2018Director perspective & Design stories for our times
Hidetomo Nagata
Director’s message

Design of the unseen is changing how we work


Envisioning welcome interaction between individuals and society

Essentially, how we work can be viewed as a matter of what style we adopt for the interactions between individuals and society—how we engage with each other.

In the context of work styles, this relationship between individuals and society has rapidly become more diverse and fluid than the dominant lifetime employment and seniority systems of a former age.

Not long ago, we would probably never have imagined that we would one day view affiliate marketing as a YouTuber or social media influencer to be a legitimate way to make a living and engage with society. We are constantly going through new ways of living and working, as a variety of work styles emerge and eventually decline in popularity.

But with ongoing debate on matters of work style reform or work-life balance inevitably revolving around time and money, based on traditional ways of working, one gets the impression that this talk is behind the times and the changes around us.

As many people and companies continue struggling to find ideal ways to work, what is needed may be the power of good design to suggest role models that demonstrate how the ties between individuals and society—the relationships we build—can bring us happiness.

Envisioning welcome interaction between individuals and society

Our evaluation of GDA entries this year revealed two directions taken in design-inspired attempts to change how we work.

One is the technology-driven acceleration of work style diversity. Dropbox Paper cloud services and the smart lock robot Akerun are elements of an infrastructure that supports cloud-based working styles. This kind of design can free people from having to work at a certain place or time.

Design that took another direction added breadth and strength to the ties between individuals and society, to enable sustainable growth of these ties.

By loosely weaving together vacant apartments, public baths, and other facilities in Yanaka, Tokyo, hanare expands the boundaries of a traditional hotel, which usually offers everything guests need (from check-in to dining to bathing) under one roof. This loose association also provides new forms of livelihood in the neighborhood.

Also exemplary was a project called Working Point, aimed at revitalization through multitasking. What makes this such a fresh idea is its approach to compensation. For the time employees spend working on behalf of other employees or departments, they are compensated by receiving time off work. Measuring these ties between individuals and society on a non-monetary basis strengthens them and suggests new possibilities.

Design of unseen values is changing how we work

To maintain strong ties between individuals and society as we expand boundaries, our various communities must also have some kind of narrative.

This kind of story inspired an award-winning brand of sake called X01, uniting agricultural equipment maker Yanmar, sake producer Sawanotsuru, and rice farmers from the stage of rice development for a new sake.

These contributors are at different positions in the agricultural value chain, but what motivated each of them to take a step forward together in this new venture was a shared appreciation of and commitment to writing a new chapter in Japanese rice farming and agriculture. The change in consciousness aroused by this empathy and commitment altered how the stakeholders worked, fostered interdisciplinary ties, and led to a new product.

Another key point plays a role in the kind of storytelling that changes the way we work: designing the unseen things that people value and believe in.

In traditional working arrangements, what people probably tend to value is visible and tangible, such as money or the number of hours worked. But when we take on new ties in the fabric of society, we are motivated by a sense of satisfaction, reassurance, achievement, or other values that are hard to visualize or verbalize.

Behind the mobile app CraftBank is a service that matches construction workers with companies looking for their skills. Besides the material conditions that make these matches feasible, such as hourly wages, the psychological need of being able to trust an unknown party must also be met. We look forward to seeing how the service fares in meeting these requirements and providing unseen value.

What things do we trust, and what things resonate with us? How do we wish to engage with society? And, knowing that what inspires trust also changes, as time flows, how can these arrangements be updated to keep pace?

What will drive changes in how we work and bring us happiness and fulfillment is dedication to constant design efforts focused on these unseen values.

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