Design meets social issues

Recently, an SFU team, consisting of three students, have won the popular votes for User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) design award at the 2017 Vancouver User Experience Awards. This award showcases a critical approach to an important social issue: women representation in sports.

Kosuke Futsukaichi, a member of the group, has made a great contribution to the success of the project and gives the details of his team’s project.

“Our project, #changethegame, is a campaign concept that we designed for the Canadian Olympics Committee – which focuses on improving gender equity and the misrepresentation of women in sports,” he says. “We wanted to challenge [the] Olympic audience, to recognize both the sexist assumptions in language while promoting the positive portrayal of women in media.”

A challenge for Olympic audience

The designer also explains the inspirations behind the team’s project. Initially, social and cultural issues were Futsukaichi’s team topic. His two teammates, Annette Cheung and Elizabeth Chan, shed light on the fact women are discriminated in our society, which inspired a solution of tackling the problem.

“Sports media often emphasizes physical appearance or femininity over a woman’s athletic ability. And the effect of media and culture overlooking accomplishments of women, justifies the exclusion of women from positions of power while reinforcing gender inequality,” he says. “The project began with the purpose to address the misogyny in sports media, in which the accomplishments of female athletes are commonly under-reported and trivialized by sports culture and media.”

Kosuke Futsukaichi (centre) with teammates Annette Cheung and Elizabeth Chan. | Photo courtesy of Kosuke Futsukaichi

Futsukaichi believes his two teammates were passionate about addressing this social issue.

“Without such passion, we wouldn’t have had a semester-long discourse about the topic to begin with,” he says.

On the impact of the project, Futsukaichi is concerned about the representation of women in society.

“Under-representation of female athletes, or under-representation of women in general, is still an extremely relevant topic in today’s culture. And the best way to mitigate the problem is to be bold and walk directly towards it,” he says. “It’s discouraging to hear that in 2017, 80 per cent of corporate leaders are men and 72 per cent of those men are white (Fortune 500 report).”

A world perspective

Pursuing post-secondary education at the School of Interactive Technology and Arts at Simon Fraser University, Futsukaichi is grateful for the wonderful experience in a diverse Vancouver.

“I love Vancouver,” expresses the enthusiastic designer. “The weather is amazing in the summer, and the rain isn’t too bad once I got used to it.”

Having lived ⁱn various parts of the world – such as Japan, USA and Canada – Futsukaichi opens up about his identity as a global citizen and how his childhood experience varied in different cities.

“As a kid, I hated switching schools and saying bye to all my friends,” he says. “But after looking back at it, I’m grateful that they exposed me to all these different kinds of people and culture at an early age.”

Culture shock is an inevitable part of moving. Futsukaichi recalls being a Japanese kid in a multiracial school in Arizona.

“Going to school, seeing kids make fun of Mormon kids – and having people throw racial slurs at you for being Asian,” he says. “It was really mind opening.”

This is not something he has experienced in Toronto or Japan.

Immersed in a world of variety: different people, communities – Futsukaichi expresses his personal opinions on how the world works.

“We’re a blip inside this universe and we measure ourselves based on our subjective values; but also the relationship we build with others and the contribution we make within the time we are given on Earth,” he says. “It’s all about acknowledging that people are, in fact, different and understanding why people are the way they are.”

Futsukaichi’s team project brings a new perspective to an underlying problem in our society.