2020What design can do during an era of change
Yuki Uchida
Yuki Uchida Director’s Message “Designs for weaving systems together”

Society changes with a chain of actions. Next-generation design as a practice of democracy


Identifying the form of design for society from three features

The background to setting the theme “Designs for weaving systems together” is that I wanted to consider from what angle designs can contribute to times where complex change is needed.

Along with climate change and COVID-19, the distortion of social foundations has become more obvious. It is apparent that solving this situation is not an easy task, as needs for change in all aspects are widely recognized.

However, there certainly are people who confront this complex situation across numerous locations, and these people also gather at the Good Design Award. The screening process of the Good Design Award was also an opportunity to look for hints on “Designs for weaving systems together” in order to support complex change, along with their projects.

As the premise of the theme, I focused on projects that have an emphasis on what to provide society, as a whole project in conjunction with several stakeholders, rather than the novelty of the form of a project itself. In addition, from all the 2020 entries, I could see that the situation around design has shifted to focus on the former subject.

From here, I will introduce three hints for “Designs for weaving systems together” that were identified while screening the entries in a cross-sectoral manner.

1. Architecture: A marriage of technology and human skills produces a new solidarity and activates the originality of those involved

There were many projects built upon cooperation and solidarity instead of fixed systems. For example, “House for Marebito” reconnected straightforward accepting-and-ordering relationships of material procurement, design, construction and possession, and changed the conventional relationship between “build” and “use” in construction.

The same thing can also be said About “WOTA BOX.” It realized a portable water circulation system by combining a device and water treatment technology utilizing machine learning. In times where huge infrastructures cannot be expected, their vision aiming to dismantle a large water treatment system and to enhance flexibility in the creation of livelihoods and cities was very suggestive.

Furthermore, these projects have one thing in common: the originality of those involved and location is fully utilized. While criticism for homogenization is often directed to technology, both of these projects were architecture that subsumes many types of originality interweaving local resources, craftsmanship and cooperation with local residents.

2. How to participate in a project: Accepting people of various viewpoints and creating new jobs and places

Instead of having a specific company or key person as a central player, place the spotlight on many people behind them and let everyone start with what they can do. As a result, many people can obtain their own place and be proud of themselves for participating. There were many projects carefully designed based on this idea.

“COVID-19 The Information Website” is known as a cooperation project by Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Code for Japan, and what makes Code for Japan work is a number of citizens from home and abroad.

The projects such as “BRING” and “LOOP,” which confront environmental issues, are also run by participation from people. They showed us a consensus that our current behavior makes a future society and suggested a framework in which companies and individuals can participate and expand their influence.

3. Picture of a core leader: Connecting diversified recognition and creating a future from “here”

In the interview conducted during the screening process, I paid special attention to the picture of a core leader. In order to work on systems, an ability to lead people with different viewpoints to the same direction is required. I consider that important hints to think About designs in the future are concealed in the way a leader who faces complex situations should be.

What impressed me in terms of the picture of a leader was “BRING,” which created a platform for a circular economy based on a regeneration technique to make clothes from clothes. The leader of this project, who was once active in the area of media art, lead the project in many ways, from educating individuals to think “clothes sleeping in households are not rubbish, but resource” to considering the influence on the future, by going back and forth between viewpoints above boundaries of time and space.

Another example I want to introduce is Taiwan’s “Design Movement on Campus” team. This project involved many entities, such as the government, teachers, designers from each region and students who have different behavioral principles, and was realized by conducting an enormous amount of adjustments. What derived the power to drive project members and made them overcome difficulties in front of them was the robust belief of the project leaders that this project nurtures youngsters who will create Taiwan’s future.

In order to keep moving forward in times where complex change is needed

As you know, the maestro of Italian design Enzo Mari made a distinction between “design” and “projetto” and called himself a “progettista” who engages in the latter. While “design” means forming a figure, “projetto” includes the entire relationship and process where various people and knowledge gather to create things.

Among this year’s award-winning objects, there were many “projetti” that put into practice this thought of Enzo Mari. That is to say, everyone in the project is a “progettista” to work on design in a broad sense, beyond the word “designer” as a position title. This is symbolized by the fact that “Design Movement on Campus” was carried out by various people, including the government, school, and staff of the Taiwan Design Research Institute, not just by professional designers.

In addition, the philosophy “A succession of actions starting with a belief of an individual changes society” in the projects I have introduced this time reminded me of the philosophy of pragmatism which is introduced in “How to Make Democracy?” by Shigeki Uno, a Japanese political philosopher. In other words, this may be a practice of new democracy made by design.

There is a limit to the things that can be done by one individual, company and government. The initiatives shown in the projects “House for Marebito” and “WOTA,” which created a totally new relationship by combining technology and human skills, and “COVID-19 The Information Website,” where anonymous people cooperated based on a shared feeling, will be more important from now on. Such a change can be made by an individual, large enterprise or anyone else and from anywhere else.

In order to keep up the movement to face issues in times where complex change is needed, I hope we will be able to support each attempt and find more footholds with the three hints of “architecture,” “how to participate in a project” and “picture of a core leader” in our mind. When this movement spreads, many people will change their behavior and habits. Then we will look back and find out that the whole of society has changed.

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