▲ Collectible disaster relief packs, fun for both adults and children.
Do you believe that design can change the world? In the 1970s, the United Nations used design to solve environmental problems faced by developing nations. From this initiative, the concept of “social design” was born to solve social problems such as climate change, the global energy crisis, national land planning, architectural design, the aging population, and homelessness. Half a century after the term “social design” was coined, social problems are becoming increasingly complicated — and design plays a critical role in finding effective solutions. Design is making impacts around the world. Among them, the Design and Creative Center Kobe (KIITO) is Asia’s most watched model of social building.
In Kobe, Japan, the relationship between design and the city is similar to that between wind, water, earth, and seeds — they must work together to grow. Not only is design an important part of urban revitalization policies, but it also enriches the lives of Kobe citizens. Everyone in Kobe is working towards the same goal: to create a brand new Kobe. Men, women, and children of all ages convene at the Design and Creative Center Kobe (KIITO) to cultivate creative ideas, hold workshops, and address social issues through the lens of design thinking. Every year, the results of these initiatives are presented at the LIFE IS CREATIVE exhibition. In most cities, design movements are planned and implemented by governments or committees. Kobe, in contrast, promotes design from the grassroots. This unconventional attitude towards social design has made LIFE IS CREATIVE a grand occasion in the international world of design — and has made Kobe a destination for those who want to learn from their example.
▲ The curation team from Design and Creative Center Kobe’s exhibition, “Life is Crative: Design Changes Society”.
In 2019, KIITO dove deep into the issue of their aging population, making the elderly the core focus of discussion. The Taiwan Design Center (TDC) joined hands with them in the same cause, marking the first wave of design exchange centered around the elderly. Taiwan recommended a few outstanding Taiwanese projects that focused on solving problems for the elderly to go to Japan and present at the 2019 LIFE IS CREATIVE Exhibition. The overall reaction was very positive. To keep the cultural exchange moving forward, TDC invited the exhibition to come to Taipei.
Starting December 3rd, KIITO will be presenting in Room 06 at the Taiwan Design Museum, with “+ CREATIVE” as the underlying theme, emphasizing how Kobe citizens developed their unmatched creativity. In addition to the much-anticipated exhibition, “The Aging Population + CREATIVE”, the curation team also organized six additional exhibitions, including: “Introducing KIITO”, “Food + CREATIVE”, “Tourism + CREATIVE”, “Artisanship + CREATIVE”, “Disaster Prevention + CREATIVE”, and “Youth Creative Education + CREATIVE”.
In 2019, Chibikobe “Dream City” set up a creative design workshop for children, where creativity served as the only guide.
Chibikobe is one of the projects that KIITO is most proud of. From the Japanese word “Chibi”, meaning mini, Chibikobe is a “dream city” intent on nurturing creativity in children. After studying under chefs, architects, and designers, children will combine their learnings with practical experience working in the small town to create the “shop of their dreams”. Children will come up with everything associated with their store, including the signage, menu, dishware, packaging, and the overall look and feel. The KIITO team then helps implement the design. Throughout this workshop, children won’t only have the freedom to explore the limits of their creativity, they’ll also work alongside professional creatives — and uncover their own creativity in the process.
In “dream city” everyone needs to adhere to the Chibikobe charter. The first clause is: “Respect for Children’s Ideas is Most Important”. They recognize that the children’s dream city represents the future of Kobe. At this year’s “Youth Creativity Education + CREATIVE” exhibition, you can see this project’s process of “Understanding, Contemplating, Creating, Promoting”, and how citizens work together to cultivate children’s creativity.
▲ The Chibikobe Project, opening the doors to children’s unlimited imaginations.
Ojisan Bread Classroom vs. Family Recipe Sharing
In October of this year, TDC joined forced with KIITO, recommending seven Taiwanese design projects that offered solutions for the aging population to exhibit their projects in Japan. “Free Day” was a project that brought the relatives of those suffering from dementia or who are physically disabled on an outing. “Fookit”, on a mission to replace “treatment” with “conversation”, redefined what auxiliary treatment could mean. “O. Fashion” brought together old and new minds to produce clothing styles that cross generations. “Sui Taipei”, provided a medium to pass along the stories and techniques of the older generation by sharing their stories and family recipes with diners.
“Go Grandriders” encourages the older generation to continue chasing their dreams. “Goldenville” created a space where the energy of the young and the cross-generational experience of the old can meet. Finally, “Old Yes” is a project that offers services to old people who live alone and/or experience mobility issues. The local Japanese projects included Ojisan Bread Classroom and Adult Tailoring Class. These two projects will be exhibited in Taiwan, giving attendees an opportunity to gain greater awareness about important issues.
▲ Ojisan Bread gives the elderly population more opportunities to interact with society.
Disaster Relief Pack and Manual for All Ages
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, Kobe has taken disaster prevention very seriously. Consequentially, Kobe citizens have a very advanced understanding of disaster prevention. Even more outstandingly, KIITO combed through and compiled a global platform for disaster prevention for creatives, citizens, NGOs, governments, and industries to work together against disaster prevention.
In 2013, KIITO held the Earth Manual Project Exhibition, inviting creatives from all over Asia to work together to compile a disaster prevention manual. Four projects emerged from this initiative. First, the “Red Bear Survival Camp” teaches youth survivorship, evacuation, and disaster rescue skills. Second, “Save Yourself” partnered with Tokyo Gas to teach families how to avoid disasters in their own homes. Thirdly, ITSUMO—an earthquake essentials pack—was developed by a group of designers.
Finally, the “Accidents That Could Happen on a Normal Day” initiative was developed through cooperation with Muji. These collaborative and creative disaster prevention education activities are disrupting the typical top-down instruction that has long been the standard. Furthermore, the education materials are quite “cute” and are, understandably, very popular with both adults and children. Some of these beloved mascots— including Red Bear, the “Save Me!” Frog, and the original copies of the handbook—will be presented in Taiwan. It will be a rare chance to see these beloved mascots up close!
▲ Ryosuke Maruyama, the event curator, poses in front of pieces from the exhibit.
Moreover, next year TDC will expand into the Taiwan Design Institute. After this happens, they hope to further drive innovation and put forward integrated solutions that leverage design to change society for the better. The United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction identified Taiwan as being at high risk for natural disasters. The World Bank conducted a global risk analysis and found that Taiwan ranked highest in the world for “mortality risk from multiple hazards”. According to a survey conducted in July by the Science & Technology Policy Research and Information Center, most Taiwanese citizens list natural disasters in the top five most pressing issues. We hope that Kobe’s disaster prevention projects can give industry, academia, and the general population important considerations about how design can be leveraged to put Taiwanese cities on the right path.
TDC is currently accepting applications from designers to join the grassroots design movement: “OHHH: A Social Innovation Approach to Disaster Relief”. Later on, TDC will organize forums and workshops. A pilot program will be implemented in northern Taiwan that will eventually be carried out through the rest of the nation. This initiative is hoped to drive innovative thinking and enrich cities all over Taiwan. Look out for more information about applying for the program on the TDC’s website.