacy and safety, and as an example of outstanding design in all of these respects, what message it conveys to society.
Safety / Security
To be fully satisfied, users must feel this peace of mind through products or projects (including those evaluated in the award program), as determined subjectively by each user. Designers charged with instilling this peace of mind, on the other hand, must ensure that what they design is safe, based on objective criteria. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to state that the Product Liability Act of 1995 implies responsibility beyond this role. If we consider what underlies the tendency among the best 100 of the many outstanding design entries this year to afford safety and peace of mind, we can attribute people’s uneasiness and desire for peace of mind to four factors: disaster, disease, accidents, and crime.
Information / Communication
Most entries relevant to the “Information / Communication” Focused Issue deal with func-tions controlled by people, as seen in interaction with digital devices. Three distinctive trends were apparent in entries this year, which I introduce here with a few observations.
Before considering design in the context of advanced technology, we should clarify what high tech means in the first place. A look back at history shows that technology has always extended our abilities and driven society forward, but what lies beyond current advances is an unseen future. Only time will tell whether design that introduces us to high tech – not to mention the high tech itself – will make life better and take us in the right direction. Some progress carries us smoothly from past to present to future, but surprises also await us, and revolutionary technologies break from the past. In each kind of progress, design plays different roles. We can consider how the design of winners in this year’s program introduces the future that this continuous or discontinuous progress represents.
Social capital / Open architecture
"An advantage of open architecture lies in how, by promoting a shared vision, it forms broad networks beyond existing frameworks, giving movements new capabilities and tremendous momentum and inspiring further innovation. What supports open projects is a group of individuals. The ties between real people, who become acquainted with each other and engage in friendly competition, form a kind of social capital and add layers of value."
Education / Inheritance
"Professor Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab once observed that although a mid-19th-century surgeon would be unable to do anything in a modern operating room, a mid-19th-century teacher would probably get by in a classroom today, because the way we teach has not changed in 150 years. The same can be said in Japan. Compulsory education was introduced in 1872, in the transition from an agrarian society to an industrial one. Private education gave way to public classrooms with groups of students at the same level. As Japan raced toward indus-trialization, this change in educational systems was inevitable. But as we transition from a society based on industry to one based on information, it is time once again to redesign education. Responses to this social need for new ways to teach and learn can be seen in many of this year’s entries. In particular, these examples of design seemed to redefine studying and recommend how and where we should study."
Business model / Way of working
It is easy to imagine a manufacturer assigning a project to a designer. The product takes shape, and eventually, more people see it. One senses from the award program in the 1990s that many entries have followed this pattern, but this year saw greater diversity in who assigned design and who received assignments. In fact, more entries than ever seem self-designed, self-produced, and self-promoted.
Culture of life / Mode of life
In anticipating future directions to take in an award program mindful of the potential of both industry and good design, I have examined the “Culture of life / Mode of life” Focused Issue. To explore this topic, we must begin by considering near-term devel-opments in the Japanese industrial sector.