2022Re-examining the ever-changing “present day”
Laila Cassim
Laila Cassim Director’s Message “Design for the people that are within 10 feet of you”

A friendly society starts within 10 feet of you. Design that creates a stir through questioning common practices


The path to true inclusive design

In the world of design, I meet many people who want to change society through the power of design or want to make a big impact on society. In recent years, there has been an increase in efforts to change society into a more inclusive one from the perspective of diverse people.

On the flip side of this happy trend, I wonder if there are cases where people who really need design are left behind because we try to do something too big. In fact, when I hear about the development process of products and systems based on the philosophy of inclusive design, I sometimes feel that user research is insufficient.

So this time, I set "Design for the people that are within 10 feet of you" as the Focused Issus Theme. I think design is essentially created for people in the first place. When I design, I do thorough research and try to understand the users. I wanted designers to use their ability to think about others and focus more on their surroundings within a 10-foot radius first, not to try to go for something big.

However, it should be noted that the design industry is not diverse enough. I have a physical disability. When I went to an art college in Japan, no one else was like me. Even now, art directors in wheelchairs are still rare. In Japan, including the design industry, people with disabilities are not treated the same as people who do not have disabilities in daily life. I also feel as a person with a disability that the understanding of disabilities is insufficient. I think other minorities often feel that way.

So, if people within 10 feet of you are not diverse, you designers have to go out into the outside world. I want designers to meet a variety of people and think of them to work on truly inclusive design. I think that when designers think of someone, and the more unique someone is in their perspectives and life experiences, the better they can design.

As our environment becomes more diverse, more designs will reach more people. In this article, I would like to write about some tips to achieve designs for the people that are within 10 feet of you, which have emerged in the GOOD DESIGN AWARD screening process and in the interaction with other judges, and expand upon them.

See a person as one person, without using attributes

The key is to see a person as one person, without using attributes. I mean we need to see the person's problems as specific human problems, not as ones based on their age, gender, nationality, or job title.

For example, I try to avoid using the word “disabled” when describing myself. I think it is because people are trapped in the stereotypes and images of attributes, such as disabled, woman, and foreigner, and cannot see the true essence. In fact, a product designed for wheelchair users is not often what the users want. I wonder if it is because they do not look at a person’s problems, but instead have a faint idea about what wheelchair users need.

The important thing is to have conversations with various people, consider the variety of their issues, and explore what the essence is. We should start in our surroundings. Magical Dagashiya Tyrol-Do, the 2022 GOOD DESIGN GRAND AWARD winner, is truly an initiative in which this is implemented.

It is designed to be a space where children from all walks of life can visit easily and can eat using the "Tyrol bill" that can be obtained by rolling the capsule vending machine. This design encourages children to come and stay there.

Supporting children facing poverty or loneliness is a major goal, but it would have been impossible to group children according to specific attributes and to save only some of them. There are a number of easy ways to donate, and a variety of adults in the community are involved. It is a sustainable place because the relationships between those who support and those who are supported are not fixed. It may be difficult to change politics and the government immediately, but I feel the possibility that bringing about change within 10 feet of you will change society.

Reference Article:Related article: Design starts with immediate relationships beyond just support -- Takashi Yoshidada x Laila Cassim

KIYASUKU, a service designed to alter ready-made clothes according to physical conditions, is an example of a service desired by users, based on thorough research on the relationship between users and people in their vicinity. Many families with disabled children quit their jobs or work less to care for and assist their children. KIYASUKU provides such people with opportunities to work and offers easy-to-wear clothes for people with disabilities. As with Tyrol-Do, they build new relationships among people around “one person.”

Vilhelm Hertz cane is another design that has adequately addressed the challenge of “one person.” It is made of natural materials, such as leather and wood. It absorbs shock and relieves the burden on the body. After a person named Lea visited a joinery studio in Denmark and asked them to repair her favorite cane, a stylish and comfortable product was developed.

This product is categorized under "household welfare products and nursing care products," but Kristoffer, who designed it, says it belongs to daily necessities. From the perspective of the users, I feel great empathy for him. A cane is considered as a medical device. Beauty is not considered in many canes. But I want to walk with this cane because it is cool. Actually, I use the cane with my name on it. As I put oil on the wooden handle and take care of the cane, I love it more and more. I believe it was designed after thorough user research, in other words, by understanding users.

Have a passion that is free from purpose

The second key to achieving a design for the people that are within 10 feet of you is to have a passion that is free from purpose.

If we define from the beginning that design for the disabled should be like this, products or services developed in a small and closed world will not be widely used by people other than the disabled. Instead, products and services should be designed based on emotions, such as fun, cool, and beautiful. I think that would make many people want to use them, resulting in an inclusive design.

I think Tactile Graphic Books of Chinese Language for Primary School is a design born out of passion. Animals, plants, and vehicles are expressed in delicate, simple and tactile graphics in these graphic books. Not only children with visual impairments but also their sighted siblings and friends can enjoy the same books together.

Zixiang Lin, Chief Designer, said he created the books because he thought Braille was fun. There were challenges in Braille education in China, but more importantly, it was born from pure curiosity as a designer. His curiosity raised important questions in him. As a result, he looked at the 10-foot radius of children with visual impairments, and created a design that was deeply rooted in the environment where they lived.

These karuta cards were developed for children who had fewer opportunities to play outside owing to COVID-19 to feel nature if only a little. I immediately imagined children playing together with other children with developmental disabilities or autism spectrum disorder. Because it is designed to identify what kind of fish it is just by sight or touch, children who are not good at reading can intuitively enjoy them. It can be applied not only to fish but also to plants and insects. I think it is a scalable design.

The habit of questioning for people within 10 feet of you

What is needed to expand this concept of “design for the people that are within 10 feet of you”? I would like to mention two points.

One is the habit of questioning. I am involved in the field of education. When I look at students, I feel they are less aware of questioning. No wonder! Even now, students from elementary school to university mainly receive classroom lectures. The main purpose is to give correct answers to questions. Even in the field of design education, usually, teachers only comment on students' work. I think it is necessary to cultivate the habit of thinking from different perspectives based on various opinions, by increasing opportunities to comment on their work together, sitting in a circle during lectures.

Considering people within 10 feet of you starts from yourself. From yourself, you should turn your attention to others. When you look around, you should consciously question the status quo and think about common practices. The more you grow up, the more comfortable you will feel as if you know the world. But you may be ignorant of the world. To ensure that this does not happen, you should doubt the status quo and break out of your routine.

For example, if you take a little detour instead of taking the shortcut suggested by Google Maps, you may find your favorite store or find something you did not expect. What you notice, what you are interested in, and what you are excited about....... It may be good to know yourself first, question common practices, and look at people within 10 feet of you.

Make society inclusive by changing everyone's 10-foot radius

The other is to empower people with design skills. I get the impression that people who are considered minorities are still "users" to be researched. I believe we need to change this situation and create a society where each person's radius of 10 feet becomes more diverse.

I feel that design education in Japan is very high on a technical level. Therefore, if a society where diverse people learn from each other (inclusive school) is realized, designs rooted in the real world will increase. I think designs that will solve problems for all users and what we really want to use will be realized.

Then, this will lead to an inclusive society where everyone is not categorized by attributes. "Women in their thirties," "elderly people," "people who work for XX".... I feel fear that today’s world, where such stereotypes persist, is cold and heartless. The problem of people complaining about "being noisy" in areas around parks and childcare facilities may have been caused by the assumption that children are noisy, and the fact that they can no longer see the faces of children who enjoy playing there.

If we can eliminate categorization and see people as people, and we have an open space in our mind, we can create a richer and friendlier society. As the first step, I would like you to think of people within 10 feet of you. In order to make the world more diverse, I hope designs to influence common practices in the world will emerge.

See More
Focused Issues