To all JAGDA members:
We have compiled our views regarding the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the first design competition for the Olympic and Paralympic emblems (…). Ever since the emblem problem came to light, we have held numerous discussions within JAGDA. At this time we have compiled an overview that encompasses JAGDA’s thoughts at every phase and juncture related to the first design competition, and states how we stand right now. We would now like to offer this comprehensive statement which has met the approval of the Board and the Steering Committee, to our esteemed members.
June 25, 2016
(Excerpt from “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems”, page 1)
The business of the general assembly of the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA) began with the reciting of the above statement. The overview statement regarding the Olympic emblem issue, which had been approved by the JAGDA Board and Steering Committee, was thus presented, without any previous notification. It occurred out of the blue. The mode chosen for the unveiling was a read-out by Kenya Hara, vice president of JAGDA, per the first item on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
Following the lead of the chairperson, the reading of the statement continued for some 25 minutes, ending with the final words, “(…) so that concludes the report. I must reiterate once again that this statement, prior to its release, has been approved by the Board and the Steering Committee after undergoing much discussion from various angles. Now we would like your approval. Thank you”. These words, apparently seeking the approval of the audience, were met with applause—a show of unanimous approval by every one of those present. That was when our Aoshi Kudo spoke up. He said “I cannot give my approval. I think seeking our approval here, at this instant, doesn’t make sense. I would like to ask some questions. May I?” Thus, proceedings were put on hold for an impromptu question and answer session. To the question, “You stated that all judges on the selection panel for the first competition had signed a non-disclosure agreement. Based on what evidence are you making this claim?” the response was, “Because they entered a non-disclosure agreement”—a response apparently off the mark, utterly empty of value. The Q&A session continued in this manner without getting anywhere. When JAGDA board members got stuck on their answers, an official cut in: “It was the Board and the Steering Committee that made the decision regarding this statement. So we really don’t care if you approve or not… However, if we don’t reach a resolution today, we won’t be able to face tomorrow if we want to continue to function as a legitimate organization. Let us proceed according to the agenda.” The official made sure the Q&A session was brought to a close and the meeting moved on to the next item on the agenda. Business proceeded accordingly form there on. Finally, when it came to the voting, the chairperson asked for a show of hands for matters that need be resolved. Here again, Kudo expressed his opposition. All matters were approved unanimously except for one dissenting vote. And the JAGDA general assembly for fiscal 2016 ended on that note.
JAGDA is the only public interest incorporated association among all graphic design organizations. Its members include many persons who are tied to the Olympic emblem fiasco. If JAGDA planned to unfurl its official overview—the first ever since the emblem problem came to light—I believe it should have been a report that aimed to fulfill its responsibility as an organization of professionals related to design; the contents of the document should have been aimed to enlighten its members, people who were directly involved in the issue, and to the Japanese people who suffered indignities. However, the actual statement that was revealed at the general assembly was a concoction that deviated widely from such basic goals. It was a far cry from taking responsibility as a professional designers’ association. The statement was an exercise in self-justification; it was a selfish presentation full of prejudices and fiction—a reckless report that renounced all social responsibilities. Even the wording of the title “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” has a calculated vagueness to it. It does not express any clear direction, objective or will. So what was the aim of this document?
The document is a booklet consisting of 13 pages. The composition of the booklet gives us a clue, from which we can deduce its aim. The composition of this JAGDA document is somewhat strange. First of all, the introduction includes excerpts of official statements sent to the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee from certain international bodies of design; the American Institute of Graphic Arts ( AIGA ); the International Council of Design (ico-D): and the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). There are words that state the obvious fact—that the three organizations sent letters to the Organizing Committee. Yet there is no mention whatsoever as to JAGDA’s views regarding the action of sending the letters, nor the letters themselves. I will reproduce the introductory text hereunder:
[JAGDA document, page 2: Introductory text]
(…) the world’s association for design, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) sent an open letter to Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee; while the International Council of Design (ico-D) released its own views through the ico-D official website. Both point out that an open design competition that includes general entrants cannot help inviting a speculative element, which thereby inhibits the professionalism of designers. Furthermore, both go on to say that not paying respect to professional designers who deserve to be honored, points to the inexperience and lack of skill of the Organizing Committee in judging the quality of design. The Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) supported the opinion presented by AGIG in a letter that was also sent to president Mori. (…) Ever since the problem surfaced, many discussions took place within JAGDA. We would like to take this opportunity to present our views. (JAGDA document, page 2)
In closing, the final paragraph of the document states JAGDA’s wish to receive the blessings from such world design organizations. I am citing the final paragraph hereunder.
[JAGDA document, page 7: Final paragraph]
JAGDA is an organization of graphic designers that functions by embracing society through its profession of design, thereby earning the trust and respect of the community. For the first design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems, 104 designers competed against each other; while a panel of judges, ranging in age from their thirties to their eighties, deliberated with each other to select the best work. Yet the fruits of such hard work had to be scrapped—which came as a devastating blow. JAGDA is resolved to commit more time and continue to study and digest the facts from a historical viewpoint. We hope to present JAGDA’s overview as stated above, to AIGA, ico-D and AGI, and seek their understanding regarding the matter. (JAGDA document, page 7)
In the final line, as the conclusion, the crux of the whole statement, per se, JAGDA chooses to state that “We hope to present JAGDA’s overview as stated above, to AIGA, ico-D and AGI, and seek their understanding regarding the matter”. What is the intention behind this?
The bottom line is, we can surmise, that the main objective of the document is to seek the understanding of overseas design organizations. For the author of this document, the most crucial point is: to cite statements made by overseas design organizations and take advantage of their sophisticated awareness, allowing JAGDA, an organization that cannot dare submit its own written opinion against the Organizing Committee, to piggy-back on the shoulders of worldly design organizations that have openly expressed their sound arguments against the Organizing Committee, thus pretending as if JAGDA agrees with such voices. At the same time, by dispatching this document which is full of fabrications and falsifications to these international organizations, the author hopes to lead the organizations astray, allowing them to misinterpret what happened through this falsified document, which is, actually a cover up of facts. Furthermore, through this performance of fulfilling its responsibility to contain the disastrous problem, JAGDA strives to earn the understanding from international design organizations which will allow JAGDA to save face. I can see various ulterior motives at play. The JAGDA general assembly is an annual event that is held only once a year. If the document was not approved by JAGDA members here and now, it would not be ready for the AGI general assembly which is to be held in September this year. JAGDA must have been desperate to seize this opportunity to obtain endorsement. In order for the document to serve as JAGDA’s official statement it had to be endorsed at a JAGDA general assembly. Now that it has received the seal of approval, I predict, the official JAGDA statement will be used every which way politically, and be sent out to all sorts of design organizations around the world.
Let me proceed with my analysis of the objectives of the JAGDA document. The contents of the 13-page official statement consists of: page 2 to page 7, overview text, page 8 to page 9, a sort of chronological table of historical facts that have been greatly tampered with, page 10 is left blank, page 11 to page 13 is used to reproduce the statement released by ico-D, which is entitled “Official objection by ico-D against the open competition held for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games emblem design” in whole. So the JAGDA booklet’s final pages serve to present the official statement released by the international council of design, ico-D. However, nowhere can we find JAGDA’s opinion in relation to this ico-D statement. There is not even a hint of support. Then why bother citing ico-D’s official standpoint? Generally speaking, we can assume that the aim of printing an official view in this way, is to express one’s agreement to the position and show support. Yet in this case, in JAGDA’s document, though ico-D’s statement is reproduced in full, we cannot find anything that points to JAGDA’s agreement or support; there is nothing that shows JAGDA’s view or preference whatsoever. That said, if a reader should skim through this booklet without really delving into its content—a superficial read-through—he might get the feeling that JAGDA is actually agreeing with ico-D’s views, or at least misinterpret it that way; or he may be misled to believe ico-D’s views were actually JAGDA’s very own views. I felt that the booklet was deliberately edited to elicit such misunderstandings. JAGDA is one of the major players regarding this matter. Yet it will not or cannot voice its opinion against the Organizing Committee. So JAGDA chooses to employ a statement made by an international council of design—borrow its words—and use it in a JAGDA document. It is willing to borrow words but will not state its own views. Doesn’t this make JAGDA small? It is “swaggering” behind borrowed authority.
On the day of the general assembly, Kudo posed this question during the Q&A session: “First, let’s take the opening sentence that describes how design organizations around the world claim that there was something wrong with this competition. I believe JAGDA has never said that this competition was wrong. So all these design organizations around the world are telling the Organizing Committee that there was something wrong with the competition, but JAGDA is of the opinion that there was nothing wrong with the competition. Is my understanding correct? In other words, JAGDA alone approves of this competition and deems it was correct; and JAGDA finds no problem whatsoever with this statement, “the disrespecting of professional designers who should be honored”? I want to make sure about this point. It is one of the things I want you to confirm. Why don’t you express specific opinions against the Organizing Committee? Why won’t JAGDA release its own opinion statement? Am I right in assuming that JAGDA has decided that it won’t be bothered with protecting the dignity of professional designers?” He was actually questioning the essence of JAGDA’s gimmicky document, pointing out the fact that it chose to cite opinions of foreign design organizations and statements made by an international design council. That said, regarding the point at hand which was supposedly the most important view and message that should have been transmitted by JAGDA—an issue that was pointed out by the world design organizations and international design councils, the need for JAGDA to stand as an organization that “protects the dignity of professional designers”—JAGDA did not declare that it “would not protect the dignity of professional designers” but at the same time, it never said that “it would”. JAGDA’s stance remained vague. Its response kept us dangling. Thereby, in essence, JAGDA became a design organization with no intention to protect the dignity of professionalism, an organization that won’t announce its will to protect the dignity of designers, and an organization that refuses to indicate its position in relation to the dignity of professional designers. This was the consensus reached by the Board and the Steering Committee, which was made all too clear by their own action.
The day after I posted chapter 036 on my blog, late in the afternoon, I received an update of the “JAGDA news” email newsletter. Among other numerous information, I found a notice: “Ordinary general meeting report: On June 25, Saturday, the JAGDA ordinary general meeting and general assembly took place at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater in Kyoto to great success”. There was a note on the number of attendants and a report on how “all items on the agenda were approved by majority vote”. So the report “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” was fully endorsed and it was now a fait accompli. The endorsement itself may be a fait accompli, but the fact still remains: none of the people who attended the meeting nor the persons who were absent from the meeting were told about the document beforehand. Furthermore, even in the latest “JAGDA news” nothing is said about the document being approved. So JAGDA members who are not readers of this blog must be still unaware of the existence of the document. We don’t know who conjured up this document to what purpose. The origin and the compilation process remains unknown. How could we approve of this document entitled “Regarding the 1st design competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems” which was sprung on us like guerilla warfare, slipping through the ropes like a well-planned scam, and give it our full endorsement as an official JAGDA statement approved by JAGDA members? I can hardly approve of the whole setup that disrespects our right to participate in the resolution.
JAGDA never reached out to the judges on the selection panel nor the guest artists and other entrants of the competition—people who were directly related to the Olympic emblem issue. JAGDA chose not to seek their cooperation. The author penned the document based on his own impressions, based on his own views. The writing is artless, the contents nothing but imagination posing as evidence. Facts are bent out of shape. It is an arbitrary document. Yet it has become an official JAGDA statement. I believe that for a public interest incorporated association, the contents are indeed troubling. And the action that was adopted to get the necessary endorsement, to make the document official, may infringe the compliance rules set out for a public interest incorporated association. I strongly recommend that JAGDA, in order to prove the authenticity of its actions, should promptly go public with its official statement in order to seek judgement by the public. As a public interest incorporated association, that is the way to go. I would like to offer my interpretations of the document once it has been made public.
To give a succinct description of this new issue regarding the JAGDA document issue, I would put it this way: “Someone came up with a self-centered scheme, which was developed covertly, and then put into action forcibly—which became a major problem”. Once the problem surfaced, the main structure took a turn. Now it became: “Cover it up, tell lies with no remorse, pass the buck—and run”. Just as simple as that. This scenario deeply resembles the basic structure of the fiasco revolving around the first design competition. A person with good intentions without being aware of what is going on, could get sucked in and caught up—and turn into a central player. Just like what happened to me.
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.