2017Eight essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Kazuhiro Aoyama
Director’s Message

Guarantee of security: reassuring connections


System design

As society grows more diverse and complex, what sense of security can we hope to find? Society itself is a kind of system, made up of people. When considering design that makes us feel secure, it is therefore useful to take the academic or research perspective of systems engineering.

Systems, whether physical or conceptual, consist of various elements or factors that are interconnected. This interconnectedness makes systems valuable and useful to us. One important way social systems benefit the people in them is by providing a sense of security.

To foster security in society, social systems must be designed appropriately. Specifically, the elements needed for a reassuring social system and the connections between them must be well designed.

Building a sense of security through trust

Security is often discussed with safety. Safety is a physiological need associated with survival. It is an objective concept with a scientific basis. In contrast, security is a subjective concept associated with our attempts to guarantee that we feel safe. The factors that give us this peace of mind usually vary from person to person.

If people find it hard to feel comfortable with a particular social system, they try to ensure a sense of security by looking for other people or organizations that are at least a little more reassuring. From this process of relieving our anxiety to feel more secure, we can appreciate the vital role played by trust. Earning social trust is an effective way to ease anxiety in society and establish reasonable social support.

Linking elements, building a sense of security

One approach to rectifying worrisome systems is to consider how to create elements that inspire confidence and link them to other elements (specifically, to elements that do not).

However, because reassurance varies from person to person, trying to create elements that relieve a variety of anxieties is challenging and may end up making systems more complex.

Forms of systems that help avoid complexity include arrangements that are self-organizing, or distributed and cooperative. Along these lines, what is essential in inspiring the confidence that underlies security is to consider connections, and how to arrange certain connections.

Relieving anxiety through new elements: Dropping in for advice

One stressed population at present consists of seniors with weaker ties to dependable family members. This has become a serious social issue. A winning entry this year epitomizes how system elements can be created to relieve this anxiety—by inviting members of a predominantly senior housing complex to stop by anytime for advice. Importantly, the enterprise engages with and effectively offsets a factor of anxiety (specifically, living alone). The clever positioning as a neighborhood drop-in center, rather than a clinic, makes it more inviting.

This encourages residents to visit, talk a little, and ease their concerns About health and welfare. Also significant is that the center is designed to help patrons build ties with a mix of others who stop by.

Relieving anxiety by fostering relationships: A patient-pharmacist app

Instead of alleviating anxiety by introducing new elements like this, some approaches foster new relationships through existing elements. A good example of how interpersonal ties are formed today is SNS. The social networking aspects of an award-winning app called Sukoyaku-talk are expertly employed to encourage chatting between patients and pharmacists. By opening a channel of communication for informal advice from pharmacists on matters of health and medicine at any time, the service helps eliminate patient anxiety.

As this service becomes more popular, it promises to keep people healthier and reduce hospital visits, which also addresses the significant social issue of controlling medical expenses. In this way, the design of this service not only relieves immediate health and medical anxieties but is also linked to assuaging our concerns About the future state of the nation.

As long as users develop the requisite relationships of trust, the system as a whole will work as intended. In response to a complex issue involving many elements, this is a breath of fresh air in connective design from a systems perspective.

Solving multiple stressful issues at once: Grocery trucks

One problem that has emerged in some of Japan's graying, dwindling communities is a lack of access to shopping. Goods are generally abundant elsewhere, but the lack of local shopping has become a serious concern. In response, one award-winning solution brings together those who are suffering for different reasons, whether from the basic matter of shopping, from business uncertainties, or other reasons.

This business arrangement links each party, reassuring consumers who are worried About shopping, local grocers concerned About business risks, and stressed would-be employees or entrepreneurs whose prospects are limited. Admirably designed, it responds to potential needs, neatly ties the elements together, and balances the responsibilities and benefits of each element. It is quite socially relevant, because it relieves anxiety in society, but it is also a promising business model. By establishing a win-win relationship among several parties, it creates a sense of security.

From relieving anxiety to creating value: "Send" distribution platform

Commerce under changing conditions carries a range of risks and troubling uncertainties. In the food service industry, producers may worry About demand, and restaurateurs About supply. One way to offset the gaps between placing and receiving orders and facilitate a stable supply of small lots, which both cause stress for buyers and sellers, is a service called "Send," which links discerning producers and restaurant owners.

We can feel especially secure after introducing advanced technology tapping current forms of sophisticated IT. This accurate data analysis and redeveloped distribution system represents a shift from merely relieving anxiety to creating value.

Design that connects and reassures

We live in times that present immediate anxieties and future concerns. Ideally, we should eliminate both.

As conditions become even more complex, the interconnectedness of a variety of things should inspire trust and reassure us. These connections can lie between people, or between people and physical or conceptual things. What is most important is to consider the kind of arrangement that will make the connections. This is central in designing a sense of security.

Fostering this security involves a mechanism within systems that relieves anxiety by changing things for the better, through apparently subtle connections. These are exactly the kind of arrangements-the kind of design-that society will need in the future.

See More
Focused Issues