041 Opinion and request regarding JAGDA document―An analysis by a legal specialist

At the opening of the Japan Graphic Designers Association’s general assembly for fiscal 2016, which took place on June 25, suddenly, unannounced, a document entitled “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” (*hereinafter referred to as “JAGDA document”) was read out. By rule, the item could not even be considered a matter on the agenda, an item discussed, approved and decided by the General Assembly. However, using a sleight of hand ruse the JAGDA statement was proudly unveiled, the performance maintained that it had indeed been approved as the first item on the agenda. Three months have passed since then. Meanwhile JAGDA called for comments and opinions regarding the JAGDA document. I sent a document titled “Opinion and request regarding JAGDA document” to the JAGDA office on September 30, the closing date for submissions. I refrained from writing my comments and opinion regarding the contents of the JAGDA document, but chose a different format. I referenced the analysis conducted by our company’s consulting lawyer on the inscrutable JAGDA document, expressing my total agreement to the opinion statement penned by the legal specialist. I am posting the letter I submitted to JAGDA in full.

“Opinion and request regarding JAGDA document”

Japan Graphic Designers Association Inc.
Attention: Mr. Nobumitsu Oseko
Director, JAGDA Office

In relation to the document “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” I have been discussing the fact that all matters related to the document was inappropriate―let alone the contents of which are totally inappropriate―using the platform “HIRANO KEIKO’S OFFICIAL BLOG”, a public platform that can be accessed by many and unspecified viewers, over multiple posts. I was a member of the panel of judges for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems, thus I was privy to a lot of inside information including the situation regarding the actual screening that took place. Here I was, as a JAGDA member, pointing out facts and voicing my views. Yet, not once, was I contacted by Kenya Hara, vice president of JAGDA, who was virtually responsible for singlehandedly creating the document; nor did I hear from Nobumitsu Oseko, head of the JAGDA office, who is the de facto promoter of the document. As a whole JAGDA is resolute in its decision to “ignore” my pointing finger. Furthermore, in a letter aimed at its members, JAGDA claims: “This is a comprehensive statement which has met the approval of all current members of the board and the steering committee upon numerous discussions and revisions”. Another fable, a concoction that diverges widely from real facts. It is an outrageous situation that will never lead us to trust and reliability. Yet they have the gall to say “We would like you to discuss (the document) with your cohorts and send your comments and opinions to the JAGDA office”―without mentioning what will be done with the precious feedback. As a way to cope with the inscrutability of JAGDA’s response, I consulted a legal specialist and asked for a lawyer’s opinion. I hereby send the sum-up, views and analysis compiled by our company’s legal consultant, to which I give my wholehearted approval. I look forward to your response as to each item listed hereunder.

Main text follows:

“Analysis and opinion by legal consultant”

(1) In relation to the “overview”, the internal JAGDA email dated August 12 states that the document has yet to be approved by the General Assembly; yet the JAGDA website, dated July 28, still claims “JAGDA overview ….unveiled”. No change has been made as to the status of this said overview. If approval has not been met, and JAGDA admits that the document does not serve as the official overview of the organization, the wording on the website should be corrected at once. Whether the “overview” has been elevated to the status of the organization’s overview, or remains a mere report made by the members of the board and the steering committee, the correct status must be defined, as it affects how people present their opinions. As a premise for soliciting opinions JAGDA must immediately make clear where the “overview” stands in a clear unified manner, and make the announcement within and without the organization.

(2) Unless JAGDA can come up with a unified stance, as long as the standing of the document remains murky, JAGDA should not disclose the so-called “overview” outside the organization as a public statement. This must stop immediately.

(3) Regarding the opinions submitted by JAGDA members: how will they be put to use? Unless this point is made clear, people will feel uncomfortable presenting their opinions. Is JAGDA simply going through the motions, seeking opinions for reference purpose only? Then there is no need to set a submission deadline. If JAGDA needs a deadline for feedback, does that mean the opinions will be compiled, put together and released in one form or another? When soliciting views from other people the purpose and the use of the collected material must be made clear. It is simply a matter of courtesy. If there is a lack of decency, how can we believe the organization really wants to hear our views? The vague-sounding “sharing” doesn’t do the trick. It doesn’t tell us what is going to happen. It doesn’t reveal anything.

(4) JAGDA tried to present the document as a matter for approval at the General Assembly, knowing that it could not be part of the agenda, a matter for approval by the General Assembly. What gave rise to this situation? The cause must investigated. In fact, was JAGDA intending to ignore all processes and railroad the document through to approval? If that was the case, whose planned it? Or was it a simple slip-up that led to a pseudo approval? Considering how JAGDA used the incongruous words, “Unless the document is approved today, JAGDA won’t be able to exist as a legitimate organization starting tomorrow”―totally unreal―to put a stop the Q & A session and force the audience to give their approval, it is difficult to believe that this was a simple slip-up. There is a definite feeling that it was intended. An investigation is called for. Somebody needs to be held accountable.

(5) The method used to lead and maneuver the General Assembly in the wrong direction was extremely rude not only towards the person who posed a question―and had the Q & A session cut short, but towards all JAGDA members who were present at the General Assembly that day. An apology is in order. JAGDA members are all entitled to the right to ask questions and take part in discussions at the General Assembly. Their rights were taken away at this assembly. Accountability regarding the rights of JAGDA members should be made clear.

I request and look forward to your response and answers regarding the above viewpoints 1 through 5.

Keiko Hirano
September 30, 2016


The origin of the JAGDA document is unknown and there is no knowing as to how it came to be. But there is even more. The methodology of the way it was revealed at the General Assembly was inappropriate. The board nor the steering committee has deliberated the document, yet JAGDA feels confident enough to send out a document to all JAGDA members,stating, “This is a comprehensive statement which has met the approval of all current members of the board and the steering committee upon numerous discussions and revisions”, which is obviously a falsehood, with three signatures, of the president and two vice presidents, affixed to it. As a final insult, if you take a look at the official JAGDA website, there is a statement that proclaims: “We have compiled a comprehensive statement which has met the approval of all current members of the board and the steering committee”―the false allegation is still there. Through this statement this designers’ organization continues to repeatedly dupe not only its own members but the general public. As to JAGDA’s open invitation to send in “comments and opinions to the JAGDA office”, I responded, not by going into the contents of the document itself, but by focusing on a more fundamental issue. I asked a lawyer to assess the way the document was released and look at the current situation regarding the document. I decided that based on the views of a person of law, I would be able to express my strong objection in the most appropriate and effective way.

There were five JAGDA members (including a special advisor to JAGDA and the JAGDA president) sitting on the panel of judges for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems competition; all three prize winners were JAGDA members (including one JAGDA vice president); all eight guest artists who took part in the competition were JAGDA members. Thus it is not too big a stretch to say that the whole emblems competition was construed of JAGDA members. Yet, when it came to compiling an official JAGDA overview statement, despite the fact that none of the judges on the panel had signed a confidentiality agreement, none of the judges (except for the author of the document and another judge, the author’s cohort), none of the prize winners, none of the guest artists were interviewed in the preparation of the document. If I were to look for a reason behind this weird methodology, I can well imagine that the protagonist must have feared that uncomfortable truths would be revealed by going directly to the sources. I believe that none of the judges (except for myself), none of the prize winners and guest artists, all who inadvertently became involved parties, have expressed any objection toward the JAGDA document. But consider the facts: a string of incredibly inappropriate activities related to the Olympic logo controversy has been taking place under the good name of JAGDA, a public interest incorporated association. How could anyone give tacit approval to the situation, to let things go? How could anyone, not just because they became involved parties, but as a graphic designer who lives in the moment, not feel a morsel of responsibility?

What awaits such a world devoid of a standard of behavioral principles, including right and wrong, good and bad, and ethics? Already we are witnessing the spread of nihilism that is feeding into the Olympic logo controversy, allowing the problem to keep on expanding. I have nothing but woe.

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.