Reflection on Keynote Debate 2: Social & Public
As a follow-up to DRS2018, we invited select conference participants to reflect on the Keynote Debates and related conversations during the conference. The article that follows responds to debate 2 - "Social & Public: Exploring changing contexts of design research and practice through the intersections between design for policy and social design." It was written by Shion Asada, PhD Student at RCA - IIS Tokyo Design Lab, University of Tokyo & Director/Design Researcher at Mimicry Design Inc. in Tokyo.
Optimistic Design Power in Japan
It’s clear from this Keynote Debate that many European countries employ design teams within government. There was a deep discussion about the role of design in, with and for government throughout the talk. This significant role and influence of design were surprising to me as a Japanese researcher, since it hasn’t typically been seen in my government. However, the Japan Patent Office, within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), recently released a Design-Driven Management manifesto. This hints at a significant turning point for the role of design in Japan!
This manifesto was originally developed by a study group consisting of government officials and design leaders like Kinya Tagawa from Takram, Chiaki Hayashi from Loftwork and Yutaka Hasegawa from Sony. They engaged in deep discussions about design and ultimately proposed that design should play a bigger role in business and governance, taking power from the management sector. They set policy recommendations to promote this design-driven management and held a bold trial of the policy within the Patent Office itself. This involved appointing a Creative Design Officer and design management project team to analyse and reimagine services from a user’s perspective. The team launched their first beta-version services this September, after only a month. This is an unbelievably fast move, especially considering it happened within the Japanese government!
This manifesto and its quick adoption are like a flower that started to grow and then spread at incredible speed. Passionate young design leaders cultivated the groundwork for these results over many years, and helped open the way for followers in design and business fields. Just this month, Mr.Tagawa from Takram and Ms.Munakata from the Patent Office participated in a talk about the manifesto. Although I was unable to attend, I could sense extraordinary enthusiasm in the potential of design by following the event on Twitter and blogs. To quote Dr. Andrea Siodmok from the Keynote Debate, this recent event was filled with “optimistic design power.”
This initiative is very promising. Japan has many issues to be addressed like an aging society, the dangers of earthquakes and industry structure. I believe design within government will encourage the spread of optimistic and positive design thinking in response to these problems.
DRS 2018 was my first international design conference, as I just started my PhD this year. I was struck by the positive atmosphere and open-minded conference attendees working from many different perspectives. That said, there weren’t many Japanese participants, which makes me feel that we Japanese missed an amazing opportunity. I encourage other Japanese researchers to join the DRS community and potentially gain inspiration to further increase “optimistic design power” in Japan.
Shion Asada, University of Tokyo