Design for weaving systems together
In a mature society like Japan, we need to take a fresh look at various existing resources, including culture, customs, and people, so that we can create new value for the next generation. At the same time, the coronavirus crisis has brought an acute awareness of the degree to which existing systems have become warped throughout society, with approaches to producing goods, social systems, and community networks becoming unsustainable. Now would seem to be exactly the right time to think about restructuring systems by combining new cultures and technologies.
I hope that we can boost the potential of design that enables a diverse array of people to continually produce new value together, while cultivating the environment we have now, combining different systems with each other, and constantly updating them.
Design for expanding relationships
One of the questions that design is expected to answer is “Can it solve problems?” This point is crucial to us in maintaining cultured lives and our very existence. Many issues that are hard to tackle singlehandedly can be solved if large numbers of people and groups gradually reach out and create a broader network of relationships. However, it is very difficult to ensure the sustainability required to make even more people notice issues, capture their interest and attention, and keep reaching out to others. That is where design is expected to help. Design that serves as a means of solving problems that cannot be dealt with by the economy or politics is “Design for expanding relationships.”
Design for creating a place for distanced people
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I have begun to think that we need to be bolder and more sensitive in our thinking about not only spaces accessible to anyone, but also everything from smaller places that bring individuals together to those that forge links between minorities or people with specific interests. This is the kind of design that supports the lives of people who are not so visible to those on the outside, including elderly people, people with disabilities, and children needing protective care. It was this that inspired the phrase “Design for creating a place for distanced people.” There is a world in which we try to protect what is familiar and close to us and one in which people argue with strangers on social media. I want to think about the places where we live our lives in a complex world where facts are intermingled with fakes.
Design for improving the environment
With economic activity having been brought to a standstill worldwide by the coronavirus crisis, all of humanity has had to change most of our behaviors. However, at the same time, the pandemic has provided us with glimpses of what a world in which environmental problems had been remedied would look like, such as the restoration of the emerald green hue of Venice’s canals and the air quality improvements in India that enabled the Himalayas to be seen clearly from 200 km away for the first time in decades. According to British environmental publication Carbon Brief, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.6 billion tons year on year in 2020 (equivalent to reducing the number of cars by about 350 million). However, this falls far short of the goal of cutting emissions by 2.2 billion tons per year, which is the benchmark for stemming the tide of dangerous climate change. Not only the economy, but also the venues for creation and production are shifting into virtual spaces, where they had previously been dependent on physical locations, with the intervention of online production set to accelerate the implementation of mechanisms designed with environmental problems in mind. I want to undertake an in-depth examination of new mechanisms and approaches to physical objects in an age like this.
Design serving as a guidepost pointing the way to a new society
A matter of concern for every single person across the globe, the novel coronavirus is the first common threat to be experienced by humanity. Even people who had merely observed wars, disasters, and nuclear power plant accidents from the sidelines have now been given an opportunity to take a look at the way they live by something that affects them directly. Once the prevailing wisdom is no longer applicable, what directions and routes will people take? What kind of future will they face? The SDGs are important, of course, aren’t they? Which way will society and people move? What paths will they take? It is precisely at a time when what lies ahead is unclear that we need a compass. I believe that design serving as a guidepost will give us the courage to embark on our journey toward the future.