AFFECTIVE DESIGN for Creating New Value in the Digital Society through Design Thinking and Co-Creation (Part 1)

[The Power to Create the Future Vol. 8] Masuhito Tanaka, Design Director

Sparking Innovation with the Power of Design

Rapid advancements in ICT fields such as AI, IoT (Internet of Things), big data, and robotics are causing major changes to the ways we conduct business and the ways we live. At the same time, we are being inundated with a flood of products and services. The fundamental questions of "why do we build things?" and "what meaning do they have for people and society?" are the challenges that face companies today.

Amidst these complex social circumstances, design innovators are the people who are taking on the challenge of sparking innovation through design thinking. Masuhito Tanaka, Design Director of Fujitsu Design, takes an approach called " AFFECTIVE DESIGN " to cross industry and business boundaries to engage in co-creation, and he has successfully launched numerous new enterprises. We asked Tanaka about what types of innovation the power of design generates in society.

AFFECTIVE DESIGN: to design experiences and value to inspire people through new sensations created by digital technology(Japanese)

This interview took place at the closed AFFECTIVE DESIGN exhibition entitled "Make Sense" at the end of March 2018.
The unique exhibition gave visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the meaning of " AFFECTIVE DESIGN " while experiencing new sensations created by digital technology. It provided an opportunity to witness the process by which design thinking gives birth to and invigorates various co-creation projects. (The details will be covered later.)

AFFECTIVE DESIGN for Designing a New Sensibility with Digital Technology

"As digital technology advances, a large number of useful services continue to emerge. Meanwhile, we are being inundated with a flood of products, information, and services, which has unwittingly brought stress and harm into our lives. Many services are useful but exhausting, and therefore we do not use them continuously. I believe that this is caused by the fact that most of the time, the 'effective' aspects of digital services are seen as the main focus, while the 'affective' aspects are ignored during design.

With respect to products, information, services, and spaces, we advocate a way of design that focuses on human sensibilities, and that does not get caught up in strict digital technologies. We call this ' AFFECTIVE DESIGN.' To summarize AFFECTIVE DESIGN, it is the act of creating new sensations, experiences, and value using technologies that moves people."

To Design a Society with Humans at the Center
Human-Centric Experience Design

A panel exhibit entitled "100 Future Life and the Signals of Society." It exhibits a future technological environment based on the idea of 100-year lifespans by following each stage of life. The idea is to take signals from unconscious human gestures and use technology to provide support in subtle ways.

"The basis of AFFECTIVE DESIGN is the idea of 'Human-Centric Experience Design' (HXD), which is an effort to design optimal relationships with society in a human-centric manner. Fujitsu originally espoused the message of human-centric innovation, which is a way of using ICT to build a better future in human-centric ways. We at Fujitsu Design (Fujitsu Group's design department) have redefined this concept to design society in new ways.

Pursuit of human-centric design may seem like a hackneyed concept at first, but it is in fact extremely difficult to achieve; many obstacles lie in wait. In the digital field, ways of thinking tend to chase new technologies, and in the effort to turn an innovation into an enterprise, a project often progresses without clarifying who the product is being designed for. This old tendency is still especially prevalent in Japanese companies, and it is a reason why new businesses and services are rarely born and those that are born are rarely successful over the long term.

Going forward, it will be crucial to not merely pursue what can be created digitally, but rather to leverage digital technology in natural ways that align with human emotions. This is a very important factor for creating services that will be used over the medium- to long-term, and for ensuring that they permeate society. Through AFFECTIVE DESIGN, we hope to achieve a truly human-centric society in a way befitting of a Japanese company."

New Sensations Created by Digital Technology: "Make Sense"

"Humans are naturally inclined to live according to intuition. When our feelings fluctuate, so do our actions. However, it is difficult to measure and present sensitivity in numerical form, so certain hurdles must be overcome. We organized the AFFECTIVE DESIGN exhibition so that visitors can experience and feel these new sensations created by digital technology through the exhibits.

When we say 'new sensations created by digital technology,' we refer to the ability to intuitively absorb information through our senses, to share those sensations with others, and to augment all elements in our surrounding environment so that they become part of our bodies. In other words, by utilizing and augmenting our human senses, we can design new senses and a new feeling of vitality."

The exhibition displayed ideas for using digital technology to create new sensations surrounding the 12 basic human actions (e.g., listening, sleeping, smelling, and tasting) as well as prototypes of products and services. Some exhibits were based on visions of the future, while others were actual projects that have already begun through co-creation with companies.

Selections from the AFFECTIVE DESIGN exhibition "Make Sense: New Sensations Created by Digital Technology"

Fragrance → sense of smell: Sending a message that appeals to the senses

Arousing the innate desires of people through fragrancesーif a drinking cup can recognize the context in terms of places and people, it can, for example, emit a coffee fragrance and offer recommendations depending on the situation.

GuidanceThe illusion (sensation) of being pushed and pulled

It is very dangerous to walk around while looking at a map app on your smartphone. It is also difficult to navigate quickly with visual information alone. By integrating a component in handles and walking sticks that can apply this illusion of being pushed and pulled to guide users, we can achieve a natural method of navigation by which users feel a sensation of being pulled.

Listening → sense of hearing: Sound Intelligence that creates an emotionally moving experience

This concept is based on sounds and inspiration through "Sound Intelligence", which is a method for producing sound augmented reality (AR) by overlapping stereophonic sounds heard in our daily lives. The Broadcaster, invented in a co-creation project with Yamaha (left), and the Sound Curator, a sound-collecting mic that can connect to the Internet (right), are used in a prototype for earphones with various built-in sensors that can integrate external sounds.

Creating a New Project Using "New Sensations": Co-Creation with Yamaha

"We are working on a project with Yamaha on a daily basis. The goal is to create inspiring experiences based on the real world without using complicated devices. This (the picture above) is a prototype of a pair of earphones that do not cover up your ears. It was designed based on the concept of a future in which we live our lives while always wearing the earphones. There are various devices that employ virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), but this device uses sounds to generate AR. We aim to create inspiring experiences in people's daily lives and work environments. We are currently making efforts to make this concept a reality based on a medium- to long-term vision.

It is difficult to ascertain the value of a business that has yet to emerge without experiencing it. It is important to first present and test the world that we envision through interactive images, prototypes, and actual experience so that it can be felt in a real way. This exhibition also serves as a way to break down such barriers. Sharing the senses through experience rather than merely through reason helps inspire users and project members. Before the workshops and hackathons, we are striving to accelerate this project by listening to end users' voices in order to quickly improve the precision of the interactive prototypes."

This video was created during the initial stage of the co-creation project. It is based on the concept of "Sound Intelligence," which generates inspiration through algorithms of people's sounds and emotions.

In Part 2, we will introduce examples of co-creation with other companies in greater detail.

The " AFFECTIVE DESIGN Studio" has been built in the same venue where the AFFECTIVE DESIGN exhibition was held. The underlying concept is of semi-enclosed spaces for innovation called "small gatherings." The goal is to realize valuable co-creation by connecting naturally with trusted partners in the manner of an ecosystem. This design studio will be opened as a community space for designers and engineers who have diverse ways of thinking.

Masuhito Tanaka
Design Director and Professional Architect
Fujitsu Design
Masuhito Tanaka uses his expertise in comprehensive design, including urban and architectural spatial design, to engage in integrated design activities such as creating concepts, services, products, spaces, and promotional activities. He leads a wide range of new business projects, including those related to co-creation. His notable awards include the Nikkei New Office Award, the SDA Award, and the Good Design Award.