2020What design can do during an era of change
Kaie Murakami
Considering “Design for improving the environment”

There is no plan B for environmental issues. The high publicness demanded of future designs


Kaie Murakami, CEO of SIMONE and a designer and creative director, listed the theme “Design for improving the environment” upon becoming a Focused Issues Director. While the superficial “consideration of environmental issues” is regarded as a problem, and accurate information not being prevalent, the type of design worthy of recognition becomes concrete.

Economy and the environment. Designs aware of environmental issues seen from two perspectives

Environmental issues already have a long history and are wide-ranging, so each person sees a different facet of the problem. However, though there may be differences in perspective or depth of interest, it is obvious that thinking of the environment is important in modern times, and everyone can admit that there is no “plan B” in response.

In fact, in this year’s Best 100 were various entries that directly considered environmental and disposal issues, and showed environment consciousness, including initiatives that identified models that will be part of the next standard or social infrastructure and detailed products that used recycled material. In these terms, I felt that all things were already beginning to be created with the awareness of environmental issues.

Kaie Murakami

There were a variety of entries again this year, but I wanted to clearly nominate with prioritization among economic impact and environmental impact. As a small initiative, Hiyori hoikuen’s cookbook “welcome to hiyori shokudo” developed environmental awareness through the perspective of food education in Japan that has weaknesses in the fields of “knowing” and “learning.”

Also, the autonomous, decentralized water upcycling system “WOTA BOX,” declared as the world’s first portable water recycling plant, was conscious of measures for disasters caused by climate change.

Furthermore, “Solar Town Fuchu” was an interesting initiative in terms of energy issues and the size-reduction and decentralization of lifelines. Energy is a sensitive issue in Japan in that even if there is an increase in electric vehicles, ending nuclear power and depending on thermal power will then cause the issue of carbon emissions caused by creating electricity. While thinking that regresses to the essence is demanded, initiatives that solve the energy issue within the community or micro-community are important.

In terms of the size of their impact, the only entries are the shopping platform “LOOP” and the circular economy “BRING.”

“LOOP” seemed to aim at a very ambitious social packaging in that it allows not only people with high awareness to discuss environmental issues.

What surprised me About “BRING” was the joint development and business collaboration between French businesses Axens and IFPEN. This is a collaboration between a business handling the disposal problem of “H&M,” a global brand from Sweden, and a business in charge of the disposal problem of Japan’s “UNIQLO” and “MUJI” and has a strong impact on the apparel industry.

Until the 1990s, 98% of the world’s apparel products were consumed before sale. But now, 65% are being disposed of. The impact of recycling this is substantial, and I wanted to properly appraise this point.

Something that all people involved in design must consider in the future

I mentioned earlier that there is no plan B, but on the other hand, it does not mean that information About environmental issues is widespread today. During a social transition point like now, when eco-friendliness is used for “greenwashing” (superficial consideration of environmental issues) and words take on a life of their own, situations may arise where non-professionals cannot fathom the real value.

During such times, even if it is not verbalized or noticed, a state where everyone is using the mechanism before you know it, like the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings in a town, may be the level of publicness demanded of design. “BRING” and “LOOP” were appraised in that they have the potential to become such presences.

When thinking of environmental issues, the coronavirus crisis was obviously a significant occurrence. The global reduction in vehicle traffic triggered reports of being able to gaze at the distant Himalayas from India for the first time in decades and innumerable animals being rescued in Australia, and the coronavirus crisis allowed us to momentarily glimpse the Earth’s natural state. I believe this pandemic time served a purpose in that we will be able to see how people will act after this experience.

We can also focus on the rapid progress of internetization as a change during this coronavirus crisis. There you can glimpse possibilities of new non-materialistic production through remote technologies, and it was demonstrated to a certain extent that creative things can be done with digital fabrication without the movement of people or things.

Meanwhile, we must also turn our eyes to not only cutbacks or circulation of objects, but also to the risks created from our traveling. Considering this as well, I believe that all people concerned with design are being tested on how to face new productions using online technology.

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