2020What design can do during an era of change
Yoshihiko Yamasaka
Yoshihiko Yamasaka Director’s Message “Designs serving as a guidepost pointing the way to a new society”

Two paths leading to a new society


A highway everyone passes through without noticing, and a byway that shows us a new path

By taking part as a director of Focused Issues in this year’s Good Design Award, I had the opportunity once again to consider what sort of future can designs bring to us. This includes the question of how we should design the next era.

The main focus of this question is “speed.” While there is no time to lose in current issues such as environmental issues, the most important things for designs are to be clearly effective against the problems and to focus on goal achievement itself.

Since the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) were approved to uphold 17 goals of solving issues such as poverty, starvation, health, education and clean energy by 2030, companies, NPOs and individuals are conducting various activities to achieve a sustainable society. The variety of such activities have pointed many ways to these goals. However, the fact that there are only 10 years left until 2030 confronts us with an urgent reality.

The reality is urging us to find a concrete solution. In this year’s Good Design Award, I could see concrete designs that can respond to this reality.

This time, I have upheld the theme as “Designs serving as a guidepost pointing the way to a new society,” and have been thinking About designs that can be an arrowhead that change the behavior and thought of people. In the interim report, I mentioned that there are two types of designs. One is a highway-type design (that has already been established and used by many people), and the other is a byway-type design (that is to seek a new method). In this final message, I would like to marshal this viewpoint, then talk About it again.

The former highway type could be described as having a similar characteristic to a kind of platform and being easy to participate in. It is designed to be a road that many people can pass thorough and go fast along.

The most prominent example is “BRING.” It is a great attempt that aims for a circular economy based on the idea of making clothes from clothes by involving consumers and distribution. But what we should take notice of the most is that it considers the recycling of clothes as a sales promotion, instead of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) related activity. This is a key factor that provided a breakthrough for this service.

In this system, consumers who participate in the collection of used clothes receive a payment in the form of cash vouchers. This system is excellently designed as it involves unconcerned people by providing a concrete return to them, not just relying on the good cause of recycling. I sensed their intention to make people take action right now.

The latter byway type can be represented by “Solar Town Fuchu.” Looking at a photo of it, you may think this group of houses was praised for being eco-friendly by utilizing solar energy. However, this is not the point. There was a surprising proposal for community making.

What impressed many judges and made them say “This is different!” was its original sharing system called “garden path.” The “garden path” is a common area similar to an inner garden or footpath, founded by all 16 households by providing a part of their easement.

This may be familiar to people who live in an apartment building. For example, sometimes there is a troublesome complaint like “Why do I have to pay for the repair of the elevator even though I live on the first floor and never use it?.” Such a complaint may be formed because residents think some parts of the common area within the building have nothing to do with them.

On the other hand, with the “garden path” system, which is managed by collecting contributions from residents, each resident tends to think “I can use this because I own it.” The strong awareness of common ownership enhances participation by residents and activates the community.

This may look like a platform, but it is based on a longer and slower viewpoint, without encouraging immediate action. A path is made where people pass through. Considering this, I classified this entry as “byway-type.”

What we need is tolerance and permission to jump on an existing platform.

Other than that, as can be seen in “SHARP bitescan,” which is designing the act of “chewing,” and “Yamasen Japanese Restaurant,” which was built by adapting Ugandan materials and constructing methods, all the designs that I recognized as a guidepost can be classified as either of “highway-type” or “byway-type.” But “Antarctica Mobile Station Unit as a Research platform” combines the good features of both types.

Misawa Homes, which has proven results in the area of construction in the polar regions, is involved in the design of the research base in Antarctica. Requirements for constructions in an extremely cold polar region are construction techniques that research team members with no expertise can handle, and easy establishment and maintenance of the living environment. In order to meet these requirements, the construction technique to assemble standardized units is designed with operations and lifestyle in outer space in mind. However, a livelihood is not just About a living environment.

Misawa Homes is regularly scouting for corporations, universities and research institutions who are willing to participate in this project, taking the experiment and research in Antarctica for a co-creation platform. Life in outer space has possibilities for all types of designs to get involved in. In that sense, it deserves to be called a platform for everyone. The exciting story setting like a sci-fi movie was very interesting for me. Adding such a sense of excitement to a design is important for involving many people.

The world of design is highly competitive. Everyone wants to make a platform before anyone else, and to make a unified standard to come out ahead of the others. We designers have been working under such competition,

but the trend has already shifted, and platforms are now made by utilizing existing items, instead of newly creating. While I worked as a creative director of a local government in the past, I saw many cases where councils and local governments had made reliable results by following past successful practices.

Local governments do not stick to originality. Therefore, they can utilize an existing platform, or follow an existing structure and system, and make it function as infrastructure. If this is the best way to produce a social impact in the short term, then it should not be limited to public bodies.

Creators often persist in turning 0 into 1, but I think now is the time to be tolerant and permissive to jumping on an existing idea or platform.

It is wonderful to design big “highways” which can be used by many people and a lot of “byways.” Likewise, being courageous to walk on an already completed platform will be crucially important from here on.

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Focused Issues