2015Twelve essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Hisato Ogata
Director’s message

Visionary design that helps build the future


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.

Ideal forms enabled by high technology

First, consider some examples of natural steps in the continuous evolution of advanced technology. In pursuit of superior image quality and extreme slimness, designers of award-winning Sony 4K TVs and LG OLED TVs have created the effect that what we are watching is floating in the air without any set around it. Here and in the equally mature field of audio products (with hi-res Sony music players being a prime example), designers have sought the ultimate form of products that advances in technology inevitably enable. This is consummate design, worthy of admiration.

New possibilities from technical innovation

Also building on past development, other design – notably in the revolutionary Nikon superzoom compact and Canon’s ultra wide-angle DSLR lens – deserves high praise for overcoming technical barriers to excite us with the promise of unprecedented photography. Similarly, Sharp’s free-form display technology and Samsung’s VR system reframe possibilities in non-rectangular or immersive displays, making us eager to see future applications of this groundbreaking display technology.

Helping establish new technology in society

What role should design play in the discontinuous progress of disruptive innovation, which reshapes our values, creates markets, and replaces traditional technology with something wholly new?

Minimalist modern televisions, for example, have largely displaced older TVs that are as substantial as furniture. In UI design, skeuomorphism in early smartphones, which mimicked the texture of paper or the effect of turning pages, has given way to “flat” and “material” design. Both examples show how design in the early stages of a technology may not be essential to the technology but serves a certain role as society comes to accept the technology.

In lighting, a well-designed LED bulb from SIM Lighting features an original LED filament that makes it omnidirectional and eliminates the bulky heat sink found in most LED bulbs, which, along with its low cost and other advantages, makes it a promising replacement for incandescent bulbs. We also look forward to new lighting design that capitalizes on the characteristics of constantly evolving LED technology and breaks free from traditional bulb shapes required by older technologies, which will expand the possibilities of future lighting design.

One senses another significant role of design in making us more comfortable with relatively unfamiliar advanced technologies, such as the hydrogen technologies in Toyota Mirai vehicles or Toshiba power systems, or the technology behind Toshiba’s quantum cryptographic communication system. What is memorable About these award winners is comprehensive design of both the tangibles (in the form of the products themselves) and the intangibles, such as promotion and other means of familiarizing people with hydrogen energy, quantum cryptography, and other new technology.

Good design in a high-tech context

Thus, reflecting on high-tech winners in this year’s program, we can see that entries were often awarded for these design achievements:
- Presenting the ultimate forms enabled by high technology
- Exciting us with visionary design that shows technology’s untapped potential
- Familiarizing us with technology that may herald a new age

But as suggested initially, technological advances continue to accelerate, and the future seems more unpredictable than ever. In changing times, design that introduces us to high tech cannot be evaluated from the same historical perspective as design that earns a Long Life Design Award. In fact, it is precisely the kind of work that inspires a mixed reaction – both for and against it – that may set new trends. In any case, we can hope that the program will remain relevant not only by sharing good design but by asking us to consider whether design merits this distinction.

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