045 Rogue design

Looking back, a year ago around this time, through this vey blog, I was expressing serious criticism against the investigative report that had been released by the Organizing Committee. A year later, I am now questioning the overview document which was released by JAGDA. Why should I be alluding to the JAGDA document in this context? It is because I believe that the controversy regarding the 2020 Olympic Games logos and the controversy related to the JAGDA overview document share a common pathology, rooted in the same origin.

Over a year has passed since the controversy regarding the Olympic Games logos surfaced. During this time, I gathered a wide range of new information and obtained deeper insight—which has given me a chance to grasp what I could not see before at that time. I have gained a birds-eye view and can now see the structure of the problem clearly: It was precisely the greed and the self-conceit of a group of design specialists who belong to Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA) that was the cause, the source that gave rise to the Olympic Games logo controversy. And that is precisely what caused the fall—allowing “design” to lose social credibility.

None of the design specialists who were involved in the Olympic Games logo controversy—designers who enjoy high social status—have come forward to fulfill their social responsibilities, to give a credible explanation. No one wants to be held accountable. But in fact, they have managed to set off a whole new controversy, namely, “JAGDA’s Official Overview” problem. These people who caused the downfall of design, shattering social trust, have stubbornly kept mum. Yet they went ahead and created another controversial problem. And they have the gall to call themselves design specialists. I question their arrogance.

Our field of specialty is in a crisis situation. No one who calls himself a specialist should stand aloof, without a heightened awareness of our plight. I believe no one can afford to ignore the problem. We live in a modern world that is overwhelmed with information; we see arbitrary shaping and manipulation of information everywhere. It is a world where truths and falsehoods mix and tangle, making it difficult for us to really see the truth. That is why we seek specialists—authentic specialists. If these people who have been offering glib lectures on design the whole time, insist on maintain their silence when it comes to the Olympic logo controversy, what conclusion is there to draw? Their action says it all. I think it is akin to announcing that they are not the real thing. These people can’t be authentic specialists.

The Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA) is a public interest incorporated association, supposedly an organization of design specialists. If JAGDA chooses to give assistance to this fresh problem, an inappropriate activity called “JAGDA’s Official Overview”, which was undertaken by the major players who were involved in the Olympic emblem controversy; if JAGDA chooses to authenticate it as an organization policy, the Olympic logo controversy will continue to expand and proliferate. It will kill off the future of design. And as for the members of JAGDA who stood by, allowing the series of misdeeds to take place? They will be labeled as “designers who belong to an asocial association that does not see dishonesty for what it is, an association that affirms fraud and assists duplicity”. What significance will it have? From here on, when persons who belong to the association discuss the future of design and voice their values and ideals regarding design, they will find themselves “never truly trusted by society”.

Once again, I will give a short summary of the “JAGDA’s Official Overview” issue. JAGDA, a public interest incorporated association, at its general assembly for fiscal 2016, released a document that could never have been an item on the agenda; presenting it as if it were an agenda item, employing phony theatrical tactics. In short, the overview document was presented as if it were part of the proceedings, and was duly approved, albeit forcibly. As a result, this document which should have been ineligible for approval in the first place, ended up getting approved at the general assembly under questionable circumstances. For a while, this document was given false authentication to serve as the “JAGDA’s Official Overview” document. I pointed out the wrongfulness of the document and the inappropriateness of the process for obtaining authentication of the document through this blog, over four postings (chapters 036 https://cdlab.jp/blog/?p=328 through 039 https://cdlab.jp/blog/?p=467). Out of the blue, on August 12, I received notice from the JAGDA Office that the document had indeed not been an agenda item (though strangely enough, it was once approved at the general assembly). Together with the notice, there was a “quasi” explanation that did not make any sense, claiming there were some “…inadequate proceedings that invited such a misunderstanding…(chapter 040 https://cdlab.jp/blog/?p=473)”. However, when you look at the JAGDA website, to this day, you will see that the JAGDA document that never became an assembly-approved JAGDA document, is still out there, posted under the heading “JAGDA’s Overview”. It is business as usual—layers of lies upon lies, deception and treachery galore.

I sent letters of opinion, requests and questions to JAGDA as a way to express my protest against the “JAGDA’s Official Overview” document. The contents of these letters were straightforward. If JAGDA chose to put down the facts, the questions were simple enough, they could have been answered in a day. Yet I have been kept waiting for three months for a decent reply. I asked the JAGDA office if and when they actually intended to respond. Yesterday, I got a reply from the director of the JAGDA office: “… I am afraid we weren’t able to get a final confirmation from the three top officers. I will get back to you early January”. Judging from this response: JAGDA cannot respond to an opinion letter submitted by a JAGDA member, because they “weren’t able to get confirmation from the three top officers, the president and two vice presidents”. Therefore I can surmise that, simply put, JAGDA cannot make a single move regarding important issues unless they get the go-ahead from the three head honchos.

Obviously the intention is to stall for time, to wait it out. They want to think that as time passes, people will forget, their interest will surely wane. However, the fact remains. The vice president himself took the lead in trying to pass off a phony document approval process at a general assembly of a public interest incorporated association. It is an unprecedented event, inappropriate in nature. Under normal circumstances, the very person who was responsible for and carried out the act should come forward to give a full explanation in his own words. He should be held fully accountable. Do not believe for one moment that it is a trivial issue that will go away given enough time.

I must repeat once more that in discussing the JAGDA overview document controversy, even before we go into the contents of the document, the real problem here is the fact that a “phony approval process” was planned. We don’t have to discuss the contents of the document, the document itself has to be taken down—immediately. It is a matter of such gravity.

The impropriety of the process has been made clear. Yet JAGDA insists on asserting its validity. The organization clearly lacks the transparency and legitimacy that is integral to the management of a public interest incorporated association. JAGDA is ready to lie and go even further, in order to cover up fraudulent activities undertaken by some of its members. The whole situation is quickly turning into a lawless area.

Taken together, the top officials at JAGDA, its executive committee, the JAGDA office, seem to indulge in a self-serving train of thought and share the same behavioral pattern, eerily similar to what took place among the Organizing Committee in relation to the Olympic logo fiasco.

Looking back, it all started with the controversy regarding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics logos. The problem with the JAGDA Official Overview just adds another layer of confusion to the situation. I have heard that JAGDA may cooperate with the Organizing Committee in relation to the upcoming Olympic Games. If we let things slide and things continue in this way, a rogue, unprincipled public interest incorporated association that chooses not to acknowledge dishonesty that exists before its very eyes, will be tasked to create rogue designs—which will showcase the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

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.

Personal note:
I contributed an op-ed piece to the November issue of the “Kenchiku Journal” magazine (on sale November 1). The special feature of the issue is “Ridiculing the Olympic Games”.