2021Design perspectives which gaze at “what lies ahead”
Current Location of Focused Issues

Five Ways to Interpret GOOD DESIGN AWARD 2021 — Thought Process of Focused Issues Directors

Ryotaro Washio
Shunsuke Imai
Interview and edit
Masayuki Koike (Designing and Editorial Department)

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 It is common for a plan to become out of date as time proceeds.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.”

Focused Issues Director, Ai Iishi

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.


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.

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.

Focused Issues Director, Yoshiki Ishikawa

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.

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.”

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.’”

Focused Issues Director, Miyuki Tanaka

Tanaka mentioned “KITANAGASE Community Fridge” and “Book & Host Project for Migrants” as noteworthy designs.

Tanaka“The former provides food and daily necessities for people in need indirectly. The latter provides immigrants with cultural education to help communication with local people and find friends, rather than quick know-how to use, I think. I realized that there are many projects around Japan to provide value not for people in front of us but for those who are unseen.”

On the other hand, Tanaka dared to raise an issue, saying, “I felt uncomfortable with the Best 100 Screening.”

Tanaka“I didn’t feel anything at the screening by unit because there are many items for minorities, but at the Best 100 Screening, I felt that GOOD DESIGN AWARD is still centering on the majority’s values. Products and points of discussion picked up are based on the viewpoint of majority people and the main point of reviews was if the screening members themselves felt value or not. Honestly speaking, I think there is potential for improvement from the standpoint of diversity and inclusion.
Items for minority people are difficult to make a profit from because their market is small. It is therefore not easy for companies to invest in such items, and as a result, technology development takes time. In other words, this domain ‘takes time.’”

She felt similarly at the Special Award Screening. It is important to think from the standpoint of how to recognize projects related to the social welfare domain in the framework of GOOD DESIGN AWARD to deepen the theme “Design which takes time.”

Tanaka“Of course, like OriHime, some of them were nominated. But, if such high quality is required in order to be recognized, it is too difficult for the welfare domain. I think another standard or place to recognize these products are needed.”

Tanaka explores her theme more deeply with awareness of the issues. But she also said that she could come across items that she couldn’t find by herself through recommendations by others. For example, the projects of Kitamokku, which Iishi also mentioned, impressed her with their long span of time in consideration of 700-year eruption cycle.

The importance of a new “gaze,” beyond mass production

Yuma Harada works on projects related to culture, welfare and community as an art director. Harada set his theme as Design which generates a gaze.

Harada“Our society has been rushing to grow up more and more. But I think we missed or passed by some things. I think not a few people tried to stop and ‘gaze’ at these things. But maybe some people couldn’t stop adequately.
For example, in my work, I identify needs of people who are not covered by the welfare system or think of ways for stock farms, which are often viewed as problematic from the standpoint of greenhouse gases, to coexist with mountains. I set this theme to encounter projects that encourage reimagining these people.”

Focused Issues Director, Yuma Harada

However, “I couldn’t encounter many items that matched my theme ‘Design which generates a gaze,’” he said. One of the reasons he cited is “the theme is distant from existing values.”

Harada“Items made from the viewpoint of majorities, which Tanaka-san mentioned earlier, were difficult to match with my issues. Particularly mass production and mass consumption don’t fit my issues much, I think. But some of them were created with an inclusive perspective. I think positively About this point.”

Harada explained his definition of “gaze” divided it into three types: “gaze generated from cooperation with people concerned,” “gaze generated from an attitude to think About issues as one’s own,” “gaze to change one’s perspective 180 degrees.”
He said that he found a “gaze generated from cooperation with people concerned” on “See-Through Captions” and “melt-resistant ice cream Yuttari Vanilla,” developed by LOTTE. Both of these products were created in cooperation with people concerned.

Public bath “KUWAMIZU SENTO” is a typical example of a “gaze generated from an attitude to think About issues as one’s own,” he said. “The building design is great, but more than that, Kuroiwa’s attitude itself is attractive. Their starting point was their own experience of a disaster,” Harada said.
He said that he found a “gaze to change one’s perspective 180 degrees” in the corporate attitude of O’right, which Ishikawa mentioned earlier, and “Architecture for the first time,” which was published as a part of “Open House Osaka” project.

Harada“I visited ‘Open House Osaka’ project several times. The project changes the viewpoint toward what we thought ‘out-of-date buildings’ and reveals their value. The project changes people’s attitude toward architecture dramatically, I think.”

After the Special Award Screening, Harada recognized the importance of asking ourselves, “Do we not rely on existing systems too much?” and “Do we not suppose that our purpose is creating?”

Harada“First, I felt that designers and facilitators of projects will be expected to act like social workers with the perspective from welfare services. OriHime and KUWAMIZU SENTO, at first glance, may not seem to approach immediate problems, though they make efforts to support various people, which made me sense the possibilities.”

Responsibility arises from “capitalistic style”

Kaie Murakami has worked on apparel or cosmetic brands as a designer and/or creative director. He referred to his main field as “a domain to serve people’s desire that has developed relying on a ‘capitalistic style’ more than other domains,” and feels sense of special responsibility to be involved. Such a feeling leads to his theme, Design for coexistence.

Murakami“Apparel and beauty domain products have negatively affected the natural environment. Based on our responsibility for having taken part in such a situation, we have to think over and over About ways to contribute to society and the natural environment through design works. One of those is this theme setting.

‘Design for coexistence’ is not an easy theme. Not only issues regarding majority and minority, which Tanaka-san mentioned earlier, there are many fragmentations around the world. We have to think the way to resolve such problems. In other words, we have to change various things including education and media into ‘tools for coexistence.’ To realize the change, I would like to widely define design.”

Focused Issues Director, Kaie Murakami

Companies Murakami is involved with also have a vision to promote environmentally friendly manufacturing, though some hesitate to realize the vision from the standpoint of profitability. On this point, O’right, which Ishikawa and Harada also mentioned, is a good example, and Murakami sees the company as a role model that realizes an ideal balance between “coexistence with the global environment” and business.
He noted the “Smart Childcare Center” promoted by UniFa as a noteworthy design, which provides various services such as “Lookmee Class Board” and “Lookmee Communication Note” for nurseries, kindergartens and centers for early childhood education and care.”

Murakami“It is highly significant that it has reduced teachers’ workload by 65%. Childcare centers face a problem that teachers’ income doesn’t match their workload, so Smart Childcare Center has played a big role in reducing teachers’ workload through technology and design showing how to resolve the problem.”

However, Murakami deepened his concerns based on the Special Award Screening. Initially, his theme, “Design for coexistence” meant “a new style of coexistence with living things including viruses, the earth and the natural environment,” but now he isn’t satisfied with that implication.

Murakami“For example, OriHime is not a digital twin, but rather, so to speak, a ‘physical twin.’ Like OriHime, in a world shifting from objects to systems, going online and offline will be easier. Especially teenagers and those in their 20s have such feelings strongly, I think. When I realized that, ‘coexistence,’ which I initially envisioned, seemed to be insufficient. My idea has not yet taken shape, so I would like to deepen my thoughts during the remaining time.”

The directors sincerely discussed “What is good design?” past the prescribed time.
The issues raised by each did not start with answers. Because of that, as this report shows, some directors changed their mind from the Second Screening to the Special Award Screening, and some felt a need to reconsider the concept of the GOOD DESIGN AWARD itself. Through such tough reconsideration, how will these five directors refine their recommendations? We will continue to follow their trajectories of thought to the final recommendations.

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Focused Issues