036 Bogus document by JAGDA – vol.1

On June 26, 2015, at a general assembly held in Kyoto, the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA) revealed JAGDA’s official position regarding the 2020 Tokyo Olympic emblem issue. As soon as I skimmed through the statement, the first word that came to my mind was “bogus”. JAGDA is a public interest incorporated association. The official document that was released was entitled “General review regarding the Olympic emblem issue” and represents the association’s official stance regarding the matter. The contents of the document deviated from the actual facts that I learned and witnessed through my role as a judge on the selection panel—the document was full of untruths. It was a cover-up of irregularities; a fabrication made up of guess-work and imagination; substitutions and fallacious arguments—nothing but a bogus concoction. It was a crude document lacking true content, lacking objectivity. It could hardly be considered an official statement released from a “public” organization, a public interest incorporated association, to which many persons directly related to the Olympic emblem issue belong. Ever since the problem surfaced, on numerous occasions, I offered my unlimited assistance to the JAGDA office: I had served as a judge on the selection committee and was a JAGDA member. However, I was never called on to help with the compilation of the document, nor was I asked to check the contents. Truth be told, I was not even informed that such a statement was being prepared. I am flabbergasted trying to imagine the dynamics that led to this unreasonable and helpless situation.

Ever since the big problem regarding the Olympic emblem surfaced and up to this day, I have been diligently studying the matter. But now, this JAGDA statement has made me come to a conclusion. It was nothing but the ignorant, lawless and irresponsible graphic design industry itself—that lets such acts of barbarism take place—that brought about the said Olympic emblem problem.

Today, I am putting the dignity of design on the line, as I start to examine the JAGDA documents and its specific problems. First of all, let me start by explaining how the general assembly took place; it was at this meeting that the official statement was approved and adopted.

The assembly took place on June 25. At the opening, without giving any previous notice, an announcement was made. An official statement on behalf of JAGDA regarding the Olympic emblem issue, entitled “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” was read out by Kenya Hara, vice president of JAGDA. As soon as he finished reading the statement, Mr. Hara, seeking approval from JAGDA members, asked the audience, “I want your consent”—which was met by applause signaling their approval. Aoshi Kudo from our company was present at the assembly. He made a rebuttal claiming that he “could not approve of the contents of the statement”—which sparked a debate. Later on, when board members stalled in trying to respond to a question made by Kudo, officials cut in and stopped the discourse, claiming “there was no time set aside for Q&A”. So, despite the single dissenter, in the end, the statement was approved by all those present—except for that one protester—and thus became the official JAGDA statement.

The persons who were in the know about the document beforehand were limited to the 14 board members and 30 members of the steering committee and the JAGDA office personnel. The majority of the JAGDA members, over 3,000 of them, did not even know about the document’s existence until the day of the assembly. Ordinarily, such documents related to matters to be approved, financial reports and such, for example, are sent out together with the invitations to the assembly beforehand. This way, members who will not be attending the assembly get a chance to go over the relevant documents and sign the power of attorney form and send it back with their attendance response. This is the process that safeguards the validity of the ultimate results. The Olympic emblem issue must have been the biggest matter of concern for JAGDA members. Yet members were not informed that the approval of JAGDA’s official view regarding the emblem issue would be part of the agenda, beforehand. Most of the members who did not attend the assembly never knew that the statement was going to be unveiled then and there. Thus they ended up giving their consent to a document that they never read and without checking its contents—which was utterly undemocratic as a process. In this case, members were put on the spot; it was impossible to study the document carefully, or give enough thought to it; members were apt to follow the lead of the JAGDA board, whatever the content. That was customary and that was the expected and imaginable outcome. If people approved of a document without giving enough thought to the contents, it means that they were inadvertently made part of a wrongful act.

I heard that a member of the steering committee did ask if they should not contact Hirano, who had been voicing her views through her blog, and ask her to go over matters. I heard that the idea was vetoed by the JAGDA board. Consider how the Olympic Organizing Committee’s investigation report was undertaken by an independent committee, a third-party investigation was deemed to be the appropriate way to go. Yet JAGDA, which is a professional organization made up of numerous talent, including judges on the panel, entrants and guest artists, all persons directly related to the Olympic emblem issue, failed to conduct hearings and seek confirmation from relevant persons—though JAGDA could have easily done so. JAGDA was certainly in a position to seek their cooperation. Why not? Why did they want to do it this way?

In order to assess the reason why JAGDA did not seek cooperation from the judges in compiling its official vision statement I will now present part of the question and answer session that took place at the assembly. When a member of my company voiced the question: “Why won’t JAGDA ask Hirano—who is a JAGDA member and who was a judge on the selection panel—anything? Hirano continues to post her views on her blog: she is driven by her desire to reveal the truth as much as possible to JAGDA members. Yet, in writing up this document, JAGDA never contacted Hirano. How could you come up with a statement without seeking information from a judge who was there, through pure conjecture and prejudiced opinions, and round up a consensus from 3,000 members? Why take that route? Why not simply ask a judge who was part of the selection process? I demand a reason.” In response, Mr. Hara, as the spokesperson of the JAGDA statement said: “In preparing the JAGDA statement at this time, we did not interview anyone who served on the judging panel. We did not seek their input. All the judges on the panel are bound by a commitment to confidentiality. They submitted signed non-disclosure agreements that forbid them to say anything about the competition. That is why we cannot question them”. He added, “We cannot afford to respond to each and every blog posting. We don’t want things to get out of hand”.

So JAGDA claims that “All the judges on the panel are bound by a commitment to confidentiality” and that “They submitted signed non-disclosure agreements that forbid them to say anything about the competition”. That is the reason why they did not seek cooperation from the judges? But what is the basis of this claim? The bottom line is they did not give a clear answer to the question. So this non-response is their response. I can deduce that the reason why they did not contact the judges is because of a misguided belief. Or, they simply lied.

I made it clear in my blog post chapter 011 that judges for the initial competition screening never signed non-disclosure agreements. If a former judge and JAGDA member is voicing her views in her blog, it is hard to believe that JAGDA would disregard the blog and claim that it was not aware of the fact that judges had not signed confidentiality statements—without presenting any basis whatsoever. The reasoning doesn’t make any sense. There is one possibility, though extremely slim. In my blog, as a consideration towards my fellow judges beside myself, I chose not to state the fact that all seven members, with the exception of Mr. Takuma Takasaki, did not sign the non-disclosure agreement. So JAGDA may have took advantage of my discretion. It is certainly possible. In reality, the judges did not sign any non-closure agreement; thus they are not bound by any confidentiality clause. Therefore JAGDA’s claim that “All the judges on the panel are bound by a commitment to confidentiality” is a non-fact. Then JAGDA’s whole logic that it “did not carry out interview to the judges” because they were bound by a confidentiality clause collapses—the premise is gone. A statement that was drawn up without seeking information from the judges who held the richest resources and facts, suffers from a grave lack of integrity. I can say so with great conviction.

From JAGDA’s comment that“We cannot afford to respond to each and every blog posting. We don’t want things to get out of hand” I could sense JAGDA’s stance: JAGDA was not being affected by Hirano’s blog. JAGDA was going to ignore it. Now I could understand, to some extent, why JAGDA did not reach out to me, seeking my cooperation in compiling its official statement. I could get a glimpse of the background. As to ignoring my opinions stated in my blog, I am unable to decide whether JAGDA considers the blog has no informational value or if JAGDA is acutely aware of the blog and is uneasy about its informational value and is trying hard to ignore it. The truth is unclear. Whatever the reason, whatever awaits me in the future, I will not be overcome by a sense of emptiness, I will not be afraid of being misunderstood. I vow to solemnly carry on what I am determined to do—for the sake of the young people with bright futures.

I will start examining the JAGDA statement in my blog chapter 037.

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.