Design Lessons From Japanese Schoolchildren
At the beginning of a Japanese child’s elementary education, he or she is typically given a backpack called a Randoseru. The backpack has firm sides and measures 30 cm high, 23 cm wide and 18 cm deep. It is made of leather or high quality synthetic material. The bag is not emblazoned with the latest cartoon characters. Girls’ are usually red, boys’ black.
The bags are given with the expectation that they last throughout the child’s six year elementary education. This is a good thing, because the bags start around $100 and can exceed $350. The bags actually last beyond the child’s schooling.
In America, few children are given $350 backpacks. Our design philosophy says that children will abuse their stuff and should be given something that can be cheaply replaced. For example, by the time this author was out of elementary school, I had blown through countless $20 nylon backpacks. Preservation was not a priority.
The question is does a child’s backpack abuse stem from her inability to take care of the bag or the lack of value she has for it?
The example of the Randoseru seems to point to the latter point. Japanese children take care of their bags and make them last, not because they are less active, but because they place a high value on them. What if we took a cue from Japanese schoolchildren and gave more value to the objects in our lives, rather than perpetuate a disposable culture?
Spending more up front might make sense economically as well. What if we were willing to spend $120 for one backpack that could be handed over to another child versus $120 for six that will end up in landfills?
And what if we applied this philosophy to everything in our lives? What if our lives were filled with high quality stuff we loved? Where most of our items were worthy of being handed down to the next generation?
What is the Randoseru in your life? Let us know in our comments section.
image credit taopic.com