What challenges should designers face now, as found at the GOOD DESIGN AWARDs.

FOCUSED ISSUES is a GOOD DESIGN AWARD initiative that depicts the future of design in society through the screening process.



Focused Issues Researcher's Eye

Why every new business should aim for the GOOD DESIGN AWARD──Aki Hayashi


Focused Issues researchers looked over all the screening subjects and explored the "ground swell" from the perspective of outside experts who were not judges. We asked three of them to each write based on their own expertise and from their own angles about what they noticed and saw as they accompanied the screening process. In this essay, Aki Hayashi, Focused Issuess Researchers, explains why, from a business perspective, she clearly states that all business people, not just designers, should aim for the GOOD DESIGN AWARD. This article is also included in the 2023 Focused Issues Report.

How businesses can flee from the lost 30 years

Japanese companies were once globally competitive in various industries and dominated market capitalization rankings. However, around the collapse of the bubble economy, the Japanese economy started to shrink and continued to stagnate. Then, a long slumber called the lost 30 years began. There has been a lack of cultivation of new competitive industries, and delays in digitalization and low efficiency have been pointed out.

According to the 2023 World Competitiveness Ranking by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Japan marked a new low of 35th among 64 countries and regions. Japan’s nominal GDP in 2023 is expected to slip to fourth in the world, to be overtaken by Germany, after the U.S. and China, ranking first and second, respectively.

Many observers have pointed out that Japanese corporate giants, which lead the country’s economy, lack in innovation. Their risk-averse mindset and inflexible organizational culture and personnel systems hinder cultivation of innovative endeavor, causing Japan’s economic stagnation. This phenomenon is called “big company disease.”

Aki Hayashi

I myself am a member of an organization and have many occasions to interview corporate executives. Through my work, I have become aware of several themes that have a decisive influence on Japan’s future: how to produce seeds of innovation, make the seeds sprout without dying, and grow the sprouts and make them bloom, as well as how to reform organizations to make these happen.

Will Japan or the Japanese economy keep on losing?

No. I believe I saw a ray of hope while reviewing a series of screening processes and having a talk with judges and award winners in 2023.

Innovative shavers created by historic giant

Daring design with no handle. A smooth, round, earbuds-case-size shaver. Electric shaver Panasonic Lamdash PALM IN was awarded the GOOD DESIGN GOLD AWARD in 2023 for its sophisticated stone-like texture that reduces the gadget feel, great portability, interior friendliness, and the compact design with high functionality. In late December 2023, it became a big hit as a Christmas gift, reshaping people’s understanding of shavers.

How did Panasonic, a long-established shaver manufacturer, produce this innovative product? I interviewed Ushio Bessho of Design Center, Living Products Innovation Division, Living Appliances and Solutions Company, Panasonic Corporation

The project to commercialize the product commenced in the beginning of 2021. The advanced design review (ADR), a workshop conducted by the design department of Panasonic to discuss designs and concepts of future home appliances, made a presentation to the management team and initiated the launch of the project.

Bessho looked back on the three key points that allowed them to bring innovation to a mature product category of shaver.

1.Skeptical attitude toward the status quo In the matured market for shavers where companies compete only for shaving performance, creating a vision for the future was difficult. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and people spent more time at home. This changed public awareness about health and beauty. We set our base concept of “creating new experiences starting from scratch” focusing on the change of values.

2.Subtraction mindset The daring idea of eliminating even a grip was derived by thoroughly subtracting all frills other than the reliable five-blade spec and small, powerful linear motor. By reviewing the number of parts and materials, we successfully reduced the environmental impact and kept all functions in a palm-sized form without losing shaving performance. We also produced a new experience value of intuitive shaving as if communicating with the skin.

It is difficult for historic giants to work on innovation, which sometimes means denying their past glories. “Why did we choose this design?” “Can it really sell?” I imagine they have faced many questions and concerns.

3.Will to question the public Bessho recalled that they could break through the internal and external barriers before commercialization because all the designers, including Bessho, held firm in their decision to promote this product to the public.

For example, the design department planned and conducted user surveys to interview lifestyle-conscious users directly. The designers became convinced of success when they saw users holding the shaver in their hands as they pleased and commented, “This can be used in this way” or “I want to keep this shaver in a place like this” without being asked.

The success of this item is backed by Panasonic Group’s design management practice project. Under a design philosophy “Future Craft,” designers are looking to explore design for the future. I can sense their strong will and intention, “We want to break barriers and make a stir.”

Organizational change happens when two different movements of top-down and bottom-up meet. This product demonstrates that corporate giant Panasonic is undergoing organizational innovation at this moment.

KOEL Design Studio by NTT Communications

There was another case that showed a sign of the transformation of big companies.

NTT Communications received the 2023 GOOD DESIGN AWARD for the work of KOEL Design Studio, which was established in 2020. They work on promoting design throughout the company and introducing design processes into their services.

Furthermore, two projects involving KOEL were also recognized: an individual training support “Mieru-Rihabiri” that connects a wearable device and a smartphone app to record exercise history, and a booking service “droppin®,” which allows users to search and reserve workspaces.

The work by KOEL was valued from two different angles. First is the impact of the launch of a design organization in the “public x design” domain by a highly public company like NTT Group. Second is the impact of incubating and spreading a design mind-set from inside throughout the giant company.

This may indicate that Japanese corporate giants have finally started to engage in drastic organizational reforms and innovation through design. It would be a waste if this ground swell was limited to design departments and designers.

Business people should aspire to the GOOD DESIGN AWARD

Now, I will explain the title of this article, “Why every new business should aim for the GOOD DESIGN AWARD” from several perspectives.

-As can be seen from the proposal for the Start-up Agency, interest in innovation creation is growing nationwide. On the other hand, it is still a work in progress for companies, including big corporations. Facilitating new businesses, both in quality and quantity, is a top priority for the revival of the Japanese economy and Japanese companies.

-Organizations often generate psychological effects, such as “status quo bias,” and repression, such as “hitting the nail that sticks out.” As a result, it may become hard to promote endeavors for new businesses and domains and evaluate the future value and impact of such endeavors. In such a situation, by receiving awards or being recognized by other bodies, companies may be able to change the direction of their businesses, make bold investments, or make other decisions more easily.

-Judges from diverse backgrounds in design work through the GOOD DESIGN AWARD screening process to determine the good for customers, society, and the future. If an award is granted, the business or product itself can be taken to a higher level.

-People in charge of new projects and drafters tend to feel isolated. Internal assessment on their work may fluctuate, and there also is a risk of resignation. In order to motivate and encourage innovation talent, which will become increasingly important in the future, applying for and winning awards will keep them taking on challenges and support them.

There is no need to hesitate just because you know little about design. I would like everyone to start from reviewing past award-winning products from the perspective of business development and find some tips or breakthroughs. Business people, why don’t you consider applying for the GOOD DESIGN AWARD?

Good design for unaddressed issues

I also believe that society as a whole will be improved if all business people, not just designers, pursue “good,” or the GOOD DESIGN AWARD.

“Good” for each society, company (organization,) and person used to belong to different domains and directions. However, they have become closer to each other just like a Venn diagram through changes in social conditions and values. I also feel that the overlapping areas have become larger.


This trend was clearly shown in Social Good Market “Kuradashi,” the 2023 GOOD DESIGN GOLD AWARD winner. Kuradashi is a service that helps consumers to purchase short-dated food products at reasonable prices to reduce food loss. Users can purchase discounted products and contribute to society as their own business.

By advancing such all-round good designs that benefit society, companies, and individuals, we may be able to change society for the better. I also sensed such signs.


Looking at the overall 2023 entries and winners, many candidates focused on diverse issues, such as global environment, sustainability, disaster prevention, and health care. But I also realized that there are many more unaddressed challenges. Being behind in addressing issues, such as gender gap, suicide rate, poverty, discrimination, bullying, mental health, declining voter turnout, and fake news,

Japan is said to be an advanced country filled with issues. I am hopeful that there is potential for good design in the future, especially regarding yet-to-be-addressed issues.

In the report "Focused Issues 2023: Proposals for the Future of Design," which summarizes the activities of this year's Focused Issues, we present proposals and discussions on the new “wave" of design that we have gained through the screening process and interviews with the award winners. For more details, click here. → FOCUSED ISSUES 2023 Proposals for Future Design

Aki Hayashi

Editor, writer, director | President of Brand Journalism, Inc.

In 2022, Hayashi founded and became the president of Brand Journalism, Inc., a company that promotes journalistic public communication of companies and brands. At the same time, she works as a director of NewsPicks for Business, Inc. (content production) and as an executive officer and the senior chief editor at Alphadrive Co.,Ltd. She is a former chief editor of Forbes JAPAN Web and a former reporter of the Asahi Shimbun. A member of the Scheem-D Steering Committee of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Graduated from the Faculty of Law, the University of Tokyo.

Shunsuke Imai


He was born in Minamiuonuma City, Niigata in 1993. He became independent after working for amana Inc.

Masaki Koike


Editor. He does planning and editing in multiple media, mainly in collaboration with researchers and creators.