025 Stuck in a maze with no exit

When I was approached with the request to be part of the investigation, I asked that they send me a list of questions that would be part of the hearing, in writing, beforehand. A week later I received a document containing 25 questions covering five areas, with the following titles: “1. Regarding invitation to take part in the competition”, “2. Regarding submission guidelines”, “3. Regarding selection of judges”, “4. Regarding selection process”, “5. Regarding revisions to the original plan”. After a month of communicating with the organizing committee, I learned that participation to the investigation hearing was voluntary and would be anonymous; I decided that I would not respond to an investigation that set a prerequisite which did not allow me to check or revise the draft text. So I did not submit my response to these questions, though I had prepared my answers ready for submission at any time. On December 18, when the investigation review report was unveiled, I carefully studied the content. I could not find any portion that reflected the aforementioned 25 questions; the investigation report focused solely on a newly discovered fact—the rigging of the competition regarding guest artists. Then, was there any meaning for the 25 questions which were prepared for the investigation and the prolonged exchange that took place?

On numerous occasions I have stated my reasons why I continue to write this blog. I felt that in order to find a solution to a problem that had taken place, facts must be made public; information must be shared as a way to correct the course. I felt that unless we were able to do that, conjecture and suspicion would induce distrust, only making things worse. If the aim of providing information is based on opportunistic information manipulation, that will only disperse incoherence and just cause more unravelling of seams. It will not lead to a solution to the problem. Through my blog, I hoped to offer information based on facts—which would promote a deeper understanding of the structural problem that brought about the emblem issue. I offered information as a way to safeguard against making the wrong decision. Though I did not take part in the investigation, as long as anyone took the time to acknowledge what I have been posting in my blog and study my comments, they would find that the contents cover the same area as the questions that were prepared for the investigation. Furthermore, I am using my own name in making these statements. That means I am writing with the full understanding that I take responsibility for my own words. I was offering something that would have been useful to the investigation itself. 

However, when it came out, I found nothing reflected in the investigation report regarding facts and evidence that serve as the crux of the matter—things that I have been reporting through my 23 blog postings—except for maybe some spiritual aspects. I realized that my efforts had not worked in the way I intended which was to present a useful and fair record of facts. I also realized that it was audacious of me to wish for a fair acknowledgement of plain facts, an owning up. The investigation report has already come out. As for the questions that were prepared beforehand, I believe there is a significance to keeping a record of all facts in relation to the investigation. I would like to now write about the questionnaire.

The organizing committee unveiled its investigation report at a press conference held on December 18. The contents were uploaded in the website of the design magazine “idea” in full. The whole report is available online. I did note that I will be posting “excerpts as needed” in chapter 023 I will not cite the whole text here. Readers who would like to read the whole report, please go to the “idea” website. 

[Question items for the investigation that were sent beforehand and answers by Keiko Hirano]
■ 1. Regarding invitation to take part in the competition
(Question 1-1) Were you aware of the fact that invitations to take part in the competition had been sent out before the competition was made public?
(Hirano’s answer) No, I was not.

(Question 1-2) When and how did you first find out about this fact?
(Hirano) At the press conference that was held on September 28, 2015

(Question 1-3) In a competition for professional artists, not a competition open to the general public, have you ever experienced or heard about invitations being sent out to specific designer(s) only?
(Hirano) I understand that there were several competitions held for logos for major public events during the past half century, including the Tokyo Olympic Games held in 1964, the Osaka Expo held in 1970, the Winter Olympic Games held in Sapporo in 1972 and the symbol for Tokyo in 1989 which were held, invitation-only, involving ten or so graphic designers only. I myself have never taken part in such a competition.

(Question 1-4) As a judge, how did you feel when you learned about the invitations?
(Hirano) I don’t think the system of inviting “guest artists” is an improper activity in itself. However, to withhold the fact, not informing other judges besides Mr. Takasaki and Mr. Nagai, and keeping the other 96 entrants besides the guest artists in the dark was apparently not fair. When I learned about the fact, at that moment, I felt that all credibility as to the fairness of the logo selection process was lost. I have reported my views regarding this question in my blog entry 004.

■ 2. Regarding entry guidelines and various conditions for design creation
(Question 2-1) When did you receive entry guidelines and conditions for design creation?
(Hirano) on September 1, 2014 I received an email containing an abridged document regarding the selection process. Just before the judging, an updated document was sent to me; documents also arrived on the day of the selection. I have multiple documents with slightly different contents on hand. I have reported my views regarding this question in my blog entry 003.

(Question 2-2) Did you check the submission guidelines and the conditions for design creation beforehand?
(Hirano) I did go over the contents beforehand, but there were a few areas that I could not clearly understand. I remember thinking that the material had an unofficial feel to them, as the format lacked polish and the contents were still rough.

(Question 2-3) In item (2) 3 regarding “Development of emblem design”, it said “the  design should not incorporate original images that are recognized internationally, such as those confusingly similar to national flags, symbols for international organizations, and such”. What was your understanding about this rule?
(Hirano) When I sat for a briefing with an official from the organizing committee, I heard the phrase “according to IOC rules” multiple times, but I never heard a thorough explanation that went further than what was written in the documents; thus, in my mind, I never fully understood the contents of the rule. As for drawing on the image of the national flag, there was an entry that received negative points due to a strong and obvious influence of the flag; while regarding the first-place winning design, there was no discussion as to its drawing from the image of the national flag. I think there was not enough consideration given to the selection guidelines that were based on IOC rules. 

(Question 2-4) Reference material related to development examples and development ideas were marked “optional”—what is your understanding regarding this point?
(Hirano) At the time of the selection, on numerous occasions, we were told how “development power” was important. It came up in the documents that were handed out to the judges, during verbal sessions, and at a briefing that was held on the day of the judging session. Therefore I did not realize that submission of development examples was in fact optional. I reported my views regarding this question in my blog entry 003. 

■ 3. Regarding the selection of judges
(Question 3-1) How did you come to be chosen as a judge to sit on the selection committee?
(Hirano) At the first meeting with the official from the organizing committee, when I was asked to be a judge, I posed the question and asked how my name came up as a candidate. I was told that two persons, Mr. Nagai and the graphic designer Mr. XXX had nominated me.

(Question 3-2) When and how did you find out about the whole structure of the selection committee?
(Hirano) It was explained to me during the meeting inviting me to sit on selection committee, on September 3, 2014.

(Question 3-3) At the time, how did you feel about the fact that Mr. Takuma Takasaki was serving as a judge on the selection committee?
(Hirano) I had never met Mr. Takasaki, nor did I have any information about him. He was not present at the initial meeting either—being away on a business meeting—so I met him for the first time at the judging session. As for Mr. Takasaki, Mr. Maki had told me that he served as both creative director of the organizing committee and judge on the selection committee, so I simply took his word.

(Question 3-4) Ever since it was revealed that you had become a judge on the selection committee and up to the time of the selection, were you ever approached by a designer “who was going to or who seemed to be going to enter the competition”?
(Hirano) Not once.

(Question 3-5) Ever since it was revealed that you had become a judge on the selection committee up to the time of the selection, did you have any communication with other judges on the panel?
(Hirano) Since I was told that I was nominated as a potential judge by Mr. Nagai, right after the initial meeting with the official from the organizing committee I placed a phone call to Mr. Nagai and reported that I accepted the invitation to sit on the judging panel. This was the only communication I had with any other judge.

■ 4. Regarding the judging process
(Question 4-1) Was November 17, 2014 (the day of the judging) the first time you saw the submitted works?
(Hirano) That was the first time.

(Question 4-2) How did you decide on the method of screening 104 submissions?
(Hirano) I don’t understand the meaning of this question. We followed the method of screening that had already been decided by the organizing committee, which was by casting votes. As for my personal criteria, I explained those in my blog posts 013 and 014.

(Question 4-3) What kind of explanation did you receive regarding the selection method and criteria for judging on the day of the selection session?
(Hirano) I remember receiving a rundown conducted by Mr. Maki and Mr. Takasaki, while looking at handouts we received that day. In his explanation, Mr. Takasaki specifically said that he wanted the judges to “consider development power as one of the major viewpoints in selecting a design.” I wrote about this in my blog post 003.

(Question 4-4) The judges cast a single vote each for the final round. Is this a general practice used in such competitions?
(Hirano) I think it is meaningless to compare the competitions; one for a logo for the Olympic Games and a general design competition that takes place routinely. The reason why I say so is because an emblem for the Games requires a global vetting investigation for trademark registration, and involves a wider scope of responsibilities and is held in a bigger scale, much different from a general design competition. It cannot be compared and discussed on the same level. Considering the gravity and scale of responsibilities, at this point, I can say with definite conviction that the method taken—each judge casting a single vote during the final round—was not appropriate. I have written about this issue in my blog post 013.

(Question 4-5) Did your feel anything unnatural in the words or actions of the other judges and persons related to the competition during the selection process?
(Hirano) First of all, I felt the responses regarding operations and policies of the organizing committee were haphazard and irresponsible—throughout the time, causing me to feel uncomfortable. I had questions, and felt there were problems, I have written about my doubts throughout my blog.

(Question 4-6) How did you feel about Mr. Maki, who was not a judge, to be witnessing the selection process?
(Hirano) Considering Mr. Maki’s role, I did not question him being there for the selection. However, during the judging, and when the judges were holding discussions, Mr. Maki, who was on the administration side, made comments that affected the logo selection. On those occasions, at times, I felt he was overstepping boundaries. I have written about this in my blog. As for this matter, it should all be on record on the video footage. I don’t think it is necessary to ask this question that depends on vague recollections.

(Question 4-7) On the second day of the judging, regarding the 14 pieces that remained, Mr. Takasaki pointed out works that had trademark related issues. Was anything pointed out regarding Kenjiro Sano’s work that came in first place?
(Hirano) I don’t remember hearing anything being pointed out regarding the first place design. I don’t remember hearing anything being pointed out regarding the 14 works that remained. Even for the works with trademark issues, I don’t remember getting any specific information, or a thorough explanations. As far as I remember, it was a simple overall explanation. As for this matter, it should all be on record on the video footage. I don’t think it is necessary to ask this question that depends on vague recollections.

(Question 4-8) When did you find out that Mr. Sano was the creator of the winning design?
(Hirano) At the meeting with Mr. Takuma Takasaki which was held on May 13, 2015, I formally heard the name of the author. I wrote about this in my post 008.

■ 5. Regarding revisions to the original plan
(Question 5-1) Regarding the fact that revisions were made after the winning first-place design was selected—how far were you ready to delegate?
(Hirano) I did not have the notion that I was delegating anything to the organizing committee. If any problem related to trademark registration cropped up requiring a revision or choosing the second-place design, I believed that all matters related to  design change would be discussed with the judges, and we would be duly notified.

(Question 5-2) What opinion did you express after you were showed the revised work of Mr. Sano?
(Hirano) We met twice. I clearly told Mr. Takasaki that I was rejecting the revised plan. “As it is completely different from the design that we selected, there is no way I can allow this.” (…) “In the modified version the ‘T’ is obscured, it looks as if an ‘L’ was  added. The message and the intent of the design is unclear—isn’t that going to confuse the viewer? How do you justify the part that looks like an ‘L’? –if the intent cannot be visualized through the graphic image that means its function as an icon is lost. If it doesn’t function, it fails as a logo.” (…) “(The modified version of) the emblem for the Paralympics looks nothing like the original. It is something completely different. This is a desecration of design. As a judge I refuse to accept such nonsense. I think we should postpone the announcement and reconsider.” I strongly stated my opposition with these words. I wrote about my views in detail in my blog post 008.

(Question 5-3) The judges did not gather and hold a discussion and acknowledge the revisions to Mr. Sano’s original plan, but rather, each judge was asked to personally approve of the revisions. What do you think about this process?
(Hirano) Personal negotiations is like making one-on-one deals. If the aim is to get approval after the fact, to make personal visits to collect approvals is the easier way to go. I wonder if this was the case: the organizing committee chose this method to proceed in the way that works for them. In my case, as soon as my meeting with Mr. Takasaki began, I understood that we were facing a serious problem. I wanted to prevent the meeting from becoming a secret meeting behind closed doors; so I brought in another person on my side so that multiple members would be present to share the contents of the meeting. I have written about this issue in my blog post 008.

(Question 5-4) Major revisions were added to the logo design that was originally selected. What do you think should have been done, in this case?
(Hirano) I believed I should voice my objection, and to refuse the revisions. And I did exactly that.

Regarding the questions that were prepared for the investigation, I could see traces of contemplation, an effort to give consideration to various aspects of the matter. I felt disappointed that the contents were not reflected in the investigation report. Was there any meaning in these questions that were sent out beforehand? What about the act of sending out these questions? It is my understanding that there were at least six judges who cooperated with the investigation. Then surely, by studying the common factors and differences garnered through their replies, the team must have made significant progress towards finding a solution to the problem. Yet the contents of those findings were not reflected in the final report, which means the courage and precious time offered by the persons who cooperated in the investigation became a total waste.

I cannot help wondering why the organizing committee still refuses to reveal facts as plain facts. To me, the investigation report reads like a deep maze with no exit.

Keiko Hirano
Keiko Hirano: 
Designer/Visioner, Executive Director of Communication Design Laboratory
Hirano served on the panel that chose the official emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was ultimately withdrawn.