2016Nine essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Macky Kato
Director’s message

Reassurance from the safety of sound design


From the perspective of safety and security, quite a few entries this year help us prepare for emergencies. There is less to fear from earthquakes, typhoons, or other disasters if we are prepared, and being ready for adversity certainly saves many lives. When nature is our adversary, we can never be totally safe from harm, but it is reasonable that some entries give us a measure of reassurance. Still, everyday safety involves more than disaster preparedness.

As noted last year for this Focused Issue, safety differs from peace of mind in that safety is the objective fact that problems are unlikely, whereas peace of mind comes from our subjective assessment that we are probably safe. Ideally, arrangements should make us aware that our safety is technically ensured, which is reassuring as a result. This is not always so, however. For example, product liability laws protect consumers by making manufacturers liable for incidents caused by defective products. In court, this makes product liability cases exceptional, because unlike in accident cases, the burden of proof is on defendants instead of plaintiffs. Although this facilitates litigation by consumers without directly improving product safety, the risk of litigation has been reduced by manufacturers who have focused on improving product safety. Ultimately, this is reassuring for consumers, and in this way, the legal system encourages manufacturers to maintain consumer trust.

Once products have been carefully engineered for safety, designers should ensure peace of mind to establish the ideal, reassuring arrangement mentioned above. Visually, products designed for safety tend to be bland, but those that are more polished or convey a sense of reliability must seem more appealing.

The Stress free active school uniform are ergonomically designed for active children and teens. Without interfering, the uniforms encourage freer activities and sound physical development. Other supportive design is seen in the Nipple for weak sucking. Developed by studying infants in neonatal intensive care, the nipples promote healthy development by ensuring adequate nourishment. Both are products for children, and both serve functions keenly needed in products purchased for children by their parents.

Different needs are met by BARONESS LM2710. Maintaining the social and physical landscape was once taken for granted but is becoming more difficult with an aging population and shrinking workforce. Loss of human resources as older groundskeepers retire cannot be ignored, because expertise is required. This mower may serve a niche market, but by enabling professional results by users of all abilities, the social stability it supports represents reassuring design for all.

At food processing plants and similar sites, Hygienic CUPLA join pipes or hoses carrying fluids. Secure connections and easy maintenance reinforce the cornerstone of food safety through sanitation. Though unassuming and largely unseen, these parts serve as a reliable, reassuring linchpin of everyday life.

Similarly, IPLEX NX fulfill roles behind the scenes in factory and aircraft inspection. Meticulous quality control in maintenance supports many of the high-quality products that industries in Japan are known for. Inspection is hardly glamorous work, but it ensures that products work reliably, and here, the instrument's high-caliber design deserves recognition.

Reassuring design is also evident in the signs at Japanese train stations. Odakyu Adopts CUD for Signage to Provide Clear Information for All Users are created using color in universal design focused on one of Ronald Mace's seven UD principles, so that information is easily perceptible by all. Even today, Japanese stations are said to hold an edge over those in Europe and elsewhere in how they provide information, but on conventional signs, information may be less accessible for some visitors. Those who might otherwise have difficulty understanding signs will feel reassured by this railway operator's UD-based approach.

Each of these award-winning entries promises reliable quality that supports safety, and each is a fine example of outstanding design. Safety may not be a constant concern, but we are reminded of its importance when things go wrong. Carelessness makes anything potentially dangerous, of course, but ideally, our routine should not require a constant awareness of safety or danger. This is why good design should serve as a promise of safety. In this respect, each of the entries was developed on solid principles and is well equipped to ensure safety.

Just as product liability laws have inspired trust, we propose that design contribute to an assurance of safety, so that people can feel reassurance from the safety of sound design.

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