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

We MUST NOT solve those social issues──Yutaka Nakamura


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, design anthropologist Yutaka Nakamura examines the “brave” required when faced with “social issues” that need to be resolved. This article is also included in the 2023 Focused Issues Report.

Therapeutic design

As detailed in Perspective 5 of this report, “Repairing rather than producing,” several philosophers have held that the essential function of law is violence.(*1) Therefore, the law can bind, restrain, and in some cases even kill bodies within the scope to which it applies. Even if the word “violence” goes too far, we can at least say that the law is not just a collection of writings, but a social force that drives certain actions and has consequences.(*2)

But the consequences, the proof of the pudding, are not always happy ones. Instead of being redeemed and healed by the law, there are people who are hurt further. The reality is that no one is happy, including victims, perpetrators, families on both sides, and their communities and societies. Restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, and the therapeutic community, among others, are attempts to remedy that situation.(*3)

Anthropologist, Focused Issues Researcher 2023, Yutaka Nakamura

The Oneness Foundation's efforts for people to “start new lives” are not “solutions” to social issues, such as crime or problematic behavior, in the simplest sense of that term. Rather, they are a process of "healing co-design" in which issues are considered and redefined together.

Those who accompany the process discern suffering and a feeling that living is hard, things which are difficult even for the person in question to grasp, behind statements such as "This is so boring!" or "Die!" or actions such as breaking things or immediately striking out at the other person, trying to hurt them. And it is important to have someone by their side who can deeply and gently to take on the pain and sometimes violent words and actions of others precisely because they themselves have found living hard and, in some cases, have experienced starting new lives with a prior criminal record.(*4)

The fact that therapeutic communities, such as the Oneness Foundation, have exhibited at the GOOD DESIGN AWARD this year reflects the current of the times. Hopefully, this award will encourage more interest in therapeutic communities, therapeutic jurisprudence, and restorative justice. The modern way of "solving problems," retaliation for crimes according to the law, was itself designed, but the time has come to reconsider it.(*5)

Design, which intervenes in reality, is also, like law, called not only to solve immediate problems in the short term, but also to exercise imaginative power to the extent of its ability and to gain a new understanding of problems, leading to their treatment and recovery. Rather than creating something new, this design looks again at what we have and restores, regenerates, and circulates this.

Goissho, a welfare and nursing care shared transportation service provided by automobile manufacturer Daihatsu, started when the person in charge, Jinya Okamoto, set foot in the field of welfare and nursing care.

At first, he thought he could turn the prospects which would emerge from marketing activities into a model, but after three months of visiting 500 or 600 nursing homes, he realized that the response was not great. Maybe selling cars was not what they should be doing. After all, after achieving the immediate sales goals, what would come next? First of all, you surely need to become someone to whom people want to listen.(*6)

He made a fresh start based on these questions, listening intently to the stories of nursing care providers and the elderly, studying more deeply about the hitherto unknown domain of nursing care, and obtaining a certification as a Class 2 Care-Fitter. Over time, he traveled with team members from around the country to more than 30,000 nursing homes nationwide. As they did so, their counterparts changed their attitude, and a rapport formed.

Automobile manufacturers will reconsider daily life in aging communities and, rather than their traditional role of producing and selling automobiles, will avoid duplicating use of the nursing care vehicles owned by each company, and reduce the burden on frontline staff by cutting down their transportation work. Instead of creating something new, they will think how to modify and recombine what already exists in each region to create a more suitable transportation service framework. This is a proposal for a new mobility service that takes into consideration present and future societies, and it can be termed a therapeutic design for the successful circulation of individual resources.

Re-listening to the vernacular

Listening is an important keyword when thinking about therapeutic design.(*7)

As detailed in Perspective 4, “Re-listening to the vernacular,” under the globalization of today, nearly all of humanity is encouraged to compete under standards set by those who are superior in terms of political and economic power. In such a society, it is more necessary than ever to pause and reexamine the framework of the field in which we enter in a “slower, deeper, softer” way, exploring the potential of “the other/non-human beings” which essentially enable us and our survival, and to re-listen to the currents of history and culture inherent in each individual.(*8)

At that time, humanity will no longer be the sole agent of design. Non-human beings, mountains, rivers, plants, trees, fungi, viruses, rocks, minerals ... all things, and the changes in them, will surely become agents of design.

Tainan City's “One Thousand Names of Zeng-wen River, 2022 Mattauw Earth Triennial” is highly suggestive in this regard.

In 2019, Gong Jow-jiun, who was approached by the Tainan City organizer for advice about holding an art festival, began fieldwork with two graduate students, practically without pay. They focused on the river flowing through the city. Although everyone knows the existence of this native river, most people do not know much about it. Gong himself said that he did not even know where this river, which he had seen since his childhood, originated. After discussions, they begin fieldwork in the river basin, which spanned 138 km.

When they climbed to the river's origin and discovered that the Tsou indigenous people living in the upper reaches belonged to a hunting culture, they asked hunters to guide them, climbing mountains and streams, searching for paths, seeking the indigenous “names.” They then turned these into a map. After three summer vacations, he enlisted the help of 10 elementary schools in the river basin and set out on fieldwork with the elementary school students. He wrote articles about their questions, had these edited and designed, and compiled them into the Little Things Newspaper. In addition to recognizing the right to life/agency of all humans and non-humans (eels that had disappeared, stones and river sand, dams and floods, plants and river fish, etc.) that existed in the river basin, “parliaments of things,” in which advocates were chosen and participants listened to each other’s voices, were also held at several locations. In addition, the research, workshops, events, and the ever-changing environment of the river basin were all recorded with the help of photographers, and those who saw them also began to participate. This Eco Art Festival is the fruition of many layers of points discovered through multiple projects folded one on top of the other, like meshwork.(*9)

Partly because Gong's academic background is French philosophy and thought, many of the concepts themselves, such as "meshwork” and “the parliament of things,” are European in origin.(*10) However, Gong is not planning the festival based on concepts, but rather revolving the concepts within the local context. In the first place, the background behind those concepts is far from being original Western thinking. Even before the so-called “ontological turn” was discussed, the idea of autonomous associations of non-teleological people and non-humans already existed, and the idea of allowing agency to non-humans also already existed.

Listening to non-human voices to reconstruct the communities along the river – Mattauw Earth Triennial “Gong Jow-Jiun x Yutaka Nakamura”

Those who have listened carefully to the existence of more than humans, who do not necessarily enter the visual sphere immediately, may be researchers who have confronted multi-species life activities. The organic fertilizer “Soil Yakuzen” and the “compost system local production for local consumption” from the Kanazawa Bio laboratory are a biofertilizer and a mechanism for soil improvement that have been established based on the accumulation of research requiring an enormous amount of time and energy.

Shinjiro Kanazawa, a researcher specializing in soil microorganisms and soil biochemistry, ventures out into the field and travels here and there through forests, fields, and meadows to collect, examine, and accumulate knowledge about soil. This research, which calls for “making soil healthy” after it has been polluted and made unhealthy by human hands, is also highly clinical. It was his daughter, Satoko Kanazawa, who wanted to put his knowledge to wider use. Through their collaboration, the pair created a compost that can be put on the dining table and is safe for small children to touch with their bare hands by blending natural ingredients using their own recipe.(*11)

Although it apparently depends on the place, it takes between 100 and 1,000 years to make 1 cm of soil. Humanity will regenerate what humanity has broken with the help of non-humans. A lot of the things termed regenerative design in recent years will be positioned as attempts to do this. At their core is the accumulation of years of steady and innovative research (listening).


“Problem solving” has long been the overarching imperative of design. And in recent years, many companies have sought to solve social problems. This spirit is wonderful.

However, none of the examples we have looked at above started with solving problems quickly and diligently. Not only does solving superficial problems not bring about fundamental solutions, but it can also lead to more serious situations. Instead, these examples began by taking a closer look at the events behind the problems, listening carefully, and accepting them anew on a deep level.

What is in question is the courage to pause before the solution and reconsider the “problem.”

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

Yutaka Nakamura

Anthropologist | Tama Art University Professor / Atelier Anthropology LLC CEO / KESIKI Inc. Design Anthropologist

Yutaka Nakamura is a cultural anthropologist, CEO at Atelier Anthropology, an anthropology-based design firm, and full-time professor at Center for Liberal Arts and Sciences, Tama Art University. He also teaches at different universities and is a contributing researcher at Transtechnology Research at University of Plymouth, UK. Trained in the field of cultural anthropology, Yutaka has conducted his fieldwork among African-American Muslim communities in Harlem, New York. His new project that engages in the cultural expressions and movements in the socio-cultural “margins” both in the US and Japan. More recently he started to collaborate with design firms and corporations to implement social changes and redesigning. His research topics include violence, social pain and suffering, cultural expressions and social design to cope with many forms of violence. His recent publications include: Walking the Margins of America: Anthropology on Journey [Amerika no Shuen wo Aruku: Tabisuru Jinruigaku], Heibonsya, 2021 [in Japanese] Harlem Reverberated: Voices of Muslims on the Street, Editorial Republica, 2015 [in Japanese], and others.

(*1) Walter Benjamin (edited by Kohei Takahara and Osamu Nomura) "The Collected Works of Walter Benjamin, vol. 1 ― Critique of Violence" Shobunsha, 1969. Jacques Derrida (translated by Kenichi Katada) “Force of Law” Hosei University Press, 2011. (*2) Wexler, David B. “Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Its Application to Criminal Justice Research and Development.” Arizona Legal Studies (Discussion Paper), vol. No. 10-20, Nov. 2010, (*3) Restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence are defined as having different origins, despite sharing commonalities. For restorative justice, see, for example, the following: Howard Zehr (translated by Haruo Nishimura, Yoko Hosoi, and Norio Takahashi) "Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice" Shinsensha, 2003. Howard Zehr (translated by Yuri Morita) "The little book of restorative justice" Tsukiji Shokan Publishing, 2008. John Braithwaite (translated by Yoko Hosoi, Kei Someda, Koichi Maehara, and Yasuhiro Kamoshida) “The World of Restorative Justice” Seibundoh, 2008. Norio Takahashi "The Quest for Restorative Justice" Seibundoh, 2003. Eizaburo Yamashita "Restorative Approaches and Social Work: Clues for Building Harmonious Relationships” Akashi Shoten, 2012. For therapeutic jurisprudence, see the following: Braithwaite, J. “Restorative Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence.” CRIMINAL LAW BULLETIN-BOSTON-, 2002,§ion=20. Perlin, Michael L. “What Is Therapeutic Jurisprudence.” NYL Sch. J. Hum. Rts., vol. 10, 1992, p. 623. Wexler, David. “Therapeutic Jurisprudence: An Overview.” TM Cooley L. Rev., vol. 17, 2000, p. 125. Wexler, David B., and Bruce J. Winick. Law in a Therapeutic Key: Developments in Therapeutic Jurisprudence. Carolina Academic Press, 1996. Edited by Chiryoteki Shiho Kenkyukai, supervised by Makoto Ibusuki “Practice of Therapeutic Justice” Dai-ichi Hoki, 2018. For the therapeutic community, see the following: Kaori Sakagami "Prison Circle" Iwanami Shoten, 2022. Kaori Sakagami “Lifers” Misuzu Shobo, 2012. (*4) From an interview with Hiroki Ito, Takayuki Miyake, and Daiki Miyazawa of the Oneness Foundation (December 15, 2023). (*5) Law can be considered a kind of design in the first place. Tasuku Mizuno “Legal design” Film Art Inc., 2017. (*6) From an interview with Jinya Okamoto of Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. You can also read about the background to Goissho's development on the following websites: viewed January 6, 2024) (last viewed January 6, 2024) (last viewed January 6, 2024) (*7) There are many books on listening and dialog practices, including a variety of listening programs, open dialogs, and encounter groups. However, we refer here to the following literature as a theoretical basis: Alberto Melucci (translated by Michinobu Niihara, Keisuke Hasegawa, and Tetsutada Suzuki) “The Playing Self: Person and Meaning in a Planetary System” Harvest-sha Inc., 2008. Michinobu Niihara "Journey to the Boundary Domain: A Sociological Quest from the Cape" Otsuki Shoten, 2007. Kiyokazu Washida "The Power of Listening: A Clinical Philosophy" Hankyu Communications, 1999. (*8) The “slower, deeper, softer” attitude towards things comes from Alexander Langer, who was involved in peace and environmental activities, and was later taken up by sociologists Alberto Merler and Michinobu Niihara. For example, see the following discussion: (*9) From an interview with Gong Jow-jiun (December 7, 2023). See also the following website: (last viewed January 6, 2024) (*10) Meshwork is a concept introduced by Tim Ingold as a contrast to networks. The parliament of things comes from Bruno Latour. Tim Ingold (translated by Shin Kudo) “Lines: A Brief History” Sayusha, 2014. Bruno Latour (translated by Kumiko Kawamura), "We Have Never Been Modern" Shinhyoron Publishing Inc., 2008. (*11) From an interview with Shinjiro Kanazawa and Satoko Kanazawa (December 22, 2023).

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.