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Ageing and Design

Japanese designer Keiji Kawahara and President of KIDStudio Corporation shares how design can help ageing populations around the world.

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BY jesse

12 June, 2012


Not only is the world ageing at an unrelenting pace, but some of the fastest ageing populations are to be found here in Asia. Against this backdrop, the Hong Kong Design Centre will be holding a conference as part of Knowledge of Design Week (KODW) to look at how industrial, commercial and government organisations can tackle the challenges ahead and turn them into business opportunities.

Keiji Kawahara of KIDStudio Corporation, who is set to speak at the “Conference on Ageing and Design: Global Business Perspectives” on 28 June in Hong Kong, shares some of his thoughts on the issues here.

On Japanese design policies that consider the elderly.

One of the newest design policies introduced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLITT) is the certification system to certify universally designed taxi cabs. Nissan [has] produced a universal design taxi [the NV200 Vanette, and I plan] to show the movie [clip] in my presentation at KODW.

MLITT has also introduced other policies such as equipping major railway stations with platform safety doors as well as elevators and escalators. However, the Japanese government is not [as] keen to [roll out] policies or legislation for universal design or barrier-free [design the way] the US or some other European governments [are doing].

Universal design.

Universal design is not only for all age groups but also any other group regardless of sex, ability, nationality, etc.

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design, which is the definition left by the late Ron Mace.

Keiji Kawahara

Whether Japanese designers today are putting more focus on designing for an ageing population.

I guess some designers might not be so aware of doing their businesses particularly for the aged. However, it is almost common sense that Japan is a super-aged nation therefore designers must think of this demographic reality to produce any product in the mass production process if they really want to get profits from the market.

Keiji Kawahara

An example of a project that he’s designed with the elderly in mind.

The Universal Design mobile phone project for KDDI, the second largest telecommunication company, was done in 2001 before the so-called Smartphone appeared. It features easy-to-read large text [while the] contrast on the screen [is maximised].

Keiji KAwahara

The Universal Design mobile phone project for KDDI

Kawahara will be presenting universal design examples of Japanese major manufacturers such as Toyota or Panasonic as well as his own case studies during the “Conference on Ageing and Design: Global Business Perspectives” on 28 June. For more information, visit hkdesigncentre.org/kodw


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