2021Design perspectives which gaze at “what lies ahead”
Yuma Harada
Yuma Harada Director’s Message “Design that Generates a Gaze”

Appreciate inconvenience (or irrelevance) and neutrality. Design to reflect your caring eyes for those who are left behind by society.


Direct your eyes to those who are overlooked.

Our society has pursued nothing but growth. My involvement in various welfare projects made me wake up to the fact that changes to our society for its growth have picked up speed at the expense of leaving some people and things behind.
COVID-19 has forced us to stop the pursuit of endless economic growth. At present, we have no choice but to stop. I think this is a time to reflect on the path we have taken and ask ourselves for what objectives we have pursued growth. That said, however, not all of us can afford to stop and look back. Can you imagine that some people who have to work non-stop to make ends meet no matter how raging COVID-19 is, and some people remained vulnerable even before the pandemic?
Those with physical and mental difficulties, the elderly, and children exposed to violence, for example. Vulnerability also exists in the worlds of animals and plants and the environment of the Earth. What role should designs play to turn many people’s eyes toward the people or things that are left behind by society? What role can designs play to make our society face problems it has avoided and make it capable of having imaginative power for invisible problems it might have?
Questions like these led me to set “Design that generates a gaze” as a theme for Focused Issues of the 2021 Good Design Awards. I have focused on practice and looked for designs among subject entries that took note of and took care of what remained overlooked by many people.
In that process, I observed two points About “Design that generates a gaze.”

Point 1: Do not skip inconvenience (or irrelevance)

You cannot skip inconvenience (or irrelevance) when creating a design that nurtures eyes for others, because inconvenience (or irrelevance) is a source of human contact and relationships.
When you place priority on functionality or efficiency, for instance, there is a tendency to think that it is a waste of time to look for a way to meet the needs of people outside social welfare or a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farms for their more sustainable coexistence with mountains. By paying attention to such matters that may appear to be a waste of time, however, you can realize the existence of people or things that have been left behind by our society, and only such realization allows you to build contact and relationships with those people or things.
If you want to create a design with eyes for others, you cannot skip the process of facing inconvenience or irrelevance; pursuing higher functionality or efficiency is not good enough. In other words, you need to think About those who are left behind and commit yourself to helping them. You need to have caring eyes for others yourself.
As an example, let me cite Kuwamizu private house with public bath in Kumamoto Prefecture. It is a public bathhouse built by Yuuki Kuroiwa, an architect who owns the place. He built it on the first floor of his own home after surviving a great earthquake that hit the region. Actually, he built it to make the space available to accommodate those who may lose their homes in the event of another major earthquake or other disaster. Despite the inconvenience, he has bothered to make part of his own home available for public use, not for the purpose of making money, but for the purpose of serving his community in the event of a disaster.
The point is that Kuwamizu private house with public bath has a design that is beyond making money. Kuroiwa has built relationships with his clients that go beyond usual owner–customer relationships by making his own home useful for other people in his community. I believe that the relationships he has built will enable the community to be firmly united in the face of a disaster.

Point 2: Neutrality between two alternatives

The other important factor to remember in creating “Design that generates a gaze” is to explore what stands between two alternatives. We tend to use the theory of choosing either A or B when we have an objective to attain. However, it seems to me that you are more likely to find something good, or that has been missed, in the middle area between two extremes.
Let me talk About Yuttari Vanilla, an ice cream product of Lotte that does not melt quickly, which I came to know About in the screening process and found impressive. In fact, this ice cream product has served as a wake-up call for many care homes for the elderly; ice cream was by then considered an unsuitable dessert, because it usually takes too much time for their senior residents to have meals.
Now, ice cream that melts too quickly is quite problematic as a product. On the other hand, ice cream that does not melt at all would not even be ice cream. Lotte did not deny the weak point of ice cream and successfully developed an ice cream that does not melt quickly by slowing the melting process. The development was achieved because the company explored possibilities that existed between two extremes.
As the product, Yuttari Vanilla, does not get frozen hard like a rock, you can eat it readily without waiting for it to melt a bit. You can also enjoy it without worrying that it would melt soon, because it is designed to melt slowly. I believe that Lotte spent a lot of time and effort in conducting research on ice cream. Lotte, I imagine, reached the great middle point such as an ice cream product that does not melt quickly, because the company conducted considerable research on ice cream for the elderly with caring eyes for them and, based on research findings, shifted the viewpoint from the two alternatives.

I also found a similar beauty of “neutrality” in COCOHERI, a membership-based helicopter rescue service for mountaineers. The service is provided thoroughly based on the mutual-support spirit of mountain lovers; it is outside of administrative intervention, has no any entertainment factor, and is free of influence from the media industry.
COCOHELI was born bottom-up from the sad fact that many people lose their lives in mountains each year. Unlike conventional rescue services, COCOHELI relies on a mutual-help philosophy that is innate in mountaineers. In other words, it is a service with eyes for other mountain-climbing enthusiasts.

Buck the trend of being a “consumer,” and have caring eyes for other people for your own sake.

Not avoiding inconvenience (or irrelevance) and looking for a neutral option between two alternatives – it is not easy to practice the two. Moreover, inconvenience (or irrelevance) and neutrality could even ruin the functionality or efficiency of a design. Even so, I would say we should pursue “Design that generates a gaze” for the benefit of society.
Rebecca Solnit, an American writer, says in her book A Paradise Built in Hell that modern times are a period of privatization. She argues in the book that privatized social functions, along with markets and mass media, have diminished the imaginative power of people to the limited spheres of individual daily lives or satisfaction levels and have thus given rise to consumer citizens.
Consumers, whose primary focus is comfortable personal living, are beings who pursue functionality and efficiency and hence rarely trouble themselves to give consideration to others. Nurturing eyes for others, I therefore think, requires you to resist pressure to change a citizen to a consumer.
We should pay more attention to the fact that there are people or things that have been marginalized as a result of the privatization process that has made the world more efficient and functional. For example, I think we should stop blaming people engaged in night entertainment jobs for the spread of the coronavirus; instead, we should think more About why they are doing those jobs and offer them a helping hand. Our society needs to have more caring eyes for others, I believe, and such “others” include all other things besides people.
The designs of Kuwamizu private house with public bath and Yuttari Vanilla have eyes for others whom many of us have overlooked. The former has eyes to care not for the purpose of making money but for building the community, and the latter for the elderly. I believe that the wider spread of designs like these will help our society nurture the capacity to care and imaginative power more About those who have been left behind.

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