“Are you in a room right now? If so, every man-made object you see there was designed by someone. In other words, it is an obvious fact that design makes our society. But many of us may not see design as such an important phenomenon.”  

Eisuke Tachikawa believes that design has two main types of power, the first as the embodiment of the present and the second, as the visualization of the future. The Japanese designer, author and activist has been making waves for many years, particularly since founding the design firm NOSIGNER in 2006 while still a student. Under the NOSIGNER platform, he has been able to hone in on this conviction that design has a responsibility to address humanity’s most pressing challenges, leading a diverse portfolio of socially-minded projects, all the while inspiring the next generations of design thinkers, doers and changemakers. 

A snapshot of the NOSIGNER studio, which was designed sustainably using construction waste. Credit: NOSIGNER

NOSIGNER, the term a play on this idea of the unseen behind design, aligns closely with Tachikawa’s personal mission as a designer. “One question I always ask myself is what does the ideal designer of the future look like? What kind of work do they undertake, and what kind of hope can they create when they use their potential to its fullest? To me, NOSIGNER is a place to seek such an ideal of what design should be and to demonstrate examples of it to our current society.” 

Understanding design’s unique power to transform our world for the better, much of Tachikawa’s work is focused on projects that encourage social change. “I hope that more people will recognize the obvious: that design’s goal is not experimenting with eccentric expressions that the media find interesting, but rather a tool that can be used to shape society into something new and sustainable in a more essential way.”

One of NOSIGNER’s PANDAID projects, a user-friendly face shield template. Credit: NOSIGNER

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, NOSIGNER developed PANDAID, working with over 300 volunteers to diffuse various design projects geared at stopping the spread of the virus. “We are proud to have developed various possibilities,” noted Tachikawa, such as a face shield that can be made by cutting a common A-4 sized clear file folder, or encouraging social distancing through musical scores and communications campaigns.  

The disaster handbook developed by Tachikawa and his team at NOSIGNER. Credit: NOSIGNER

Holding the “various mechanisms and beautiful designs of nature, including biological evolution” as great inspiration, Tachikawa is committed to using his platform to address the very challenges facing the natural world. Alongside his team at NOSIGNER, he has also been working to further design’s role in areas like disaster prevention, an effort that has been ongoing since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 – “I believe this is a theme that is becoming increasingly important as the number of natural disasters continues to increase worldwide.” Most recently, NOSIGNER developed a disaster prevention book, the Tokyo Bousai, to help prepare residents for future natural disasters. 

As Tachikawa continues to explore design alternatives for a more hopeful future, he encourages designers to continue to observe, question and inspire change. Collectively, we must “observe society and how its divisions can be connected through design, but also observe design itself, become familiar with it, and learn how to make it better.” 

To learn more about Eisuke Tachikawa and his work at NOSIGNER, visit https://nosigner.com/.

Quick Fire Questionnaire

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Diverse, Adaptive, Evolutive

What are you currently reading/listening to?
Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken

Favourite phrase?
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay

Design for the present or design for the future?
Without a doubt, design for the future.