2022Re-examining the ever-changing “present day”
Erika Nakagawa
Erika Nakagawa Director's Message “Design that cannot be described in a nutshell,”

Everyone becomes a maker and keeps updating “the provisional first place.” Design to solve complicated problems

2023.03.09Social InfrastructureTechnology

Complicated problems cannot be solved in a top down manner

In the world of architecture, where I belong to, the idea of implementing the concept conceived by a star architect in a top down manner used to be mainstream. It is probably because society was less diverse and less uncertain than it is now. And architects somehow knew at the start the perfect form of what they needed to make.

But today's society is full of complicated problems. The answers to them vary and change. I think that is why in architecture as many values as possible should be included, and an approach for everyone involved to search for answers together is required. I am sure this also applies to fields other than architecture.

In order to consider ways to enable manufacturing to incorporate diversity, which is required in today's society, I set “design that cannot be described in a nutshell” as the Focused Issues Theme of the 2022 GOOD DESIGN AWARD. If the problems existing in the world and the way the world works has complications that cannot be described in a nutshell, I think design should have a depth that can never be described in a nutshell.

What are the key elements to achieving "design that cannot be described in a nutshell”? I conducted the screening for the 2022 GOOD DESIGN AWARD with this question in mind.

Have a solid vision backed by long-standing questions

The first thing that came to my mind as I went through the winning entries was the importance of having a solid vision.

I mentioned earlier that it is important to have diverse values. However, I do not recommend accepting any opinion. "Cannot be described in a nutshell" does not mean "accepting anything." That is why we need a solid vision as criteria for choosing ideas.

For example, Hands-Free Personal Mobility [UNI-ONE] won the GOOD DESIGN GOLD AWARD 2022. This personal mobility allows users to keep both hands free while seated and to communicate with people standing at the same eye level. I hear that UNI-ONE inventor, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., verbalizes the maker’s thoughts and the significance of the plan using a format called A00 at the beginning of every project. I think A00 is a solid vision for them to always return to in the process of making.

Related article:Interpretable design includes diverse people — Erika Nakagawa x Honda UNI-ONE

And I feel that a solid vision is often based on accumulated questions.

For example, UNI-ONE is the third-generation personal mobility device, following the UNI-CUB and UNI-CUB β, which were designed with the goal of achieving free movement simply by tilting the body. In other words, before they began to create UNI-ONE, they had already accumulated diverse thoughts about the question of what a new personal mobility device should be.

Another GOLD AWARD winner, the BAUMEISTERHAUS in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka, is also a good example of a vision born from the accumulation of questions. This project aims to solve problems in the distribution and processing of wooden houses by improving the yield of materials and their reusability after demolition with a construction method that uses domestic large-diameter timber directly. The designer, Yoshiaki Amino, has long engaged in wooden architecture leading to a sustainable society.

In fact, the predecessor of this project, House [Living inside a 'mass of wood'] was completed in 2015. It was built using a large amount of cedar, which was not available on the market owing to scratches and cracks. This won the Good Design Award in the same year for not only showing the potential of lumber but also for having a positive impact on forestry revenues.

BAUMEISTERHAUS is another piece of architecture that has had a positive impact on wooden architecture and its business model. It is built of large-diameter conifer, which has been decreasingly used as lumber. By finishing lumber with handicraft and eliminating middlemen as much as possible, a variety of non-standard lumber can be used within the range of acceptable housing costs. As a result, they have been successful in increasing the yield of timber and increasing the earnings of forestry workers. In addition, by designing components based on the assumption that they will be reused after demolition, long-term use of lumber has also been achieved.

I believe this architecture is a result of Mr. Amino's constant thinking about wooden architecture.

Always consider being at “the provisional first place" and keep updating it

I think we need a solid vision, but the means to achieve it should be flexible. The means of being the provisional first place is OK. I think it is important to keep updating it.

In "design that cannot be described in a nutshell," which confronts complicated issues, it is almost impossible to imagine ways and strategies to achieve it at the beginning. It is essential that everyone involved develop and change the means in the making process.

At the same time, it is important to repeat making things in the process of updating it.

When multiple people work on making something, even if they are making the same thing, they have slightly different images of the finished product. It is hard to convey those subtle differences in nuance in words.

Once a thing is formed, the differences among the images become apparent, and new ideas come from the differences. I believe by repeatedly making things and correcting the trajectory, the ideas of people involved will be added, resulting in a "design that cannot be described in a nutshell.”

As an architect myself, when I build buildings, I take the approach of updating one model over and over, rather than making many new designs each time. As a result, I feel that I can keep updating "the provisional first place," and can more easily create a “design that cannot be described in a nutshell," which includes various ideas.

Among the winners of the 2022 GOOD DESIGN AWARD, there were a number of works that I could strongly felt the accumulation of such updates in the making process.

For example, Vacuum Cleaner [Hitachi Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner PV-BH900SK]. They used recycled plastics in the vacuum cleaner, pursuing an aesthetic design. In order to turn the concept of using recycled materials into a high-quality product, they must have repeatedly exchanged opinions, which has resulted in a product.

I also felt the accumulation of updating from the oval Balance ball [&MEDICAL MALLOW], which can also be used as a work chair. At first glance, it seems to have started with a clear concept of an oval shape. However, the oval shape varies in length. Opinions may have been divided. I think it was challenging to stand it in the oval shape and to use it as a balance ball.

Eliminate the gap between the maker and the user

"Design that cannot be described in a nutshell" is born after continually updating the concept of "the provisional first place" based on a strong vision supported by long-standing questions.

In order to popularize this type of design, I think it is important to eliminate the gap between the maker and the user. This is because in order to collectively update the concept of the provisional first place, everyone will be expected to exercise their creativity without categorizing people by role.

"Design that cannot be described in a nutshell" is created by involving a wide range of people. In the process, more people realize the joy of making things with their own hands while reflecting their own values. And everyone becomes a maker and a user. I hope for such a society.

At first, it may be a small movement. However, the accumulation of small movements will change the world in a big way. In the Good Design Award screening process, I felt there were many designs that had the potential to significantly influence society as the number of fans would increase even if there were not so many people involved.

In a world where everyone is a user and a maker, "design that cannot be described in a nutshell" is spontaneously created. I sincerely hope that day will come.

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