2016Nine essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Nanako Ishido
Director’s message

At the nexus of education and design


Redesigning education remains a current need. In last year's program, notable entries introduced new approaches to learning from the three perspectives of what, how, and where we study. These entries suggested shifts in education and learning. This year, we saw design that pushes forward, creates, and expands along these lines.

Design that propels

Design that continues to drive the three educational trends defined in last year's program was evident in many entries.

In addressing the content of study, the design of quite a few entries encourages self-directed study and problem-solving, or shows the value of study in new ways. KOOV nurtures creativity and problem-solving skills through programmable robots. Robot Zoo course material from Hakuhodo and Issue+Design also stimulates creativity through robotics, but with a regard for local industry and digital craftsmanship. And young viewers of an NHK Viewpoint Science series may find themselves more intrigued by everyday things and better equipped to discover underlying principles. Programming will join the curriculum at Japanese elementary schools in 2020, and this year's entries give the impression that many initiatives are supporting this trend and accelerating changes in what children study.

As for how to study, design that stood out this year helps students become active and engaged, and collaborate to gain a deeper understanding. Educational games, furniture, and TV programming were notable. Ottotto Playing Cards invites self-directed study and creativity. Active learning furniture scrum series is designed for more engaged, hands-on study. And another educational program the Folk Tale Courtroom -The Trial of the Three Little Pigs- from NHK brings, encouraging broad observation and discussion.

From the aspect of educational environments, it was startling how many entries support local places to study. Collaboration between a school and local businesses led to Nobegaku pudding, which provided a practical learning experience. Elsewhere, schools, families, and local residents come together to offer a nurturing environment at Terakoya sites. This joint support from schools, businesses, and the government gives us a sense that an era of community study centers is not far away.

Design that creates

Other entries introduced design that creates new realms in the field of education. As a modern alternative to the Mercator projection, AuthaGraph World Map presents a novel way of looking at physical features, history, and other aspects of the world. By exposing topics and possibilities inherent in a world map already taken for granted as definitive, surely this map promises to change how world history is studied. The map shows how, with good design, there is room for innovation even in familiar teaching tools and materials. A surprising entry.

Another entry, kidsly, takes on the task of establishing a new channel of communication between parents and nursery schools. kidsly represents a conventional but reliable approach to solving existing issues in streamlining staff work and sharing information between caregivers and parents. We can imagine the positive impact it will have on children's environments. And by introducing this system in places where even younger children meet and learn together, users can surely provide new learning scenarios.

Design that expands

Design that expands is the final educational trend in this year's entries, which either define study and education more broadly or redefine these concepts altogether.

Mirai-kodomo-gakko, a progressive school in Chiba serves as a platform for community-building through education. In this ambitious, civic-minded program, providing educational opportunities is only the start.

Although there have been many cases of study programs with community support, few have also taken a broader view of this study as a form of community-building. Heralding an era of lifelong learning for all, the program has much to teach us About studying and the city where we live, as an initiative that equates fostering education with fostering the development of education-centered communities.

Similarly intriguing is UDERBE MUSIC FESTIVAL, which invites current students of the elementary and middle school, graduates, and their parents to attend and sing the school song. Schools from our youth tend to fade from memory, but such events reposition them as community centers. This school also fulfilled a vital role after the Tohoku disaster sheltering evacuees and facilitating communication. By expanding the role of a school through good design, so that it serves as a community gathering place, this festival also asks us to reconsider what schools and studying are all About.

To gain a clearer view of the significance of design in the field of education, we can take three perspectives: the beauty of well-designed things, the social relevance of design, and design representing education itself.

As for the first, jury members who scrutinize entries for their beauty and aesthetic appeal as educational tools may admire their educational merit but find fault with their appearance. However, winning entries such as KOOV and Ottotto Playing Cards meet high standards of design in this sense. Beyond the beauty of well-designed entries, AuthaGraph World Map was widely admired for showing the potential of good design to have a great impact on teaching and studying on a more substantial level. In this case, the map's outstanding quality sows the seeds of understanding and creativity.

Kidsly can be cited as a good example of socially relevant design. Though the service began only recently, it holds the potential to overcome issues that were widely recognized yet largely unaddressed. We hope it inspires progress in early childhood education.

Regarding future design in general - not only in the context of education - jury members constantly discussed how to pass down traditions of design for the next generation.

On this point, KOOV represents design with strong potential that succeeds in three ways, as a system clearly supporting design education: beautiful enough to be objects of interior décor, informative in the emerging academic field of programming, and full of design insight for children.

How will we teach when the power of good design is pervasive in education and learning? It is tantalizing to imagine the chemical reaction this will spark.

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