2020What design can do during an era of change
Yuma Harada
Yuma Harada Director’s Message “Designs for creating a place for distanced people”

Power of humanity to re-imagine by learning to see, and to imagine by not seeing


We can imagine the existence of others by learning to see

When we face a big wall in our lives, we naturally come up with the feeling that we have to take action for the sake of others. During this year’s Good Design Award, I encountered entries that reminded me of such a feeling.

For example, “Sakimeshi” which supports the food service industry that has been in a tight squeeze due to the COVID-19 crisis. I felt the creator’s intention to utilize an existing platform to reconstruct the service to fit the current situation.

This project visualized that a restaurant and izakaya, Japanese bar, is not a place just for dining, but it is a place where people feel like they belong. By visualizing it as a service, we are able to re-imagine a place for someone.

On the other hand, Taiwan Design Research Institute’s Design Movement on Campus project suggests an innovative space in association with designers by revising an existing system once again and thinking how to renovate a school, where children spend the largest part of their day. In this project, special emphasis was placed on the design of the process.

Instead of providing uniformed desks, blackboards and environments, children, teachers and designers create each space together. By experiencing a commitment to a public entity such as a school, they will have an opportunity to consider city infrastructures, including roads, railways and the water supply as their own business.

Now that I look back, I first started considering this power of imagination when I visited the In Search of Critical Imagination Exhibition (Fukuoka Art Museum) in 2014. What impressed me most was the work created by Takayuki Yamamoto, a former primary school teacher. His work was to show a marble and let participants imagine outer space inside the marble.

Some children got frightened just by watching the marble and started crying. Even with an ordinary marble, we can think of somewhere far away if we learn how to do it.

Since then, how to design a way to re-imagine has been the most important theme of mine. I think this also leads to “Designs for creating a place for distanced people,” the theme I upheld this time. As shown in “Design Movement on Campus” and “Sakimeshi,” learning to see and imagining the existence of others may be one way.

Power to create a space that activates originality produces a place for distanced people

One of the most important themes of “Design Movement on Campus,” which was previously mentioned, is “How to create a space that activates originality.” From this viewpoint, in 2020, “Mi-chan's Sweets Workshop” outshined the others.

In this project, Mi-chan, a junior high school girl with selective mutism, selected and challenged confectionery making by herself as a communication method in order to live with her family. I was impressed by the fact that Mi-chan herself launched this project of her own will with support from her family.

When it comes to communication, the first thing we think of tends to be “talking.” However, making confectionery and eating is a means of communication here.

More interestingly, Mi-chan is a SNS user, and she replies to comments from people directly. Even though she has difficulty in talking, we can easily see Mi-chan’s personality as a confectionery maker and junior high school student. This might have been difficult if it had not been for SNS.

Meanwhile, 2016 Good Design Award winner “TSURUMI Children's Hospice” (which was established on the initiative of the private sector to provide a place for children with a life-threatening disease and their family) is operated based on a similar philosophy, creating a place for children and families by taking each individual’s future into account, even though there is a difference in their size. Such an effort to create a place for distanced people should spread throughout the nation.

When I talk with workers who engage in welfare and nursing care, I sometimes hear them saying “We can’t afford to enter (the Good Design Award),” and I actually think they have their hands full with their on-site job. However, even in such a situation, I have seen many cases of outside people recognizing those workers’ efforts and a circle of supporters expanding, and then the workers gaining courage and confidence eventually. Making it easier for people who engage in welfare to enter the Good Design Award is also a task for us, for those who are involved in the award.

For both a community and people, seeing is not everything.

One of my favorite books is “A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men” written by Jakob von Uexküll, a biologist. In this book, he wrote “A jackdaw simply cannot see a sitting grasshopper. The jackdaw does not snap after it unless it hops.”

After I read this line, I came to appreciate this thought “What we are seeing is not everything.” As mentioned in the previous section, we can shift from “learning to see” to “learning to imagine a background and process of what we see, not just seeing objects.” This is also one example of the way to comprehend the world by expanding the scope of imagination.

Then, this leads up to “House for Marebito.” It was not judged just as a completed object. But the focus of this presentation was the construction process itself, from material procurement to processing and construction, that was accomplished within a local economic block by using local techniques.

I assume that there were countless trial and error before making this project a reality. But that is the point in which I feel good About the future.

Making something that can be created just in a specific area for people living there, by using knowledge and technique. Creation is not an end in itself. This project made me to think why and for whom we create once more.

“Design for creating a place for distanced people” means trusting the power of humanity that makes us to re-imagine by learning to see, and to imagine by not seeing.

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