It is not easy to describe the current location of “design” because its subjects are continuously expanding.
The Good Design Award has been witnessing a wave of design for more than 60 years. In fiscal year 2021, it is exploring the “Good” of this moment with its theme, “Aspiration and Action with Consideration.”
In August 2021, award winners and Best 100 were selected through the Second Screening. In September, the Special Awards Screening was conducted, in which some of the themes were selected.
In this screening process, there are some efforts to reveal a tide of design from a different viewpoint of selecting Award winners. That is, “Focused Issues.” Important domains that design should face are defined as Focused Issues, and a special team (Focused Issues Directors) is organized to deepen discussions on them. Subject entries are observed across screening units to discuss possibilities, roles and meanings of design in the future society and finally, the issues and the future possibilities are presented as “recommendations.”
In fiscal year2021, five directors contemplate their own themes. In this article, we will cover each issue and its thought trajectory.
“Leaving room” for changes as time goes on, not “once created, nothing will be added”
The first director we would like to introduce is urban designer Ai Iishi. She was involved in “Real Public Estate,” a start-up that promotes matching and utilization of public facilities, and various community development projects around Japan. Her Focused issue is “Incomplete design.”
Iishi“In the domain of city and architectural design, it takes a long time to realize a design. For example, a redevelopment project often takes more than 20 years from plan to completion. But can we forecast what the world will be like after more than 20 years? It is common for a plan to become out of date as time proceeds.
For that reason, leaving room to respond to changes is important. If the premise is ‘once created, nothing will be added,’ it cannot respond to changes. I think we need to design from the perspective of what may be needed after completion.”
At the screening, she said she focused on “whether efforts are continuous or not if it takes long time.” She was attracted most by the efforts of Kitamokku based in Karuizawa, a project to create a sound material-cycle community for the future centering on adding value to regional resources at the northern part of Mount Asama and creating places including a campsite.
Kitamokku launched its business 25 years earlier. At first, they started operating a campsite, and then business was expanded to wood processing to build cottages with timber. After that, they focused on forestry and purchased mountain forests. Then they started self-cutting forestry. They are currently expanding the business to food production and processing, manufacturing and selling honey, and so on.
- Project to create a sound material-cycle community for the future centering on adding value to regional resources at the northern part of Mount Asama and creating places including a campsiteKitakaruizawa, at the base of Mount Asama, they conduct self-cutting forestry mainly with broad-leaf trees. With idle forests and abandoned farmlands, they keep bees to promote vegetation turnover. Wood is used for building materials, and honey is used as an ingredient for cooking and making processed foods at the campsite, which draws 100,000 visitors a year. A sustainable and sound material-cycle project is conducted that connects production to consumption seamlessly within a community by adding value to regional resources and creating places for people to get together.
Iishi“They have been expanding their business domain for 25 years, always with the perspective of ‘after completion.’ It is really impressive that they have been trying to resolve challenges of the region and forestry, not only operating a campsite.”
She also mentioned “Johnson Town” in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture as a noteworthy design.
- Johnson TownA community development project covering a 2.5-ha residential area in the slum, built before and after World War II in front of Iruma Base at that time. Twenty-three remaining US military houses were renovated; 39 “Heisei houses” were newly built as future-standard houses to live and work; and new streets were also constructed. As a result, the town has developed as a community with a sense of unity where child-rearing families, elderly people, and disabled people enjoy their lives and work, interacting with each other.
This area was a residential district of the US military personnel of Johnson Base, which once existed in the city. After the US military withdrew from the base, abandoned houses went into ruins, though some of them were lived in by Japanese. However, reconstruction of the town started in 2004. New houses called “Heisei houses” were built and they coexist with old American flat houses called the US military houses, which make up a unique scenery.
This is the first entry of the project in the 17 years since it started. “The most distinctive point of the project is that the shapes of buildings are changing little by little as time goes by with harmonious unification of residents, workers, and creators.”
As the screening progressed, “the resolution of ‘Incomplete design’ became higher,” Iishi said.
Iishi“A hypothesis is emerging that ‘Incomplete design’ may consist of five elements: making or creating is not a goal; a future vision is shared among people involved; completion is not urgent; people have sense of ownership and go beyond their roles; and room is left for changes. I would like to explore this contemplation more deeply toward the final recommendations.”
Design desired in the 2020s when major generational change is occurring
The second director we would like to introduce is Yoshiki Ishikawa, a public health researcher, who studies “what is well-being for people” in an interdisciplinary manner. He set “Design created together with the next generation” as his theme and highly focused on the importance of the design “process” at the screening.
Ishikawa“It is difficult to conduct the screening based on output quality alone because every item has a really high output quality. So I decided to focus on the creative process. Even if outputs are similar, their processes are unique. I thought important things might be who designed it, what they thought and ‘with whom’ they designed.”
The reason he said “with the next generation” is that a generational change will occur in the 2020s for all humans. He pointed out that in Japan, 50% of the workforce will be Millennials in 2024, and in 2030, half of the world population will be Generation Z. “We should firmly face the next generation with new values and should learn from them, otherwise we will become left behind with the times,”
Ishikawa said, and the item he “was astounded by” was also strongly aware of the “future.” Looking back, he said that he found a project by O’right, a Taiwanese company, outstanding.
- The best sustainability-oriented organizational adaptation to climate changeThey set internal carbon pricing, pricing the company’s own CO2 emissions by itself to be utilized for investment decisions, aiming to reduce environmental impact. The company provides employees and suppliers with environmental education, and passes on its values to customers through its products to innovate the industry and supply chain.
At COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) set to take place from November 1, 2021, in the UK, O’right CEO Steven Ko will give a closing speech as a business representative. “It means O’right’s products are recognized as ecological ones around the world,” said Ishikawa. O’right also applied for GOOD DESIGN AWARD 2020 with its toothpaste.
Ishikawa“Its products are so wonderful because they are environmentally friendly and health conscious, but I was most astounded by the attitude as a company. Last year, I talked with one of the O’right staff members and I was asked ‘Do you still use paper business cards?’ The staff member replied, ‘They are not eco-friendly and viruses might adhere to them.’ I saw a possibility that our common practices may ‘become uncommon’ for the next generation, and felt strongly that it is necessary to change our practices.”
After that, Ishikawa stopped using paper business cards. “O’right is really iconic for me because they made me aware of our responsibility to pass a baton on to the next generation in a better way,” he said.
He also mentioned “Minna Bank,” a digital bank for the digital native generations, as a noteworthy design. He recommended it as “a trigger to review our relationship with money from a zero-base looking toward the next generation and restructuring financial facilities.”
- Minna BankThe first-ever digital bank in Japan targeting the digital native generations, Generation Z and Generation Y, which provides comprehensive financial services on a smartphone. It adopts modern design process and system architecture, redesigning and redefining financial service from zero. It provides a new financial service experience.
Ishikawa said he found three patterns regarding what “Design created together with the next generation” is to be, at the Special Awards Screening.
Ishikawa“The first pattern is a design by the current generation while hearing from future generations. The second is a design by the current generation and the next generation as equal partners. The third one focuses on ‘coexistence,’ without aiming to do or create something. Keeping those patterns in my mind, I continue to deepen my ideas About what constitutes design created with ‘the next generation,’ who are suffering the most, I think, from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Are “Design which takes time” difficult to receive recognition or investment for?
Tanaka“I would like to pick up designs the effects of which take a long time to see, or that try to provide benefits indirectly to people who are not in front of the designs.”
Miyuki Tanaka set her theme as Design which takes time.
Tanaka“I usually conduct art projects or make movies with people who have disabilities or minorities. People in minorities may have physical, linguistic or cultural characteristics that are different from people in majorities, and it ‘takes time’ for minorities to adapt to things created by majorities. At the same time, it also ‘takes time’ for majorities to understand things created by minorities. And changing the society like this also ‘takes time.’”
Tanaka mentioned “KITANAGASE Community Fridge” and “Book & Host Project for Migrants” as noteworthy designs.