2019Attention to the interplay of design and social issues
Atsumi Hayashi Miles Pennington
Director’s Message

New Business Design


What does it mean to design business?

HayashiAs a jury member in this year's program, I had the opportunity to confront the question of designing business. Is a well-designed business one designed to make money? Or, putting this aside, does it involve creating business that is socially relevant? Or perhaps the question is whether it represents a compelling business model. In thinking through the meaning of business design, among other things I had to consider whether business that was admirable but not necessarily profitable deserved recognition.

PenningtonBefore evaluation, I believed that new business design was a matter of innovation design. I imagined that it included new approaches, new platforms, or the new methods or systems in the framework of business models. But once the actual screenings began, it was not simply a matter of evaluating new business models, and some entries challenged us to find what had been designed, or whether entries could be described as "design." This was more difficult than evaluating concrete things that can be examined.

Hayashi I think there are a few types of design work, such as business model design, organizational design, and design of concrete things. In each situation, various participants fulfill various roles. As Silicon Valley and other areas see it, innovative businesses need three kinds of members: hustlers, hackers, and hipsters. The first people are entrepreneurs who lead in business strategies, the second are leaders in technology, and the third are creative leaders. If we ventured to say it, those in the Good Design Award (GDA) program who have mainly evaluated the aesthetic appeal of tangible things, presented as entries we can see, might belong to the hipster community. When the program evaluates business design, however, this community expands to include those involved in design of business models and organizations. This will probably alter the original community, because even if we are all evaluating the same design, we will bring different mental attitudes, sensibilities, and chemistry to the program. Musicians and sculptors are both artists, but they are clearly different types. Similarly, although hipsters and hustlers may share a right-brain orientation toward thinking holistically, they are fundamentally different. Design thinking and other integrative, creative thinking is a quality sought in a variety of fields, and it should be expanded. On the other hand, I think it is significant that there is a world where design is directed toward high aesthetics, rather than applying it to profit in compelling ways. That is why my stance in evaluation reflected a belief that the program should continue to appreciate this, whether entries are for business or not. From this perspective, it was Mitosaya Botanical Distillery and Nousaku Office and Factory this year that impressed me. I inevitably gravitate toward architecture, which is my own background, but what unites these two award winners is an integrative synergy where the spatial or environmental design enhances the value of the project as a whole, makes waves in the community, and so on.

PenningtonIn this year's program, I approached the entries from the perspective of a designer, but it was surprising how many entries out of the total had ties to architecture. It brings to mind the many cases where those behind the design renovated existing buildings, shared something with the community, and contributed to community-building. I myself do not specialize in architecture, but that is exactly why seeing how the buildings did much more than spice up an area was impressive.

HayashiThe two I mentioned are good examples of this. With only minor renovation to the existing structures, Mitosaya architecture does not impinge on the surrounding nature. The story of this place – a former medicinal herb park that now makes fruit brandy, creating a new market in Japan – also stands out. It is beautiful how the project as a whole has taken shape on these grounds, and I found it quite admirable how the site entices us to visit. Nousaku shows us traditional craftsmanship in the form of new business. It brings people together here, creates relationships, and inspires customer loyalty. I sense beauty not only in this environment but also in the economic sustainability of local industry. With fewer and fewer local businesses left, these two award winners may not be geared to mass production, but by clearly setting themselves apart, they offer a viable business solution.

PenningtonTo me, it was quite intriguing that Fujifilm's Drug2Drugs drug discovery support service was submitted for a design award. The project expands the boundaries of what we have recognized as design, because there is no concrete thing to evaluate. As someone who believes it is undoubtedly an example of design-driven innovation, and that people we identify as designers should get involved in these fields, I find it a sign of remarkable progress that the design was entered and even won an award. This is a pioneering entry that provides a new perspective in discussing future design.

HayashiAlong the same lines, I was struck by Negai No Kuruma, with its vision of a better world. But I did question whether this effort represented an outstanding design solution.

PenningtonWell, it is certainly interesting as a business model, but it is hard to say that its specific touchpoints in interface or product design are beautifully designed. I myself have not figured this out yet, but we might say that something perceived as "design" that is built on technical expertise has been growing, in the sense of being something that people express visually and apply creativity to. But I also fear that as this concept expands, the significance of "design" in a purer sense will fade. In my mind, design linked to innovation and design as technical expertise are at odds, and Negai No Kuruma shows me very well how my mind is divided About this. Since the screenings last year, my thoughts have returned to one award-winning entry: the Midori nonslip aluminum ruler. It amazed me that some people are still trying to design the ruler, a tool that has existed for hundreds of years. And what a beautiful ruler it is. On the other hand, we might also say that introducing new design among the many rulers around us will not affect the vast majority.

HayashiThe ruler certainly has beautiful design and holds the potential to set a standard in the future, but it is hard to say that its impact is great enough to change the world.

Designers tracing out a vision, building business

PenningtonJust to remind the general public, we should at least note that design has an impact on and supports society and the economy.

HayashiDesign encompasses and can accomplish a wide range of things. Designers are in the hipster role and work in fields traditionally associated with design. But because they naturally stray from logic and frameworks, their work should probably take them further into hustler territory. Still, we should also consider the consequences of broader definitions of "design." "Beautiful design" can make business much more valuable, socially relevant, and sustainable. In this case, I think it also makes sense to keep using the word "design" within its traditional range of meaning. Evaluate the achievements of an influential hipster in hustler territory, and you will not always find success. That is because each is different.

PenningtonAs a designer, I hope the designers invade the territory of hustlers and hackers. But in the first place, design should arise where these three territories overlap, and it should affect surrounding areas. Despite the inspired vision of designers, it is entrepreneurs or engineers who tend to become CEOs. Designers have rarely assumed this role. The work of outstanding visioners extends into the realm of designers. Designers may one day be in a position to design their vision. Thirty years ago, no one could have imagined that some designers would design the images on a touchscreen display. In 20 years, those who make scientific inventions or spearhead efforts to adopt them in society may be identified as designers. I find it preferable that currently, the role of designer is not clearly defined, and it excites me to imagine how it will expand in the future.

HayashiOver time, strategists and CEOs will surely gain a better understanding of the world of design and the work of designers. But a future with separate roles for visioners, supertechnologists, and designers may not be that bad. And people will often invade each other's territory. There are certainly vectors leading to deeper mutual understanding and linkage, and clearly, without this, no value can be created.

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